Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, the founder of the Aravind Eye Hospital was recently paid a tribute by Google on his 100th birthday. Dr Govinda Venkataswamy was a renowned ophthalmologist, who is known to friends and patients as Dr. V. He started with a small hospital with only 11 beds, and treated all the eye related ailments.
He was was born on 01 October, 1918 in Vadamalapuram of Tamil Nadu. At the age of 30, Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy became permanently crippled due to rheumatoid arthritis. But hats off to this brave soul, despite all his health issues, nothing could stop him from doing what he intended to do.
He studied in a school of his village where students used to write on sand collected from the riverbank as there was no pencil and paper to scribble. Then, he went on to study Chemistry at the American College, in Madurai. Then, he earned a M.D. degree from the Stanley Medical College in Madras, in 1944.
After passing out of the medical school, he joined the Indian Army Medical Corps to make a career in obstetrics (medicine study related to pregnancy and child birth). But his career with the Army was for a short duration because he was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, which eventually worsened so much that he became bedridden for nearly a year. However, he returned to medical school to complete his studies and earned a degree in ophthalmology (in 1951). He learned the knacks of surgery for cataract, as it is one of the main causes of blindness.
Personally, he has performed over 100,000 eye surgeries. And, as a government servant he has helped in developing the concept of eye camps (in rural communities, a rehab center for blind people, and a training program for ophthalmic assistants) for which he has been conferred with Padma Shri Award in 1973.
Since the inception of Aravind Eye Care System, which is a registered non-profit organisation, the organization has treated 55+ million patients, and performed nearly 7 million surgeries. More than 50% of the patients pay nothing or highly subsidized rates.
In 1992, Dr. Venkataswamy and the partners of Aravind founded Aurolab (an internationally certified manufacturing facility) squeezed the price of the intraocular lens to one-tenth of international prices, further, making it affordable for developing countries. Today, this facility manufactures ophthalmic pharmaceuticals, instruments and equipment, apart from intraocular lenses, and exports to 160 countries across the globe. In 1996, the Lions Aravind Institute for Community Ophthalmology (LAICO) was founded under his leadership.
LAICO is a training and consulting institute. It has helped replicating the Aravind model in 347 hospitals across the country and in 30 other developing countries. Dr. Venkataswamy was never married, but today, over 35 members of his family across three generations, work at Aravind. Dr. Venkataswamy took his last breath on July 7, 2006, he was 87 that time.