Govindappa Venkataswamy – India

His full name is Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, but to more than 2 million surgical patients and 16,000,000 outpatients, he’s known affectionately as “Dr. V.” The 83 year-old chairman of Aravind Eye Hospitals, Dr. Venkataswamy is my hero.

Govindappa Venkataswamy – India

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. It was about this time that tragedy visited Dr. V. in the form of rheumatoid arthritis, a degenerative disease that 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. (Read the rest on MY HERO).

In 1956, Dr. Venkataswamy was appointed head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Government Madurai Medical College, and eye surgeon at the Government Erskine Hospital in Madurai. He held these posts for 20 years and made remarkable contributions to research, clinical service and community programs, as noted below in biographical data. (Read more on One World Sight Project).

Three-quarters of all blindness is preventable or curable. In India, 12 million people are blind. Becoming blind in India is a grave situation and often has dire consequences for entire families. In 1976, at the mandatory retirement age of 58, Venkataswamy (fondly known as Dr. V) left his chairmanship in ophthalmology, but he was not ready to slow down. Together with family members, he opened the first Aravind Eye Hospital with eleven beds and two operating rooms. Today, the Aravind Eye Care System is the largest single provider of eye surgery in the world, with five hospitals plus mobile eye camps in many remote areas of India. Aravind doctors now perform more than 225,000 eye surgeries and see more than one million patients a year.

Aravind has a commitment to excellence that allows it to offer services to rich and poor alike. The hospitals are organized so efficiently that not a moment is wasted. Businessmen honor Dr. V’s management skills; the regular fee paid by one patient covers the cost of providing free care to three more patients. However, what struck William B. Stewart, MD, Medical Director of the Institute for Health & Healing, when he first visited Aravind was how infused the staff is with conscious purpose and steadfast commitment. According to Dr. Stewart, “I came to India to teach specialized surgical skills, but I learned far more than I taught. Restoring sight at Aravind is not just a surgical procedure, it’s a metaphor for seeing yourself and seeing others fully.” (Read more on California Pacific Medical Center).

Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy is revolutionizing healthcare in the developing world. Dr. V, as he is affectionately known, opened Aravind eye hospital in 1976 with the mission of eradicating needless blindness. His hospital—now a successful eye care system and the single largest provider of eye surgery in the world—has plans to expand throughout developing countries. Aravind is creating a new model for eye care that addresses the fact that 45 million people in the world are blind and 90 percent of them live in developing countries. In India alone, 12 million people are blind and 2–3 million are added every year—80 percent of them due to cataract, a curable disease. Since it opened, Aravind Eye Hospital has given sight to more than 2 million people. (Read more on Social Profit Network).

an Interview with Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy.



Schwab Foundation;

Fast Company;


Indian filmfestival;

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