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The Remarkable Journey of India’s First Female Cardiologist: S.I. Padmavathi

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The Remarkable Journey of India’s First Female Cardiologist: S.I. Padmavathi
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In the year 1917, amidst the backdrop of a middle-class family residing in Rangoon, Burma, a girl named Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavathi was born.

Despite the societal norms of the time, where women were primarily confined to domestic roles and education was a privilege reserved for few, Padmavathi defied expectations.

Her father’s temporary work assignment in Burma led to her birth in a foreign land.

From an early age, Padmavathi displayed an extraordinary determination to transcend limitations.

Contrary to convention, she pursued a medical education, enrolling in the Rangoon Medical College for her MBBS degree.

When wartime turmoil forced her family to relocate back to Coimbatore, India, Padmavathi continued her pursuit of excellence.

In 1949, she embarked on a groundbreaking journey to London to pursue an FRCP, a feat considered unthinkable for a female Indian doctor at the time.

Her journey didn’t stop there; Padmavathi’s pursuit of knowledge led her to the renowned Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

There, she honed her skills under the guidance of the legendary cardiologist Helen Taussig.

Her thirst for expertise then led her to Harvard University, where she trained under the esteemed Father of Cardiology, Paul Dudley White.

Despite the promising opportunities that awaited her in the United States, Padmavathi remained steadfast in her commitment to serve her fellow Indians.

Returning to India in 1953, she joined Lady Hardinge Medical College and assumed the mantle of India’s First Lady Cardiologist.

Padmavathi’s contributions were nothing short of groundbreaking.

She pioneered the establishment of India’s first Cathlab and exclusive Cardiac Clinic. Additionally, she initiated the nation’s first DM Cardiology course.

In 1962, she founded the All India Heart Foundation (AIHF) to provide essential care to the underserved.

Her impact only grew as she became a key figure at Maulana Azad Medical College, simultaneously shouldering responsibilities at MAMC, G.B. Pant Hospital, and Lok Nayak Hospital.

In 1978, she retired as the Director of MAMC, leaving behind an indelible legacy.

Not content to rest on her laurels, Padmavathi founded the National Heart Institute in Delhi in 1981. Her tireless dedication was evident even in her advanced years.

At the age of 90, she earned fellowship in The European Society of Cardiology, a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence.

Dr. Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati became a Fellow of the ESC in 2007 at the age of 90 – that’s right, 90 – making her the most senior Fellow of the ESC.

Padmavathi’s impact resonated beyond medicine. She and her sister Janaki, a neurologist, remained single and channeled their earnings into the Janaki-Padmavathi Trust.

This philanthropic endeavor aimed to financially support individuals in need of life-saving heart surgeries, exemplifying their dedication to uplifting society.

Even after retiring from active practice in 2015, Padmavathi continued to work tirelessly five days a week, serving the less fortunate with state-of-the-art cardiac care until the age of 95.

In recognition of her contributions, the Government of India bestowed upon her the Padma Vibhushan, the nation’s second-highest civilian award, in 1992.

The story of S.I. Padmavathi is one of unwavering determination, visionary leadership, and remarkable generosity. Her passing in 2020 at the age of 103 due to COVID-19 marked the end of a life dedicated to improving the lives of others.

Her legacy lives on, inspiring future generations to break barriers and make a difference.

Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavathi’s journey is a testament to the resilience, brilliance, and unshakeable resolve of a woman who shattered norms, transformed cardiac care in India, and selflessly gave back to her nation.

Tamil Nadu and India can take immense pride in the remarkable achievements of their daughter.

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