V. Shanta

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The President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presenting the Padma Bhushan Award – 2006 to the Chairperson of the Cancer Institute, Chennai, Dr. (Ms.) V. Shanta, in New Delhi on March 20, 2006

V. Shanta is an Indian oncologist and the chairperson of Adyar Cancer Institute, Chennai. She is best known for her efforts towards making quality and affordable cancer treatment accessible to all patients in her country.[1][2] She has dedicated herself to the mission of organizing care for cancer patients,[3] study of the disease, research on its prevention and cure, spreading awareness about the disease,[4][5] and developing specialists and scientists in various subspecialties of oncology.[6] Her work has her won several awards, including the Magsaysay Award, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award given by the Government of India.

She has been associated with Adyar Cancer Institute since 1955, and has held several positions, including that of the director of the institute between 1980 and 1997. She has served as a member of several national and international committees on health and medicine, including the World Health Organization's Advisory Committee on Health.

Early life[edit]

Shanta was born on 11 March 1927, at Mylapore, Chennai, into a distinguished family that included two Nobel Laureates, C.V. Raman (grand uncle) and S. Chandrasekar (uncle).[1][7]

She did her schooling from National Girls High School (now Lady Sivaswami Ayyar Girls Higher Secondary School) and had always wanted to become a doctor. She completed her graduation (M.B.B.S) from the Madras Medical College in 1949, D.G.O. in 1952, and M.D. (in Obstetrics & Gynecology) in 1955.[citation needed]


When Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy set up the Cancer Institute in 1954, Shanta was about to complete her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). She had got through the Public Service Commission examination and had been posted to the Women and Children Hospital. In the 1940s and 1950s, Indian women who entered the medical profession generally took obstetrics and gynecology, but Shanta wanted to be different. She decided to join the Cancer Institute instead, upsetting many people in her family.[8]

The institute began as a small, 12-bed cottage hospital with just a single building[7], minimal equipment and just two doctors, Shanta and Krishnamurthi. 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 13 April 1955, and has remained there ever since.

Dr. Shanta is a member of the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission for Health.[citation needed] She is a strong advocate of early detection of cancer and the need to change public perception of the disease, especially the extreme fear and hopelessness associated with the disease. She has been particularly critical of the metaphorical usage of the name of the disease to describe a dangerous and uncontrollable situation or one of hopelessness.[9][10]


The President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Padma Vibhushan Award to Dr. V. Shanta, at a Civil Investiture Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on April 12, 2016

Shanta, an elected fellow of the National Academy of Medical Sciences,[11] is a recipient of the Padma Shri Award in 1986[12], Padma Bhushan,[13] in 2006 and Padma Vibhushan in 2016.[1][14][15][16]

She was conferred the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2005.[17] She dedicated the award to her institute.[18] The award citation is worth quoting to describe aptly Dr. Shanta's service. It reads in part:

"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 [...] eighty-Seven-year-old Shanta still sees patients, still performs surgery, and is still on call twenty-four hours a day."[19]


  1. ^ a b c "Dr. V. Shanta From Chennai Honoured With Padma Vibhushan For Her Service In The Field Of Cancer". Logical Indian. 13 April 2016. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  2. ^ Padmanabhan, Geeta (24 September 2017). "Express yourself without fear: Dr. V. Shanta". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Focus should be on early detection of cancer: Dr. V. Shanta". The Hindu. 20 September 2016. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  4. ^ "'Early detection of cancer is key'". The Hindu. 2 May 2019. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Dr V Shanta (Columnist profile)". The Hindu. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Dr. V. Shanta - Chairman". www.cancerinstitutewia.in. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  7. ^ a b Umashanker, Sudha (5 March 2011). "She redefined the C word". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  8. ^ "`An uphill task all along'". www.frontline.in. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  9. ^ "On cancer & terror". The Hindu. 14 May 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  10. ^ "No parallel". The Hindu. 28 February 2018. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  11. ^ "List of Fellows — NAMS" (PDF). National Academy of Medical Sciences. 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Padma Awards for 1986 in the field of Medicine | Interactive Dashboard". www.dashboard-padmaawards.gov.in. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  14. ^ "Padma Vibhushan for Rajinikanth, Dhirubhai Ambani, Jagmohan". The Hindu. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  15. ^ "Padma Awards for the year 2016 | Interactive Dashboard". www.dashboard-padmaawards.gov.in. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Padma Awards list - 2016" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  17. ^ "Awardees from 2005 • The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation • Honoring greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia". rmaward.asia. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  18. ^ "Shanta, V." Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Citation Description". Retrieved 1 November 2012.

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