Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati

Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati, born on 20th June 1917 and passing away on 29th August 2020, stood as a distinguished Indian cardiologist. Her legacy encompassed the directorship of the esteemed National Heart Institute in Delhi, alongside her role as the pioneering president of the All India Heart Foundation. Notably, this foundation partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to impart knowledge in preventive cardiology to students. In recognition of her exceptional contributions, Padmavati was honored with the prestigious Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian accolade, in the year 1992.

Within the medical realm, Padmavati held the distinction of being an elected fellow of the National Academy of Medical Sciences. Her name was etched in history as India's trailblazing woman cardiologist. Notably, she etched another significant first in the Indian medical landscape by instituting the nation's inaugural cardiac clinic and cardiac catheter lab.

Back in the year 1917, the vibrant tapestry of life welcomed a new addition – a Tamil Indian girl, born into the heart of a middle-class family in Rangoon, Burma. In the pursuit of livelihood, her father had ventured to distant lands. The name bestowed upon her was Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavathi. In an era when societal norms restricted women to domestic roles and learning opportunities were a luxury, this girl from the middle strata of society shattered expectations by pursuing a degree in MBBS from the esteemed Rangoon Medical College.

With the advent of the Japanese invasion of Burma, the family sought refuge in their ancestral home in Coimbatore. A transformative year, 1949, marked her journey to London for an FRCP – an achievement considered beyond the realm of possibility for an Indian woman in the medical field. Unyielding in her pursuit of excellence, she secured a spot at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, where she honed her skills under the tutelage of the renowned cardiologist, Helen Taussig. Her academic quest then led her to Harvard University, where she garnered insights from the doyen of Cardiology himself – Paul Dudley White.

While her talents could have propelled her towards a resplendent career in the United States, her convictions drew her back to the soil of India, where her heart resonated with the call to serve her fellow countrymen. In 1953, her association with Lady Hardinge Medical College marked a watershed moment, positioning her as India’s pioneering female cardiologist.

Innovation coursed through her veins as she spearheaded the establishment of India’s inaugural Cathlab and an exclusive Cardiac Clinic. Furthermore, she blazed trails by launching India’s premier DM Cardiology course. The year 1962 saw the inception of the All India Heart Foundation (AIHF), a testament to her commitment to extending medical care to the underserved.

Her journey continued at Maulana Azad Medical College in 1967, a phase where her reputation had burgeoned. During this time, the Indian government, recognizing her contributions, bestowed upon her the Padma Bhushan award, a moment of profound honor.

A remarkable feat marked her legacy – the simultaneous stewardship of three distinguished institutions: MAMC, G.B. Pant Hospital, and Lok Nayak Hospital. This multifaceted role culminated with her retirement as the Director of MAMC in 1978.

In 1981, she etched another indelible mark by conceiving the National Heart Institute (NIH) in Delhi. Her 90th year witnessed yet another accolade as she was inducted as a fellow into The European Society of Cardiology in 2007.

Unwavering dedication fueled her endeavors even into her 95th year, where her arduous schedule of twelve-hour workdays, five days a week, persisted. Her mission: to offer state-of-the-art Cardiac Care to the underprivileged of India. Eventually, in the year 2015, she decided to step away from active practice, embracing a well-earned retirement. Recognition for her contributions continued to pour in, as the Government of India bestowed upon her the prestigious Padma Vibhushan award in 1992.

Both Dr. Padmavathi and her sister Janaki, a notable neurologist, chose lives of singularity, united by their devotion to their fellow citizens. Together, they established the Janaki-Padmavathi Trust, channeling their entire earnings into a foundation that provided financial support for life-saving Heart Surgeries for the less fortunate.

After dedicating a lifetime to the noble cause of advancing cardiac care among the marginalized, Dr. Padmavathi’s journey came to a serene close in 2020, at the venerable age of 103, succumbing to the perils of the Coronavirus.

The land of Tamilnadu and the expanse of India have every reason to swell with pride at the legacy of Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavathi – a daughter who soared to uncharted heights and left an indelible imprint on the annals of medicine and compassion.

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