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Pioneer in Eye Care Dr Venkataswamy passes away

Written by: Staff

Madurai, July 7 (UNI) Pioneer in eyecare and founder of the famed Aravind Eye Hospitals, Dr G Venkataswamy died following a prolonged illness here today.

A bachelor, Mr Venkataswamy was 88. He is survived by his sister, G Natchiyar, also a noted ophthalmologist, and two brothers.

He was bedridden for a brief period and suffered lung failure.

He had served the Army Medical Corps during British rule. Later, he also served as the vice-dean of the Madurai Medical College.

He founded the Aravind Eye Hospitals in 1976. A chain of the Aravind eye care hospitals were then established at Pondicherry, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli and Theni.

Bestowed with the coveted B C Roy award, he had been decorated with many other honours, including the Helen Keller International Award and the American Hall of Fame of Opthalmologists.

His most significant contribution was in the area of eye care, especially popularising free cataract eye camps.

Born in Vadamalaipuram, a small village in Southern Tamil Nadu in a humble peasant family, Dr Venkataswamy '' was a classic rags-to-riches story. If his business model was a roaring success - and widely studied, including by the Harvard Business School - it was because the grand old man of eye care, never set out to create a profitable enterprise.

He completed his B Sc in Chemistry at Madurai American College and his Medicine at Stanley Medical College, Chennai. To satiate his need to serve the country above all else, he joined the Indian Army as a doctor.

However, four years after his service to the nation, he was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and had to return. His dogged determination propelled him to rigorously prepare for surgeries and finally landed him at the Tamil Nadu Government Eye Hospital as a specialist in cataract surgery who would go on to conduct more than one lakh successful operations.

After he retired from Government duty he started the Govel Trust and opened the Arvind Eye Hospital through this trust. He was a recipient of the Indian Government's BC Roy award. He has also received more than 30 awards including the Padmashree. He has also written books on eye disorders, pregnancy and sugar complaints.

Chief Minister M Karunanidhi conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family.

In his condolence message in Chennai, he said Dr Venkataswamy, who had dedicated his life for providing eye sight to millions of people, had won laurels and several awards.

He said his thought of Dr Venkataswamy, reminded him of his visit to America with the opthalmologist and how the discussion about the ''eye sight'' scheme implemented in the USA for the poor.

Soon after his return from the US, Dr Venkataswamy helped him to implement ''kannoli thittam'' (providing eye sight to the poor by conducting cataract surgeries) in Tamil Nadu, Mr Karunanidhi recalled.


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