December 31st, 2015
Image Courtesy: harmonyindia cloudfront
Dr. T.S Kanakala is Asia’s first female neurosurgeon to break the myth that only men can do surgeries. When Kanakala opted for neurosurgery in the 60’s, she took her first step towards a challenging world said to be ruled by men. She was born in Chennai and was one among eight children of Padmavathi and Santhanakrishna, the Deputy Director of Public Instruction.
It was a struggle back in 1960’s when medical profession was majorly a male world with only a handful of women practitioners. Kanakala broke the male bastion with her will and hard work. At that time when women were never admitted to the master’s program in general surgery, she was one among other two women who were admitted to the M.S. general surgery.
She was never given a chance to hold a knife as male doctors would alone perform surgeries. She took the final exam six times as the external examiner failed her every time she appeared. Crossing many hurdles and witnessing favoritism in a profession that treats the human body as equal, she finally earned her MS in surgery.
Life was not easy for Dr Kanakala even after she received her MS degree. Her academic papers were always put under a microscope by her fellow researchers in the United States. She was posted at Government General Hospital, Chennai before she volunteered to serve the Indian Army at the end of 1962- 63 India-China aggression.
It was only when the assistant surgeon was on leave and she got a chance to prove her skills and learnings and formally became a surgeon under Dr A. Venugopal. Later she learned and honed her skills under the guidance of Dr B. Ramamurthy and became first woman neurosurgeon in Asia.
Apart from working full-time at Government General Hospital, she also worked with the Adyar Cancer Institute, Epidemiological Research Centre, Hindu Mission Hospital and Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. She also worked with numerous organisations that helped the people who could not afford good healthcare facilities.
Efforts for society:
Dr Kanakala is not only brave and dedicated but very compassionate too. After retiring from GGH in 1990, she started the Sri Santhanakrishna Padmavathi Health, Care and Research Centre, named after her parents in Chrompet. The foundation offers several services, such as free medical – checkup and yoga classes.
A life completely devoted to medicine and helping others, she chose to remain single. Her dream is to develop deep brain stimulation kits for stereotaxic surgeries locally, so the treatment can be made easily accessible.
The Logical Indian team salutes Dr. Kanakala, a winner of life time achievement award for doing things differently from others and devoting her time, efforts and earnings for the betterment of the society.