Dr. S.I.Padmavati: The Woman Who Changed the Face of Cardiology in India-The Inspiring Story

Dr. Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati, fondly known as Dr. S.I.Padmavati was the first female cardiologist of India and a trailblazer in the field of cardiology. She was born on June 20, 1917, in Magway, Burma (now Myanmar), to a lawyer father and a homemaker mother. She was the eldest of six children and had a keen interest in science and medicine from a young age. She graduated from Rangoon Medical College in 1941 as the first woman graduate and one of the highest-achieving students in her year.


Dr. S. I. Padmavati was a renowned cardiologist and medical educator in India. She was also known as the “Godmother of Cardiology” and the “First Lady of Cardiology” for her pioneering contributions to the field. She was the founder and director of the National Heart Institute and the All India Heart Foundation.

Dr. S.I.Padmavati Personal details

Dr. Padmavati was born on June 20, 1917 in Mysore, Karnataka. She was 103 years old when she passed away on August 29, 2020 due to COVID-19 complications. She was a female, Hindu, and had a height of 5 feet 2 inches and a weight of 50 kg. Her Zodiac sign was Gemini. She was a doctor by profession but also enjoyed reading, writing, gardening, and music. She had a habit of waking up early and working till late at night.

Dr. S.I.Padmavati Favorites

Dr. Padmavati’s favorite color was white, which symbolized purity and peace. Her favorite actor was Amitabh Bachchan, whom she admired for his versatility and charisma. Her favorite song was “Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon”, which she sang along with Lata Mangeshkar at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the National Heart Institute in 2013. Her favorite music genre was classical, especially Carnatic music. Her favorite holiday spot was Switzerland, where she loved to admire the scenic beauty and snow-capped mountains.

Dr. S.I.Padmavati Family details

Dr. Padmavati’s father was Srinivasacharlu, a lawyer and freedom fighter who participated in the Quit India Movement. Her mother was Radhabai, a homemaker who encouraged her daughter’s education and career aspirations. Dr. Padmavati never married or had children, but considered her patients and students as her family. She had two brothers, Srinivasa Murthy and Srinivasa Rao, and one sister, Saraswati Devi, who supported her throughout her life.

Education details

Dr. Padmavati completed her schooling at St. Joseph’s Convent School in Mysore and Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi, where she topped her batch and won several medals and scholarships. She pursued her post-graduation from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School in the USA, where she trained under eminent cardiologists like Helen Taussig and Paul Dudley White. She also obtained fellowships from the Royal College of Physicians of London and Edinburgh and the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. S.I.Padmavati Career

Dr. Padmavati started her career as a lecturer at Lady Harding Medical College in 1949, where she established the first cardiac clinic and catheterization laboratory in India. She later became the professor and head of the department of cardiology at Maulana Azad Medical College and G.B. Pant Hospital in Delhi, where she performed the first balloon valvuloplasty in India in 1984. She also founded the National Heart Institute in 1981 and the All India Heart Foundation in 1962, which provided quality cardiac care and education to the masses. She authored several books and papers on cardiology, received numerous awards and honors, including the Padma Vibhushan in 1992, and mentored generations of cardiologists in India.

Interesting facts

  • Dr. S.I Padmavati was born in Burma (now Myanmar) in 1917 and had to flee the country during the Japanese invasion in 1942.
  • She was the first woman cardiologist in India and established the first cardiac clinic and cardiac catheter lab in North India.
  • She studied under renowned cardiologists like Dr. Helen Taussig, Dr. Paul Dudley White and Dr. Sven Effert in different countries.
  • She was the president of the 5th World Congress of Cardiology held in New Delhi in 1966.
  • She lived for 103 years and continued to work till her last days.


  • She was fond of classical music and played the veena, a stringed instrument.
  • She was a vegetarian and practiced yoga and meditation daily.
  • She never married and devoted her life to medicine and social service.
  • She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1967 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1992, the third and second highest civilian honors in India respectively.
  • She was a pioneer in preventive cardiology and collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) in training students in this field.


  • Padma Bhushan (1967)
  • Padma Vibhushan (1992)
  • B.C. Roy Award (1976)
  • Ranbaxy Award (1990)
  • Dhanvantari Award (1994)


  • Established the first cardiac clinic and cardiac catheter lab in North India at Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi in 1954.
  • Founded the All India Heart Foundation (AIHF) in 1962, a non-governmental organization for raising awareness and funds for cardiovascular diseases.
  • Set up the National Heart Institute (NHI) under AIHF in 1981, a hospital that provides tertiary patient care, research and population outreach for heart ailments.
  • Started the first DM in cardiology in India as an examiner with Medical Council of India.
  • Published over 300 papers and several books on cardiology.

