In spite of the rapid advancements in science and technology, there are millions of death due to various health reasons. India being one of the developing nations has experienced slow pace in medical growth compared to developed nations. The increase in conditions for entrance exams to pursue medical courses has been both a bane and boon for the field.
Medical field is one of the industries to earn abundant money as for how it is portrayed. Beyond those allegations, there have been doctors who have sacrificed their personal benefits to help those in need. Dr.Shanta is a women pioneer in the field of Oncology who used her knowledge to save lives of patients.
Born in Mylapore on March 1927 into a family which contributed eminently for the scientific field, Shanta was another gem on the family tree. Shanta's family consisted of two Nobel Laureates, (maternal grandfather's brother) grand uncle C.V.Raman and maternal uncle S.Chandrasekar.
While naturally everyone in my family looked towards Dr C.V. Raman and S. Chandrasekhar for inspiration, I was driven more by the need to achieve something in life. Even when I was in school I knew I had to become an independent professional and I was keen to do something different- Dr.Shanta
The urge to become a doctor striked Shanta when she witnessed her aunts getting married and settling with college degree. Just having a degree behind her name was not her vision. Those stereotypes made her more determined on obtaining MBBS. Those war days restricted her to complete her education in Chennai. She completed her MBBS in 1949, D.G.O. in 1952 and M.D. in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1955.
*Dr.Shanta during her final year MBBS (middle row-5th from left)
During her first year as house surgeon in 1950, she was posted into a cancer ward that marked the beginning of her service. In 1954 Dr.Muthulakshmi Reddy opened the Cancer Institute with the whole team of Women's Indian Association (WIA) Cancer Relief Fund. By 1955 after completing her post-graduation, Dr.Shanta joined the Cancer Institute as Resident Medical Officer.
There commenced her journey in Cancer Institute which experienced enormous growth and changes under Dr.Shanta's service. At the age of 91 (in May 2019), Dr.Shanta still remains as an active person to render lectures, share her knowledge and help cancer affected patients.
What makes Dr.Shanta's effort in treating cancer patients as outstanding is the era in which she started her work. The whole team had to face tough challenges from the view of common people and government officials who were supposed to provide financial support.
As a voluntary institution, we had to show people that certain cancers are treatable if they come on time. We also had to enhance ourselves. Even today this challenge remains- Dr.Shanta
As the medical field grew with the help of technology development, the team in the Cancer Institute also invoked ample measures to enhance the facilities. Eventually Dr.Shanta became the backbone of forming Adyar Cancer Institute. This institute remains one of the biggest cancer institutes in the whole country with advanced treatment options.
Dr.Shanta is the current chairperson of Adyar Cancer Institute. Prior to this she held various prestigious positions in numerous organizations related to medical and cancer field. She has published over 98 papers in national and international journals. She also compiled a book, My Journey-Memories.
Dr.Shanta believes 65% of cancer affected patients in India could be treated and cured by proper medical governance. She also firmly trusts that this percentage will increase in the near future.
1986: Padma Shri
1997: IARC Award - Work for Development of Registries in India.
1998: D.Sc. Shri Venkateswara University - Contribution in the field of Medicine
2002: D.Sc Tamil Nadu Dr.M.G.R.Medical University
2002: Nazli-Gad-El-Mawla Award- Cancer Control in a resource poor country, Brussels
2005: Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, Philippines
2006: Padma Bhushan
2013: Avvaiyar Award by Government of Tamilnadu
2013: D.Sc. Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences & D.Sc. Sathyabama University for Life Time Achievement Awards - 13
Dr.Shanta has been the face of Adyar Cancer Institute for over 50 years. All these accolades are the least of recognitions compared to her contribution for fight against cancer.
So much to be done and so little has been done- is her utterance every single time anyone asked about her achievements.