An Ode to India’s First Female Cardiologist
September 16, 2020 | Contributed by Monisa Nadeem
Covid-19 has taken away some real gems from us. Whether it was celebrity chef Floyd Cardoz or Japanese comedian Ken Shimura. And recently we lost an eminent cardiologist, Dr Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati to coronavirus at the age of 103 years.
As the month of September is celebrated for awareness on World Heart Day and cardiovascular diseases, this blog is a celebration of the legacy that Dr Padmavati has left behind.
She was popularly known as Dr S Padmavati, the first female cardiologist in India and also the GodMother of Cardiology. She was a premier in heart disorder treatment in India and was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 1967 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1992 for her contributions to the field. Not only that, she was also awarded Fellowship of the American College of Cardiology.
Her Early Life
Born in 1917, Dr Padmavati had to flee from Burma to Coimbatore with her family in 1941, during World War II. With her passion to make a difference, she had an interest in medicine from an early age. After completing her MBBS from Rangoon, she went on to study under Dr Helen Taussig at John Hopkins and Dr Paul Dudley White at Harvard Medical College. They were both pioneers in cardiology in the USA.
After returning to India in 1952, Dr Padmavati became the turning point for cardiology in India. A woman who was way ahead of her time, she is an inspiration to many young girls. She set out to accomplish goals in an era when cardiology was a rather unknown territory for most Indians, let alone for a woman. She was responsible:
- For establishing the first cardiac clinic and cath lab at Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi.
- For playing an integral role in the initiation of India’s first Doctorate of Medicine in Cardiology.
- For setting up a cardiology department at the prestigious Maulana Azad Medical College, GB Pant Hospital, etc in Delhi.
- For laying the foundation of the All India Heart Foundation, Delhi in 1962.
- For setting up the National Heart Institute in 1981 as a tertiary care modern heart hospital in Delhi with the first cardiac catheterisation laboratory in the private sector.
And this list can go on.
Since Dr Padmavati’s area of specialization was cardiology, she worked extensively to spread awareness on the rising rates of heart disease and heart disorder treatment in India. What’s even more worrying is that heart disease in Indian youth is also increasing rapidly with 50% of all heart attacks occurring under 50 years of age and 25% occurring under 40 years of age.
Dr Padmavati spoke about the biggest reasons for heart disease, mainly obesity, hypertension, diabetes and tobacco abuse. She also criticised high salt intake in the Indian diet as it leads to increased blood pressure and eventually heart failure. Moreover, during her lifetime, she spoke about high blood sugar on various instances, since it gets converted to fat by the liver, raising the risk of heart disease. Studies show that exercising as little as 30 minutes every day decreases the risk of heart disease by up to 30%. To learn more about coronary artery disease, click here.
A swimmer and a health enthusiast until the age of 93-94 years of age, Dr Padmavati’s lifestyle was one we should all aspire to follow.