Dr. T.S Kanaka: Asia’s first woman neurosurgeon recalls her journey to the top

credits: the hindu
credits: deccanchronicle.com
credits: deccanchronicle.com

By NewsGram Staff Writer

An exemplary woman of India, the 79 year-old Dr. T.S Kanaka has achieved many rare feats in her life. An expert in brain stimulation, she has spent her life in struggles and successfully emerged as Asia’s first female neurosurgeon.

Her journey to the top has been extremely challenging and difficult, she says as she recalls the days of her under-graduation and post-graduation.

“Women were never admitted to master’s programme in general surgery. Two other women had been admitted to the M.S. general surgery simply because they had won the Johnson Medal (the highest recognition for a student at Madras Medical College). While one went on to become an anatomy professor, the other never practised. When I applied for the MS programme, I was told I would never be accepted,” she recalls.

Not just getting admission, but also completing her MS in surgery was difficult. She was the only woman in eight students and women weren’t even allowed to hold a knife, let alone perform surgeries. Crossing many hurdles, she finally passed her final exams and earned her MS in surgery degree.

“As it is, passing the M.S. degree examination is difficult, even without discrimination. Every time I took the final exam, the external examiner from Bombay failed me. It was only in the sixth attempt that I finally qualified,” she recalls.

A chance to show her skills came to her when the surgeon she was assisting had to leave for training and she was asked to take his place. Since then, she worked hard and honed her skills under the tutelage of Dr. B. Ramamurthy.

Even after that, she faced a lot of struggles as her academic research papers were continuously scrutinized by her US counterparts.

A life completely devoted to medicine, she implores scientists to develop brain stimulation kits for stereotaxic surgeries locally, in her lecture tours, so that treatments are made cost effective, which Dr. Kanaka was a staunch advocate of. “My job is not done until India develops its own kit for cost-effective treatment,” she says.