Walk into the cardiac wing of any big hospital in India or even the US, and you’re likely to see men in blue scrubs poring over ECGs, or rushing to OTs to thread catheters through blocked arteries. This medical speciality, characterised by long working hours and high stress, has traditionally had a lopsided gender ratio. But despite these odds, one of India’s first cardiology departments was set up by a woman — the legendary Dr S I Padmavati.
Now 103 and retired from active practice, Dr Padmavati was working 12 hours a day, five days a week till late 2015 at the National Heart Institute in Delhi that she founded in 1981. She still comes to the institute once or twice a week to see some of her older patients.
So, what’s the secret to her longevity? Dr Padmavati credits it to her genes and disciplined lifestyle. “My mother lived to 105 and I followed her footsteps in adopting a healthy lifestyle. Remember, we are products of our environment,” she says. Dr Padmavati's family includes many doctors, engineers and lawyers.