60 years of Diabetes Care, Research, Education & Training in Diabetes

Prof. M. Viswanathan who has been acknowledged as the "Father of Diabetology" in India passed away on 1st March 1996 after carrying a relentless crusade in the areas of diabetes care and research for 50 years. We briefly highlight his achievements and place on record his contributions as a clinician, teacher, researcher and administrator. The centres of Excellence viz., Diabetes Research Centre and M.V. Hospital for Diabetes established by him with his vast knowledge and wide professional experience, as an internationally recognised leading research scientist in diabetes will endure as standing monuments to his memory and greatness.

Medical Education

Prof. Viswanathan entered Stanley Medical College, Chennai, in 1940 and took his medical degree in 1946. In 1942, during the Quit India Movement young Viswanathan, with his selfless idealism and patriotism, hoisted the Indian tricolour in the Stanely Medical College Hostel. He was duly expelled from the hostel and it was Prof. K.C. Paul, an eminent physician of the college and the hospital who provided him with food, shelter and emotional support for a few weeks. That was the beginning of a productive relationship that was destined to change the very concepts of diabetes care and research in our country. Prof. Viswanathan graduated in 1946 and worked as a House Physician under Prof. K.C. Paul. Soon, he entered Madras Medical Service as Asst. Physician and Asst Prof. of Medicine in Stanley Medical College. His devotion to his profession, his idealism, keen and discerning intellect and above all his capacity for sincere hardwork and organisational skills, and a passionate commitment to ameliorate the suffering of diabetic patients with complications so impressed Prof. K.C. Paul that he entrusted the task of setting up and running the first organised diabetic clinic in India to young Dr. Viswanathan.

Diabetes Research Centre

Prof. Viswanathan left government service in 1971 with a view to realise his potential as a researcher and academic in the field of diabetes care and research. In 1972, the Diabetes Research Centre, a non-profit organisation, solely devoted to research was established. Its growth has been phenomenal and this has been possible only because of the zeal, enthusiasm, dedication and qualities of professional and administrative leadership of its Founder Director. In 1975, it was recognised by the ICMR and in 1983 it was given due recognition by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. In the words of Paul Zimmet of Australia an internationally respected WHO Consultant in Diabetes, "The Diabetes Research Centre is an outstanding example of how pursuit of a dream and excellence produces exotic fruits. There are few centres in the world that can match the all-round capabilities of your Centre in -- Care, Education, Research and Prevention. This blend enhances each of these areas and I would say the Diabetes Research Centre in Madras is one of the World's finest diabetes establishments and also its best kept secret."

Diabetes Research Centre is now acknowledged by leading diabetologists all over the world as a glittering seat of learning and research. In 1988 Prof. Viswanathan as the President of Diabetes Research Centre instituted the DRC Gold Medal Oration Award. This award is conferred every year on a distinguished scientist in the field of diabetes care and research. The recipients of this award include the internationally known diabetologists and researchers Dr. Malcolm Nattras of U.K., Prof. Maarja Riitta Taskinen of Finland, Prof. Steven M. Haffner and Prof. Peter H. Bennett of the USA and Prof. Jaakko Tuomilehto and Prof. Eva Tuomilehto of Finland.

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Research in Prevention of Diabetes Mellitus

Prof. Viswanathan has published more than 250 peer reviewed research papers and articles in various prestigious National and International Journals. These include papers of collaborative research projects with various international research institutes including London University Hospital, U.K., Karolinska Institute, Sweden and other leading research centres in the US and Australia. In addition, Prof. Viswanathan took up a mega research project entitled "Primary Prevention of Diabetes" but unfortunately could not complete the same due to his untimely demise. The research data collected and over 35000 family registries maintained by him, as part of this ongoing project, on further follow up and progression of the project are expected to throw light on inheritance, bio-chemical and clinical course and strategies for prevention of diabetes mellitus. Personal Qualities and Mission in Life

Prof. Viswanathan combined erudition, scholarship and talent with sterling character. He had a very fine sense of humour. He had four great ambitions. His first ambition was, "that something had to be done to alleviate the suffering of the diabetic patient... that "every person having diabetes should be helped to live his normal span of life in health." The second ambition was to establish diabetology as a medical discipline in our country. The third ambition was that the basic, clinical and epidemiological research in this field done in India must be of the highest quality and should receive international recognition. The fourth, and in a sense the most important ambition, was that diabetes should be prevented and conquered. In his lifetime he achieved the first three ambitions. As mentioned earlier, he has left behind an unfinished mega project, "Primary Prevention of Diabetes". The scientific staff of the DRC working on the information and research data gathered by him will pursue and endeavour to ensure that this project is brought to fruition.

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