Widely regarded as the famous cardiologist of India, Dr. Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati was established first cardiology clinic and catheter lab, the first Indian medical school-based cardiology department, and India’s first heart foundation. In 1981, she served as the founding director of the National Heart Institute in Delhi, the premier research and referral tertiary care heart hospital of the All India Heart Foundation, instrumental in training physicians in preventive cardiology.
Born in 1917 in Burma (now Myanmar), Padmavati excelled in school, earning the first medical degree at Rangoon University awarded to a female student. Soon after completing her studies, Japan invaded Burma in 1942. Padmavati and the other women in her family fled the country, taking the last flight to India.
In 1949, Dr. Padmavati moved to London . Pursuing interests in cardiology, she also 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. Dr Taussig pioneered the first surgeries on “blue babies,” or babies born with congenital heart defects.
Beginning as a lecturer at Delhi’s all-women’s Lady Hardinge Medical College, Dr. Padmavati was quickly promoted to professor of medicine. Soon male physicians sought out work in her cardiac catheterization lab, developed with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. An active proponent of government intervention in the regulation of cardiovascular disease risk factors, she advocated for eliminating lifestyle-based risk factors, such as fast food and cigarettes.
Leading the International Society of Cardiology, Dr. Padmavati was pivotal to the 1966 formation of the Council in Epidemiology at the World Congress in Delhi. She is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Medical Sciences, and was awarded the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan, the highest civilian honors granted by the Indian government.