Godmother of Cardiology – The life of Dr. S.I. Padmavati
Living to be a 100 is no easy feat. Living to be a 103, while continuously serving the community sounds nigh impossible. And yet, Dr. SI Padmavati, India’s first female cardiologist, achieved the impossible. Although she lost her battle with the deadly coronavirus last August, Dr. Padmavati has left behind a rich legacy that will inspire the coming generations for years to come.
Dr. S.I. Padmavati Early Life
Born on 20 June, 1917, to a barrister in the erstwhile British Burma, Dr. S.I. Padmavati completed her MBBS from Rangoon Medical College, where incidentally, she was the first female student. This probably started the trend of her breaking stereotypes and being the first in every field she took an interest in.
Forced to flee to India at the onset of the Second World War, young Padmavati was forced to put her studies on hold. The end of the war by 1945 could not have come any sooner. She left for England to pursue her post-graduate studies in London and was a fellow at the two Royal College of Physicians, in London and in Edinburgh.
Dr. S.I. Padmavati Career
It was during her time in the United Kingdom that Dr. S.I. Padmavati started working on cardiology. She went on to apply for a fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, which was duly accepted. She later joined the Harvard Medical School, where she perfected her craft under the tutelage of Paul Dudley White, the father of modern cardiology.
In 1953, Dr. Padmavati returned home and started her career in earnest as a lecturer at Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi. It was here that she set up a cardiac catherization laboratory – the first and the only one in the whole of North India during the 1950s.
Dr. Padmavati took over as the director-principal of Maulna Azad Medical College, Delhi, in 1967. She would introduce the first DM Cardiology course during her time there. She then followed it up with the establishment of the first coronary care unit and the first coronary care van in India. By 1970s, the enigmatic doctor was the head of three major institutions at the same time – Maulana Azad Medical College, Lok Nayak Hospital and G.B. Pant Hospital.
Later Life of Dr. S.I. Padmavati
The All India Heart Foundation (AIHF) was the brainchild of Dr. Padmavati. It was founded in 1962 and has since been recognized by the Indian Government as a center for scientific research. Even after retirement, Dr. Padmavati never stopped working: she established the National Heart Institute under the aegis of the AIHF in 1981. Until late 2015, she was actively seeing patients, working the same hours as any other doctor on call. Her dedication to a calling she chose early on in life, never faltered even as the years caught up to her.
Dr. SI Padmavati’s life is nothing short of extraordinary. She was the recipient of the Padma Bhushan in 1967 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1992. However, of all the honours heaped on Dr. Padmavati, the greatest lies in the lives she has positively touched and the ones that will benefit from the work she has done.