Dr T S Kanaka – Asia’s first woman neurosurgeon, dies at 86

Dr T S Kanaka

Chennai: While healthcare access to deprived and underprivileged people is still a major challenge in our country, a few doctors offer them the service without any expectations. We have ‘anju rooba doctor,’ ‘irubadhu rooba doctor,’ in the city and the list goes on.

Among the lot was Dr T S Kanaka, a popular doctor of Chrompet, known for treating people for free. But she did not become famous only because of that. She was the first woman neurosurgeon in Asia and had closely worked with Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam and several other trusts and held records for donating blood several times.

Hailing from Thanjavur, Dr Kanaka pursued MBBS and MS from Madras Medical College and was also posted in Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH), among others. A few years ago, she established the Sri Santhanakrishna Padmavathi Health Care and Research Foundation in Chrompet to benefit local residents.

The noble soul passed away 14 November due to ill-health. She was 86.

Within minutes of the news being announced, several people who benefitted by her, began to grieve and social media was abuzz with emotional memories.

“When I was admitted to a private clinic with brain fever, I was just a 10-year-old kid. The doctors were not hopeful and referred me to Dr Kanaka who was then with RGGGH,” reminisces S Natraj, a businessman from Chrompet, to News Today.

“She did not just treat me with injections and medicines, but also with love. She was a spiritual person and insisted all her patients pray to God first if they fell sick. I’m alive and it is because of her. She became so close to us that we treated her like one of our family,” adds Natraj.

“There was also a time when the doctor’s mother fell sick and my family was there, with her, taking care of her ailing parent,” he recalls.

He also goes on to say that even if the patients showed reluctance to visit the temple, she would offer prayers and give them the prasadam.

Her love for humanity made her travel to Tirupati every month for consultation, providing it, again, absolutely free of cost. The resident also shares an incident which shook fellow doctors and politicians.

“When a popular minister was on the rounds, she was slammed for not showing respect. She gave it back to the minister, strongly emphasising about her love to serve people,” he recalls.

A fellow doctor from Chrompet, Dr G Ramakrishnan, lists out a few of her major accomplishments that no one has ever achieved before.

“I have known her professionally for the last 20 years. She took efforts to compile the data of the neighbourhood residents who consulted her, which was widely welcomed by Chrompetites. To detect and cure ailments right in the early stage, she conducted a lot of medical camps,” he said.

He adds that her dream and passion had always been nursing underprivileged people and she did not charge a penny from anyone – especially senior citizens.