Special Correspondent

Dr. V's vision was providing world-class eye care at affordable cost to people

MADURAI: Govindappa Venkataswamy, a pioneer in mass eye care delivery, died here on Friday. He was 87. Dr. Venkataswamy, who was known as Dr. V to his friends and admirers throughout the world, was ailing for some time.

Born into a farmer's family on October 1, 1918 at Vadamalapuram in Tuticorin district, Dr. V's vision was providing world-class eye care at affordable cost to people in the hinterland. He achieved this with the evolution of the `Aravind Eye Care System,' now followed in many developed and developing nations, from the Aravind Eye Hospital founded by him. He was a legend in the community of ophthalmologists and a pioneer in conducting mass free eye camps since the early 1970s.

Dr. V founded the Govel Trust on retirement in 1976 after serving in the Stanley and Madurai medical colleges. The trust later started the Aravind Eye Hospitals in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. His efforts to duplicate the Aravind model found success in many developing countries. His dream was to start at least 100 hospitals across the country. Dr. V, who had a keen eye for innovation, always looked at good health, especially good vision, as a major contributor to economic well-being. He authored three books, in Tamil, on eye diseases and diabetes.

A bachelor, he was wedded to his vision mission. After coming out of coma a few weeks ago, he was seen going around the hospital on a wheel chair and treating outpatients.

The awards conferred on him include the Padma Sri, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness Organisation Award, Helen Keller International Award, WHO Award for Health for All, Academy International Blindness Prevention Award, International Social Entrepreneurship Award and Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam called the family members over telephone to condole the death.

Karunanidhi condoles death

Chennai Staff Reporter writes: Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, in his condolence message to the family, recalled his association with the ophthalmologist during his trip to the United States and their discussion about America's project to bring back sight to the poor.

"On his return from America he helped me to set up a project to bring sight to lakhs of poor people free of charge in the State. Every time I think of him I recall his support to the successful project," he said.