A strong-willed woman, a pioneer in cardiology and a doctor with a heart of gold – this is how the medical fraternity remembers 103-year-old cardiologist Dr Padmavati Sivaramakrishna Iyer, known simply as Dr Padmavati, who passed away Saturday after contracting Covid-19 earlier this month.
She was admitted to the National Heart Institute (NHI) 11 days ago and later developed pneumonia. She was put on ventilator support but suffered a cardiac arrest on Saturday.
The founding director of NHI, she was 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.
“In 1972, when I joined Maulana Azad Medical College as a first-year MBBS student, Madam Padmavati was the director, the head of the medical college. She is the most illustrious name in the field of cardiology in this country.
She strings together scores and scores of cardiologists to whom she was a teacher as well as a mentor. Even till the last moment, she was very sharp and would put us to shame at times when we would not recount an incident but she would remember it. She was a health enthusiast and swam till the age of 93-94 years. She loved playing tennis, which she gave up some time ago. Her physical abilities were restricted over the last five years,” said Dr OP Yadava, Chief Cardiac Surgeon and Chief Executive Officer at NHI.
Born in 1917 in Burma, now Myanmar, she graduated from Rangoon Medical College from where she started her career in cardiology.
In 1967, she took over as Director-Principal of Maulana Azad Medical College where she also set up a Cardiology Department. She then introduced the DM course in Cardiology and other super specialities like the first coronary care unit and the first coronary care van in India. She also established North India’s first Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory at Lady Hardinge Medical College in 1954.
“She was a role model. We learnt a lot from her that helped us establish a healthy relationship with patients. My first encounter with her was at the examination hall in MAMC when she came as an external examiner. She had a reputation of being strict and we were very scared of her. In 1974, I got a chance to interact with her when I joined the MD medicine at MAMC. My thesis was later guided by her and I got to work with her closely. She was disciplined, dedicated, and never said no to poor patients… In those days, cardiology was not as developed as it is now and only basic CATH lab was available. Her opinions hold great value and were highly acknowledged across the country. At a time when coronary heart disease was not even an issue, she gave strong emphasis on prevention of heart disease,” said Dr KK Sethi, chairman of Delhi Health and Lung Institute.
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