Dr. Govinda Venkataswamy – Doctor Who Has Conducted 2 Million Cataract Operations for Free

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“Our eyes are placed in front because it is more important to look ahead than look back” –an online quote clearly speaks about two important facts:

  • It is important for every one of us to have hopes in future than cribbing about the past
  • Eyes depict visualization

Kalam Fan Club has featured philanthropic medical practitioners on numerous occasions. This feature is not only about a philanthropic doctor but also about a person who underwent the trauma of disability that pounced upon him to curtail his career of obstetrician and forced him to be bedridden and parasitic for few years. But he stood up like a phoenix and continued his career as an ophthalmologist with strong willpower. Before his demise in 2006, he had given sight to millions of cataract affected patients free of cost through his Aravind Eye Hospitals. The Even overseas healthcare industry is taking a leaf out of this renowned philanthropist Dr. Govinda Venkataswamy’s life; He is popularly known amongst millions of his surgical patients as Dr.V.

Early Life & Education

Dr. Govinda Venkataswamy was born in the year 1918 at a place called Vadamalapuram in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India in a poor farming family. In the year 1938, he earned his first degree with a specialization in Chemistry from American College of Madurai. Further, he pursued Doctor of Medicine from Stanley Medical College, Madras (Chennai) and completed it in the year 1944. Based on this qualification he started practicing with Indian Army as an obstetrician during the period 1945-1948. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with a type of arthritis that made him incapable of holding even a pen. He was discharged from the army service and was bedridden for many years. But his will power helped him to regain the inner strength and further pursued post graduation MSc in Ophthalmology from Government Ophthalmic Hospital, Madras in the year 1951. Thus Dr.Venkataswamy who was an obstetrician got transformed as an ophthalmologist as per the demands of destiny.

Career Intricacies

Dr. Venkataswamy as aforementioned had a beginning to his career as an obstetrician and served for three years before he had arthritis and had to give up the job. But his diligence and willpower reinstated the medical practitioner in him as he donned an entirely new role of ophthalmologist at Government Madurai Medical College as the Head of Department of Ophthalmology and further as an eye surgeon at the Government Erskine Hospital, Madurai. He served in various capacities for nearly 20 years by contributing significantly to research and community programs. As Head of the department of Ophthalmology at Govt. Madurai Medical College he conducted a record number of 100,000 eye surgeries.  His rural camps to educate masses on preventive blindness were a big success, and he used to manage delicate eye surgeries with the help of specially equipped tools so that juvenile arthritis never became an excuse for him to discharge his duty.

Sir John Wilson’s Friendship & Aravind Eye Hospital Inception

Dr. V in his first visit to USA (The year 1965), met Sir John Wilson who was associated with Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, also known as Sightsavers International. As Sightsavers was actively supporting eye camps in India, Dr. V and John Wilson together approached then Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi to establish a national level organization on preventing blindness.

Further after his retirement from Govt service in the year 1977, Dr. V came up with an idea to start Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, which had its beginning with the small infrastructure of 11 beds. Having witnessed the manufacturing assembly in industry, Dr. V aspired to transform Aravind Eye Hospitals as a chain of service units that will enable the needy to access the facilities at proximity. Today his vision has become a reality, and Aravind Eye Hospitals is one of the biggest networks of ophthalmology chain in India, that is handling approximately 50% of cataract operations of the Indian population. Today hospital has grown up to a mammoth size of 3600 beds and is serving more than 200,000 surgery patients per year.

The Working Model of Aravind Hospitals

Dr. V since his days as Govt. surgeon had built an excellent rapport with doctors and paramedical staff across the state of Tamil Nadu. This network is working as a boon to provide treatment for two third of patients free of cost by utilizing fees paid by the one third of patients. Also, paramedical staffs are trained to be well versed in handling the fundamental requisites of eye operation, so that dearth of eye surgeons is minimized with available surgeons chipping in for crucial issues.

Inspirational Personalities for Dr. V

Dr. V from his younger days had drawn inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and Sri. Aurobindo Ghosh. After serving relentlessly for 32 years as Govt. Doctor and after retirement serving the community through his free of cost surgery camps at his own hospital for another 30 years, Dr. V left mother earth in the year 2006 by leading a meaningful life of 88 years.

He has been awarded various recognitions like:

  • The year 1973- Padma Shri award
  • The year 1987- Helen Keller International Award
  • Year 1991-Harold Wit Lectureship, Harvard Divinity School
  • Year-1992 Pisart-Lighthouse for the Blind Award
  • The year 1993- International Blindness Prevention Award, American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • Year-1997 Susruta Award, Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology
  • The year 2001- Dr. B. C. Roy Award

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