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Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy

Govindappa Venkataswamy (1 October 1918 – 7 July 2006) was an Indian ophthalmologist. who dedicated his life to eliminate needless blindness. He was the founder and former chairman of Aravind Eye Hospitals, The largest provider of eye care in the world. He is best known for developing a high quality, high volume, low-cost service delivery model that has restored sight to millions of people. Since inception, Aravind Eye Care System (a registered non-profit organisation) has seen over 55 million patients, and performed over 6.8 million surgeries.Over 50% of the organisation's patients pay either nothing or highly subsidised rates. Its scale and self-sustainability prompted a 1993 Harvard Business Case Study on the Aravind model.

Aravind Model

Venkataswamy pioneered mobile eye camps with the government, and later implemented this practice at Aravind. Teams of doctors and nurses from Aravind regularly visit rural villages where they conduct 'eye camps' that screen patients for vision impairments. Those requiring glasses receive them on site. Patients requiring surgery are brought back to an Aravind hospital, where they receive surgery, room and board, return transport and a follow up visit at no charge. Each year Aravind hosts over 2,500 camps, averaging 40 camps every week with 500 community partners.

Founding of Aravind

In 1976, at the mandatory retirement age of 58, Venkataswamy founded the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, Tamil Nadu with his four siblings, G. Nallakrishnan, R. Janaky, G. Srinivasan, G. Natchiar and their respective spouses, Meenakshi, R.S. Ramasamy, Lalitha S. and P. Namperumalsamy. Together, they formed the Govel Trust to manage the hospital, and defined Aravind's mission: To eliminate needless blindness by providing high quality and compassionate eye care affordable for all. P. Namperumalsamy's sister, P. Vijayalakshmi and her husband, M. Srinivasan also joined his work. In the initial years he and his team faced many financial difficulties. Venkataswamy is the founding member of Seva Foundation (a US-based non-profit organisation), that partnered with Aravind in the early years by widening the organisation’s access to the latest technology, and skilled volunteers. Seva continues to collaborate with Aravind in various aspects of eye care management, education, and research.Today, the Aravind Eye Care System encompasses a growing network of eye care facilities which include seven tertiary centres, six secondary hospitals, six outpatient eye examination centres and seventy primary eye examination facilities, as well as a post-graduate training institute for ophthalmology, an international eye research centre, eye bank, training and consulting institute and manufacturing facility.

Personal life

Venkataswamy never married.He lived with his younger brother G. Srinivasan (Aravind Eye Care System's Director of Finance and Building) and his family. Today, over 35 members across three generations of  family work at Aravind. Venkataswamy was a Gandhian and a disciple of the spiritual teachers Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a friend of his who wrote, "In the Aravind experience I see the path we need to take, a transformation of life into a powerful instrument of right action."

Quotes of Dr. Venkataswamy

When we grow in spiritual consciousness, we identify ourselves with all that is in the world, and there is no exploitation. It is ourselves we are helping. It is ourselves we are healing.

Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must be the joy of doing something beautiful."

To some of us bringing divine consciousness to our daily activities is the Goal. The Hospital work gives an opportunity for this spiritual growth. In your growth you widen your consciousness and you feel the suffering of others in you.

Aravind Hospital aims at bringing higher consciousness to transform mind and body and soul of people. It is not a mechanical structure repairing eyes. It has a deeper purpose. It is not about buildings, equipment, money or material things, but a matter of consciousness.

You don't just find people. You have to "build" them.

To keep the mind absolutely still, to understand the reaction,impulse and attitude and to work from the Soul is the Aim.

To get things done in a big and permanent way it must be done spiritually.


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.

Honorary Fellowship awarded by The Royal College of Ophthalmology, London, 1994.


Padma Shri in 1973.

Lifetime Service Award from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness,1982.

Helen Keller International Award, 1987.

Harold Wit Lectureship, Harvard Divinity School, 1991.

Pisart- Lighthouse for the Blind Award, 1992.

International Blindness Prevention Award, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1993.

Susruta Award, Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology, 1997.

Dr B. C. Roy Award – 2001.

ASCRS Ophthalmology Hall of Fame, 2004.

On 1 October 2018, search engine Google commemorated Dr Venkataswamy with a Doodle on  his birth centenary. 

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