Till the prestigious Padma awards came calling a few days ago, most of the recipients of India’s second, third, and fourth highest civilian honours (Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri respectively) after Bharat Ratna, are rarely heard of. Barring a few in literature and cinema, most of the awardees are unsung heroes quietly focused on their area of work for years, sometimes decades, with unwavering dedication and perseverance.
On January 25 this year, following the tradition of announcing the Padma winners the day before Indian Republic Day, 141 Padma awardees were revealed - out of which seven won Padma Vibhushan, 16 got Padma Bhushan, and 118 got Padma Shri. The awardees, chosen for their exemplary work and impact, are chosen from various fields, including education, art, medicine, literature, business, social work, and cinema, among others.
This year, 14 Padma awardees were from the field of Medicine, out of which four were women. Find out more about these four individuals who continue to inspire us every day:
Dr. Tsering Landol
Dr. Tsering Landol, the first gynaecologist from Ladakh, has been awarded Padma Bhushan this year.
Although famous for its scenic beauty, Ladakh - being a subject of territory dispute between India, Pakistan, and China – has been one of the relatively backward regions in the country. However, born into an underprivileged family of six children in Leh, Dr. Landol wanted to make a change. In a culture where women shy away even from speaking about their health problems, Dr.Landol became a pioneer of women’s health.
After graduating with MBBS degree from the Government Medical College in Srinagar in 1979, she had to overcome many odds to serve the people in the region – including lack of basic facilities like electricity and hygienic surgery rooms. But Dr.Landol was successful in spreading awareness on women’s health, family planning, and healthy lifestyle.
She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2006, making her the first woman from Ladakh to receive the honour. Although she is retired now, Dr.Landol (75) conducts clinics for women in Ladakh as part of her charity work even today.
Dr. Leela Joshi
Madhya Pradesh-based Dr.Leela Joshi won Padma Shri this year for her selfless work in the rural parts of the backward State.
After retiring as Chief Medical Officer at the Railways in 1997, Dr.Joshi settled in Ratlam village in the Malwa Region of Madhya Pradesh. She has been providing free medical services to tribals in the area since then. The 81-year-old medical practitioner’s work over 22 years has improved the health concerns of anaemia, pregnancy-related care, and other issues among tribal women and teenage girls in the area.
In 2015, Dr.Joshi was named as one among the top 100 influential women of the country by the Department of Women and Child Development.
Dr.Joshi did MBBS from Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College, Indore, in 1961 and later post-graduation also from the same institute. She joined the Railways and served there for around three decades, and was also the State coordinator for Indian Medical Association’s initiative named ‘Mission Pink Health’ which aimed at spreading awareness of health issues among school girls.
Dr. Padmavathy Bandopadhyay
Dr. Padmavathy Bandopadhyay, who has been awarded with Padma Shri this year, is the first woman to become Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force and achieve two star rank in the IAF. She is also the second woman to be awarded a three-star rank in the tri-services.
Born as Padmavathy Swaminathan, the Andhra Pradesh-origin Padmavathy was brought up in New Delhi. After graduating from the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune in 1963, she joined the IAF in 1968, where she met Dr.Sati Nath Bandopadhyay, whom she later married. For her work during the infamous Indo-Pakistan war in 1971, Dr.Padmavathy was honoured with the Vishisht Seva Medal.
This aviation medicine specialist also holds the unique distinctions of being the first woman Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Society of India, first Lady Honorary Surgeon to the President of India, and the first Indian woman to have conducted scientific research at the North Pole.
Now a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, Dr.Padmavathy, now 75, has also authored a book titled ‘The Lady in Blue: The Memoirs of First Lady Air Marshal.’
Dr. Shanti Roy
Patna-based gynaecologist Dr.Shanti Roy was born and brought up in a village in Siwan district of Bihar. At a time when higher education for girls was a rarity in the backward State, she was a school topper who went on to pursue Medicine in the 1960s. She continues to be one of the top gynaecologists and obstetricians in the State even today. She has been awarded Padma Shri this year for her contributions in the field of medicine and promoting women’s health in Bihar.
Dr.Roy retired as the Head of Department of Gynaecology at Patna Medical College a few years ago, but continues her practice as well as other efforts to spread awareness on women’s health. She has stated that Indian women often tend to ignore their own health, while taking care of their husbands and children. “They never think about themselves, don’t eat on time or exercise, rarely even go to the doctor for their own problems. But women have to pay more attention to their own health before attending to everyone else,” she has said.