The first female cardiologist of India, Dr S Padmavati, passed away at 103. According to the National Heart Institute she had been tested positive for COVID-19, and had been undergoing treatment for the past 11 days.
Dr Padmavati – The “Godmother Of Cardiology In India”
Born in 1917, in a small town in British Burma, Professor (Dr) Siva Rama Krishna Iyer Padmavati, through her relentless hard work, determination, and fierce spirit, succeeded in pursuing an illustrious career in Medicine and Cardiology.
She broke barriers not only for women in medicine and cardiology, but also in the field of cardiology itself. Her name in India grew to be synonymous with cardiology, earning her the title ‘God Mother of Cardiology in India’.
A flourishing student from the start, a young Padmavati had graduated from Rangoon Medical College with an MBBS ‘Magna cum laude’, receiving a surplus of other awards and distinctions along the way.
Japan’s invasion of Burma in 1942 during the second World War, however, forced Padmavati, her mother and sisters to flee, without her father and the other men in the family. They settled in Coimbatore, and spent the next 3 years fending for themselves. Finally, after the war ended, they heard from the men, and the family was reunited.
However, this experience instilled in Dr Padmavati the self-assured strength and confidence she displayed later when entering the male-dominated field of cardiology.
After she pursued her post-graduate studies in London, she went on to acquire esteemed fellowships and hands-on experiences in notable hospitals under eminent doctors.
She Excelled In Everything She Attempted, Be It As A Doctor, Professor, Researcher, Swimmer Or Saree Aficionado
Once she returned to India, she made her mark as a leading light in the field of cardiology very early on. The then Union Health Minister recognised her talent and skills, and appointed her as faculty at the Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi. She grew to be Head of the Department of Medicine.
The lack of resources and progress that had been made in cardiology at the time only spurred her on. She established North India’s first Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory in 1954. On the side, she conducted research in rheumatic fever, hypertension, Ischaemic Heart Disease, and cor-pulmonale – research that still stands ground today!
After she became Director-Principal of Maulana Azad Medical College in 1967, she introduced the first coronary care unit, first DM course in cardiology, and the first coronary care van in India.
She received multiple awards, including the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan from the Indian government, donned multiple hats, and founded several medical health bodies and institutes. She set up the National Heart Institute, and from the ground up, developed it into a modern heart hospital in Delhi. It had the first cardiac catheterisation laboratory of the southern hemisphere in a private sector.
Dr O P Yadava, who worked with and under her, writes in Time of India, that she was an unfailingly kind woman, who mastered everything she attempted. She writes that she was a sports freak with a passion for swimming and tennis. She would lap “20-30 lengths of Ford Foundation swimming pool, well into her 90s.”
“An aficionado of silk sarees and solitaire diamonds, she was an envy of any fashionista. Spartan in diet, she did enjoy her glass of port every evening with a 30-minute dose of ‘BBC News’,” she writes.
A woman who refused to be boxed in by conventions, who regularly gave good-old patriarchy a resounding kick, and whose heart was bigger than the ones she cared for over the years – Dr S Padmavati was a trailblazer who will be missed, and whose memory will be preserved in her long-lasting contributions and path-breaking work.
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