India’s first and the oldest woman cardiologist Dr Padmavati passes away

The country’s first woman cardiologist, swimming to keep fit even in her eighties, Dr Padmavati passed away on Sunday at the age of 103 in Delhi

 Dr Padmavati (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@swami2005)
Dr Padmavati (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@swami2005)
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NH Web Desk

Dr Padmavati Sivarama Krishna Iyer fondly known as Dr Padmavati passed away on Sunday. She remained active till almost the very end, advising patients and doctors alike and having contributed over 300 articles to medical journals.

Awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1967 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1992, she was also the recipient of Harvard Medical International Award, Dr BC Roy Award and Kamla Menon Research Award. After retiring from Government of India in 1981, she was the founding director of the National Heart Institute in Delhi.

While heart hospitals had made giant strides in the treatment of heart diseases, she often lamented, the preventive aspects were largely being ignored in India. Heart diseases, she believed, could be prevented. She also lamented the neglect of the poor man’s heart disease or rheumatic heart conditions.

Born in 1917 in Burma (now Myanmar), she was the first woman to receive a medical degree from Rangoon Medical College. Soon after she completed her studies, Japan invaded Burma in 1942. Padmavati with her mother and four sisters fled the country, taking the last flight to India. She was eventually reunited with her father and brothers when World War II ended.


In 1949, Dr Padmavati moved to London as a fellow with the Royal College of Physicians in London and the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. She studied in Sweden before receiving a 1949 fellowship with the Johns Hopkins University Department of Pediatrics. In Baltimore, Dr Padmavati trained under Dr Helen Taussig, who pioneered the first surgeries on 'blue babies,' or babies born with congenital heart defects. In 1952, she joined Harvard Medical School under Dr Paul Dudley White, a pioneer of modern cardiology

In 1953, Dr Padmavati returned to India and began as a lecturer at Delhi's all women's Lady Hardinge Medical College and was promoted to Professor of Medicine within a year. She set up north India's first cardiac catheterization lab, with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

In 1967, the Government of India asked her to take over as Director-Principal of Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) where she also set up a Cardiology Department. MAMC had 26 departments and it was Dr Padmavati who introduced the DM course in Cardiology, which admits postgraduates.


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