As Monday (October 1) marked the birth centenary of Dr G Venkataswamy, the founder of renowned Aravind Eye Hospitals, search engine giant Google thought it fitting to honour him with a doodle.
Google’s homepage displayed a doodle in honour of Dr Venkataswamy, who launched Aravind Eye Hospital with just 11 beds in Madurai in 1976 along with his four siblings, on Monday. Coincidence one may call it – Google CEO Sundar Pichai also is from Madurai.
The hospital now has 57 branches - five tertiary care centres, five secondary care centres, six outpatient centres and 41 vision centres - across India.
Aravind Eye Hospitals is a household name in Tamil Nadu known for its high-quality treatment that comes at a very low cost.
Dr Venkataswamy’s unique system of tiered pricing system – free, subsidised and paid services – and high-quality treatment attracted thousands of people who flocked to the institution for treatment.
Dr Venkataswamy let the patients choose the category under which they would like to avail the treatment – one patient who opted for paid services helped in subsidising the pre and post-operative care of two non-paying patients.
The renowned ophthalmologist, who was born in Vadamalpuram village in present-day Tuticorin district in 1918, died in 2006 after spending more than six decades in public service.
Affectionately called as 'Dr V', Dr Venkataswamy received his medical degree from Stanley Medical College, Chennai, in 1944 and joined the Indian Army Medical Corps but retired in 1948 after developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Being bed-ridden for a year due to arthritis did not deter Dr Venkataswamy from earning his diploma and masters’ degree in Ophthalmology and later heading the Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Madurai Medical College.
And when government servants fade from public memory after retirement, Dr Venkataswamy, who was awarded the Padma Sri in 1973, launched Aravind Eye Hospitals in 1976 to continue his work in eye care service. A visionary in the field of Ophthalmology, Dr Venkataswamy delivered an address at the Harvard Divinity School on the theme of living a spiritual life in the contemporary age.
Over the decades, he built a wide network of partnerships with institutions across India and involved many of his family members in the non-profit organisation.