Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Infinite Vision - Padmashri Dr.Govindappa Venkataswamy

Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy (1918–2006, b. Vadamalapuram, near Sivakasi, Virudhunagar dist, Tamil Nadu) is an Indian ophthalmologist and 1973 recipient of Padma Sri award.

Born in 1918 in Vadamalapuram in Tamil Nadu, India, Dr.G.Venkataswamy, Founder, Aravind Eye Hospital had his education at American College, Madurai, Stanley Medical College, Madras and qualified for MS Ophthalmology at the Government Ophthalmic Hospital, Madras. He first joined the Indian Army as Physician during 1945-48. He then was appointed Head of Department of Ophthalmology at the Government Madurai Medical College, and eye surgeon at the Government Erskine Hospital at Madurai. He held these posts for 20 years and made remarkable contributions to research, clinical service and community programmes. And with a willpower and dedication far beyond the ordinary, he went on to perform over one hundred thousand successful eye surgeries, and that too with fingers that were badly affected with a rare disease. As a young man he followed the teachings of Gandhi.

More than a century and a half after the German poet and dramatist Von Goethe’s impassioned plea, ophthalmologist Dr.G.Venkataswamy persuaded his colleagues and staff to action: “If you can do something, then you must go ahead and do it.”

A quarter of a century ago, at mandatory retirement age, fifty eight year old Dr.Venkataswamy, a man known to most of us simply as Dr.V, founded the Aravind Eye Hospital at Madurai in 1977. In an eleven-bed hospital manned by four medical officers, he saw the potential for what is today, one of the largest facilities in the world for eye care. Over the years, this organisation has evolved into a sophisticated system dedicated to compassionate service for sight. The mission of this organisation in the words of its founder was “to eradicate needless blindness”. The endeavour required a leap of imagination, vision and innovation. In India alone, there are 12 million who are blind, and 80% of these are blind due to cataract. To this enormous number another 2 to 3 million are added every year. Despite staggering obstacles, Dr.V. and his team persisted. Using mass marketing and an operating system that resembles an assembly line, they helped the modest hospital to grow steadily in service delivery and infrastructure. And a system that enabled Aravind to provide free eye care to two-thirds of its patients from the revenue generated from its one-third paying patients. Twenty-five years later that system is still in place.

Only a biography can say enough of a man who makes use of every second, every paise and every inch of space. He has an amazing ability to use everyone effectively. He is the father of Community Ophthalmology, and because of his ‘Vision’ numerous people have been able to see again. It was his dream of being able to market ‘good eye-sight’ to the world, the way McDonald’s sells hamburgers. It is no wonder that around eight hundred thousand surgeries have been performed and lakhs of people have benefited from services rendered through his organisations. In his words “ in Aravind, we scan new horizons and look forward to exploring new vistas in eye care”.

Dr.Venkataswamy was conferred Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1973.

Degrees earned: 
Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from American College in Madurai in 1938
Doctor of Medicine from Stanley Medical College in Madras in 1944
Doctor of ophthalmology at the Government Ophthalmic Hospital in Madras in 1951
Honorary Doctorate from University of Illinois, 1985

Padma Shri , 1973
Lifetime Service Award from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, 1982
Helen Keller International Award, 1987
International Blindness Prevention Award, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1993
WHO Award for Health for All
Academy International Blindness Prevention Award
International Social Entrepreneurship Award
Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic.
Raja-Lakshmi Award for the year 2001 from Sri Raja-Lakshmi Foundation, Chennai.
Harold Wit Lectureship, Harvard Divinity School, 1991
Pisart-Lighthouse for the Blind Award, 1992
Susruta Award, Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology, 1997.
World Telugu Federation honoured him in the year 2000.
Dr.B.C.Roy Award – 2001
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