The Inspiring Story

Her life took a dramatic turn when Japan invaded Burma during World War II and she had to flee to India with her family. She joined the Indian Medical Service and the Indian Army Medical Corps from 1943 to 1946, serving in various hospitals and camps across the country. She then went to the UK to complete her postgraduate studies, first at the National Heart Hospital in London and then at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. She also spent three months in Stockholm with Dr. Gustav Nylin, a pioneer of cardiac surgery.

Dr. S.I.Padmavati

She won a scholarship to study at Johns Hopkins University with Dr. Helen Taussig, the founder of pediatric cardiology, and at Harvard Medical School with Dr. Paul Dudley White, the founder of preventive cardiology and cardiologist to President Dwight D Eisenhower. She learned from these eminent mentors the latest techniques and innovations in cardiology, such as cardiac catheterization, electrocardiography, echocardiography, and coronary angiography.

She returned to Burma briefly but could not find any suitable posts for her qualifications. She then came back to newly independent India in 1952 and joined the Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi as a lecturer. She established the first cardiology clinic in India, which soon became popular among patients of all genders and backgrounds. She also set up the first cardiac catheterization laboratory and the first coronary care unit in India. She became the professor and head of the department of medicine at Lady Hardinge Medical College and later the director principal of Maulana Azad Medical College and associated Irwin & GB Pant Hospital.

She was instrumental in developing the departments of cardiology at both these institutions and training many young cardiologists who went on to become leaders in their fields. She also conducted extensive research on various cardiovascular diseases, such as rheumatic heart disease, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and congenital heart defects. She published over 300 papers in national and international journals, chapters in textbooks, and volumes on cardiology.

She was passionate about preventing cardiovascular disease in the community and led epidemiological studies on its risk factors, such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and stress. She advocated for increased regulation and awareness on these issues and promoted healthy lifestyle habits among her patients and the public. She herself swam at least 20 lengths daily until her mid-90s and followed a balanced diet.

She was also a visionary leader who helped to set up several professional bodies and institutions related to cardiology in India. She was the founder president of the Cardiological Society of India in 1954, which is now the largest association of cardiologists in Asia. She was also the founder president of the All India Heart Foundation in 1962, which is a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting heart health through education, research, advocacy, and community service.

She was also the founder director of its National Heart Institute (NHI) in New Delhi, which is a tertiary care hospital that provides state-of-the-art cardiac care to patients from all walks of life. She continued to work at NHI until her last days as its chief consultant cardiologist.

She was also actively involved in various national and international organizations related to cardiology, such as the World Heart Federation, Asian Pacific Heart Network, Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology, National Academy of Medical Sciences, Indian Council of Medical Research, and World Health Organization. She represented India at many global conferences and forums on cardiology and contributed to shaping its policies and guidelines.

She received numerous awards and honors for her outstanding achievements and contributions to cardiology and medicine. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1967 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1992 by the Government of India for her distinguished service to the nation. She also received honorary doctorates from several universities, such as Sri Venkateswara University, Madras University, Delhi University, Banaras Hindu University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia University, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education.

She also received many prestigious awards from national and international societies and associations, such as the Harvard Medical International Award, the Dr. B.C. Roy National Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cardiological Society of India, the Dhanvantari Award, the Dr. K.S. Sanjivi Award, the Dr. B.N. Ghosh Award, the Dr. R.V. Rajam Oration Award, and the Dr. J.C. Patel & Dr. B.C. Mehta JAPI Award.

She was also honored with several medals and orations, such as the Basanti Devi Amir Chand Prize, the Dr. K.L. Wig Oration, the Dr. Rustom Jal Vakil Oration, the Dr. P.K. Sen Oration, the Dr. K.L. Chopra Oration, the Dr. S.R. Mehra Memorial Lecture, and the Dr. M.S. Valiathan Oration.

She was a role model and an inspiration for many generations of cardiologists, especially women, who followed her footsteps and pursued cardiology as a career. She broke many barriers and stereotypes in a male-dominated and high-stress specialty and proved that women can excel in any field with hard work, dedication, and passion.

She was also a compassionate and humble human being who cared deeply for her patients, colleagues, students, and staff. She treated everyone with respect and dignity and always had a smile on her face. She was known for her generosity and kindness and often waived off fees for poor patients or arranged for their treatment at subsidized rates.

She passed away on August 29, 2020, at the age of 103, due to COVID-19 complications. She left behind a legacy of excellence, innovation, leadership, and service in cardiology that will be remembered and cherished for years to come.

Inspire Team
Author: Inspire Team

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