TN honours cancer care pioneer

TN honours cancer care pioneer

A pioneer in organising sustained care for cancer patients in South India, Dr V Shanta, chairperson of the internationally known Cancer Institute (WIA) in Chennai who carried forward the legacy of modern India’s first woman graduate Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy for over 50 years, found yet another moment of fulfillment on Friday.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha honoured the self-effacing Dr Shanta with the prestigious Avaiyaar Award, named after the ancient Tamil poet of wisdom, for her “excellent and selfless service” as a solace and care giver to cancer patients for over five decades through the institution.

The award, to mark International Women’s Day, is to honour women for their unique contributions to diverse fields, including women's development and social harmony, who by their sheer grit and determination have shown that women are no less inferior to men and who are role models to others.

At a simple function at the Secretariat here, Dr Shanta received the Avaiyaar Award, instituted last year, from the chief minister who honoured her with a shawl on the occasion. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, an 8-gram gold medal and a citation.

At the turn of the last century when the very word “cancer” evoked fear and hopelessness with very little information or education about the disease, it was Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy along with two Europeans who founded the “Women’s Indian Association Cancer Relief Fund,” that eventually led to the establishment of the Cancer Institute in Adyar here in June 1954.  Carrying forward Dr Reddy’s torch alongside her son Dr Krishnamurthy, to reach cancer cure to a large number of cancer patients, Dr Shanta’s multifarious contributions have been unique.

Dr Shanta is from a distinguished family of scientists.

After her medical education, she joined the fledgling Cancer Institute as a Resident Medical Officer in 1955. Since then, she has been tirelessly working in organising care of cancer patients, “study of the disease and in its prevention and control”.

A member of the WHO Advisory Committee on Cancer till 2005, the Ávaiyyar Award on International Women's Day has come as yet another honour for Dr Shanta, who has already been conferred several prestigious Awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Award and Padma Bhushan for her public service.

More recently, Dr Shanta, part of the Central government appointed panel of experts to study and allay the aprehensions of the villagers in the vicinity of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tirunelveli District, had during interactions with their representatives, explained in lucid Tamil that enough safeguards have been built in the plant from the radiation point of view.

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