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A Short Biography – Govindappa Venkataswamy

Govindappa Venkataswamy (October 1, 1918 – July 7, 2006) was an Indian ophthalmologist. He was the founder of Aravind Eye Hospitals, which are one of the biggest network of ophthalmology hospitals in the world and perform nearly 5 percent of all eye surgeries in India.

To more than 2 million surgical patients and 16,000,000 outpatients, he’s known affectionately as “Dr. V.” !

Dr. V. was born in 1918 to a farming family in a small village in South India. He received his medical degree from the Stanley Medical College in Chennai and joined the Indian Army Medical Corps to practice obstetrics. Dr. V. faced a major tragedy when  rheumatoid arthritis, a degenerative disease attacked his hands. Although unable to practice obstetrics, Dr. V. did not give up. He began studying ophthalmology and had instruments specially designed for his arthritic hands – each one custom-made to fill a specific need. These instruments enabled him to perform as many as 100 cataract surgeries a day. He quickly became the most admired cataract surgeon in India.

Dr. V. continued to perform eye surgeries at this incredible rate for nearly 25 years when he saw something that would change him and the world of ophthamology forever: the golden arches of a McDonald’s restaurant. That’s when Dr. Venkataswamy first thought to himself, “If McDonald’s can sell billions of burgers and Coca-Cola can sell billions of sodas, why can’t I sell millions of sight-restoring operations?” Two years later, Dr. V. opened Aravind Eye Hospital: 11 beds in a rented house in Madurai, India.

Awards & Recognitions:

  • Padma Shri in 1973
  • International Blindness Prevention Award, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1993
  • Helen Keller International Award, 1987
  • 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.
  • Lifetime Service Award from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, 1982
  • 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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