Stanford Belize Vision Clinic

Training the next generation of eye care providers

Natacha Villegas, MD, and Steven Binder, OD, perform a refraction test on a patient at SBVC.

The Stanford Belize Vision Clinic (SBVC) was established in 2017 following a hurricane that damaged San Pedro, a town located on the tropical island of Ambergris Caye in northern Belize. Following the hurricane, Don Listwin, founder of the non-profit organizations and the Canary Foundation, worked with Caroline Fisher, MD, clinical associate professor of ophthalmology at Stanford, to establish the first eye clinic in the area through his philanthropic funding.

In the years since its opening, SBVC has provided comprehensive eye care for the people of Ambergris Caye. With support from Michele Barry, MD, director of Stanford’s Center for Innovation in Global Health and department leadership, Fisher and numerous department faculty, fellows, and residents have traveled to volunteer at the clinic, bringing their expertise and training to an underserved patient population.

Due to COVID-19, trips to SBVC were temporarily paused, causing a backlog of patient visits. In late August 2021, Steven Binder, OD, clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology, and Natacha Villegas, MD, chief ophthalmology resident, resumed travel to SBVC. Binder and Villegas examined over 60 patients, ranging from pediatric ages to older adults. They were able to provide glasses for students so that they could see the board in their classrooms, and to diagnose a range of diseases allowing for treatments.

“Seeing how corrective lenses could impact a student’s entire learning experience was impactful,” Villegas said. “This trip grew my desire to continue providing care to patients of varying cultures and backgrounds, and to seek out other global health opportunities in the future.”

The SBVC serves as the only eye clinic on the island, so when Stanford faculty and trainees are not there to staff it, patients go without eye care or must find a way to travel to the mainland or neighboring countries. To address this, SBVC trained a local ophthalmic technician to perform basic vision screening, first via Zoom and then in person, to teach the basics of ophthalmology and the ophthalmologic exam. Fisher has also set up a collaboration with the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired, a local non-profit that provides glasses and follow-up eye care for patients shared with SBVC. She hopes to expand teleophthalmology care next, more closely linking the patients in need with Stanford and local care providers.


Kathryn Sill is a web and communications specialist for the Byers Eye Institute in the Department of Ophthalmology, at Stanford University School of Medicine. Email her at