Dr. V. Shantha

Dr. V. Shantha
 Awards winner & Chairperson of Adyar Cancer Institute, Chennai
                                                                                                                                                      - Subbu
Dr.V. Shantha is a prominent Cancer specialist and the Chairperson of Adyar Cancer Institute, Chennai. Her career which spans over 50 years has been dedicated to organising care for cancer patients, and intensive research in the prevention and cure of the disease. Her work has been widely acknowledged with several awards including the Magsaysay Award, and Padma Shri.
Dr. Shantha has been associated with Adyar Cancer Institute since 1955, and has held several key positions, including its Director between 1980-1997. She is a member of the World Health Organisation’s Advisory Committee on Health and several other national and international committees on health and medicine.
Dr. Shantha was born on March 11, 1927 at Mylapore, Chennai. She was born into an illustrious family of academics and scientists, most eminent among them were Nobel Laureates C.V. Raman and S. Chandrasekar.
When Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy set up the Cancer Institute in 1954, Dr. Shantha then had just finished her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). She also got through the Public Service Commission examination and was posted to the Women and Children Hospital.
Dr. Shantha had to make a crucial decision and decided to join the Cancer Institute instead, upsetting many people. For three years she worked as honorary staff after which, the Institute offered to pay her Rs.200 per month and residence within the campus. She moved into the campus on April 13, 1955, and has remained there ever since.
The Institute began with two doctors, Krishnamurthy and Shantha, a single building with minimal diagnostic and therapeutic facilities and a cluster of 12 huts to house the inpatients. The only cancer hospital in south India, it was established with public donations as a voluntary, charitable and non-profitable institution.
"It was a very difficult journey. Finances were hard to come by and daily existence was a struggle. It was a frustrating and painful period because people did not understand us. The first thing people asked me those days was, 'Where were you trained?' My reply, 'Here in India, in Madras,' did not make many happy!" recalls Dr. Shantha, who took over as the Institute's director and chairperson when Dr. Krishnamurthy retired in 1979.
Dr. Shantha tries to lead by example and feels that if doctors worked in a corporate setup, they would probably earn three to four times the salary they are drawing here. "It is certainly disheartening when you see them go, but then they are spreading the message of the Institute elsewhere. Those who stay behind are committed to the cause." Dr. Shantha cannot be identified apart from her institution. She took over the cancer hospital 25 years ago and is as devoted to it as she was when she joined in 1954. She doesn't think of a life beyond the institution. Service is of primary concern and working for a cause seems to be-the-be-all-and-end-all for this noble lady.
Awards don't seem to distract her dedication though she has quite a few to her credit. She was honoured by the Belgium-based International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR) with the Award for Outstanding Work in a Country with Limited Resources. CURE Foundation Award Presentation during its inaugural function honoured doctors from India and abroad. Dr. V. Shantha, Adyar Cancer Institute was the Indian awardee. Last but not the least has been the Magsaysay Award (2005), another feather in the cap of this committed doctor. Her selfless service is an inspiration to all of humanity.
It was an unexpected, pleasant surprise for the doctor when the president of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Committee called her from the Philippines to inform her of the award. The president said, “We have just finished the meeting and you have been chosen.
“Dr Shantha had no words to express her feelings. She just said, “I am honoured and privileged.” She still has no idea who suggested her name to the committee. The staffs at the hospital are exhilarated; they look at the award as their own, which makes Dr Shantha even more proud and happy.
“The award is theirs too, as we are one family.” Dr. Shantha has dedicated the award to the institute, saying that there “is a long way to go”. The award citation is worth quoting to describe aptly Shanta’s service. It reads: “In an era when specialised medical care in India has become highly commercialised, Dr. Shanta strives to ensure that the Institute remains true to its ethos, `Service to all.’ Its services are free or subsidised for some 60 per cent of its 100,000 annual patients; travel allowances make regular treatments accessible to the poor.
Recently Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa presented the 'Avvaiyar Award' for the year 2013 to Dr Shanta on the occasion of International Women's Day.
And through a volunteer programme called Sanctuary, the Institute provides hope-giving emotional support and counselling to patients and their families and to cancer-afflicted children.
Dr. V. Shantha commented that 76 per cent of the movies show tobacco in some form and 50 per cent of the time the hero is shown smoking. She appealed to cine stars not to smoke on screen since they set a bad example to young filmgoers. Speaking at a function organized by WHO on "Tobacco-free films and fashion," Kamal Hassan swore that he would never again wield a cigarette before the camera.
There was conceived an innovative fund-raising campaign "Iruvadhu Muthal Iruvadhu Varai", to collect Rs. 20 from the public till the target of Rs. 20 crores was reached by the Cancer Institute. It was launched to facilitate the institute's expansion plans. It is not just about collecting money, but a way of creating awareness and generating hope and positive action among people about cancer.
Dr. Shantha's Quotes
“If we have grown, it is because of the grace of God, and our faith in our mission”. The journey has been long. I don’t see an end to it, simply because our work is never ending. What we have done is very little. There is much more to do.
The journey has been arduous, with bricks and stones and occasional flowers strewn in between, but we continue…” “When the sick approach the gates of the Institute, weak in body and spirit, and full of fear, there is only one response, you have to become part of them”.
“Every obstacle I have overcome, every patient I have cured, every child I have treated who has grown, got married and come back to see me with his / her children have made my whole life memorable.”
Note: Frontliners also had donated for this cancer Institute in 2005.