The Medical Mission


A love of Jesus Christ and a desire to help others has guided Drs. George and Sheila Varghese for more than 30 years. Residents of some of the most remote areas of the Himalayas have been aided by these two who have devoted their lives to performing major surgeries and training primary health care workers and teachers to improve the human condition.

George, affectionately known as Laji, was born in the southern-most part of India.  Inspired by his aunt, Dr. Mary Mathew, to pursue medical studies, he entered Christian Medical College – Ludhiana where he earned his MBBS.  At CMC, he met Ugandan-born Sheila.

Since 1979, the pair has worked at Lady Willingdon Hospital in Manali, India; he as a medical superintendent and surgeon, she as a pediatrician and obstetrician. With their work, Lady Willingdon has grown from a dying 22-bed facility with no funds to a 50-bed hospital with all of the basic facilities needed to provide adequate health care to the people of Himachal Pradesh. A staff which numbered just 12 at the start has grown to 90 under their leadership while new buildings and equipment have been added. Medical students from around the world now come to Lady Willingdon for exposure and training.

With the growth of their hospital came the realization that community health education was critical to the people of their region. Immunization, health education counseling, nutrition and training of health care workers became a priority, as the pair developed the phrase, ‘My health, my responsibility,’ to be shared with their neighbors.

The success of the hospital and the need for education led Laji and Shelia to create Day Star School in Manali in 1985. What began with nine children has grown to 500 pupils and a high school. In 2008, they started a model preschool which is designed to not only serve young children but also train teachers who will duplicate the model in villages. Health education is a major focus for the students - the pair believe in the total well-being of health care rather than the fragmentation of medicine.

In the 1990’s the pair began to visit the most inaccessible parts of the Himalayas, offering medical and surgical help. Since then, they have established three smaller clinics in those hard to reach areas. They also started a hostel for children in need in Manali in 1998.

 Alone, Laji has performed over 20,000 major and minor surgeries in all specialties and performed thousands of procedures while Shelia has not only worked with children and mothers but also treated common infectious diseases like tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis and diarrheas.

Their faith also led them to head a small church in Manali for many years in the absence of a pastor. What began with a handful of believers has now grown to some 800 members. Today there is an indigenous Kului and Laholi church worshiping God in their language for the first time ever.

Recently, Laji and Shelia turned the day-to-day operations of Lady Willingdon over to others. They still direct the hospital’s community care area but are spending more of their time serving those in the remote areas of India, an initiative that is being supported by the government.  Regardless of where they may be, these physicians remain committed to God and the well-being of others.