Success Story
Padmavathy Bandopadhyay
First woman Air Marshal in The Indian Air Force (IAF). Became the Director General Medical Services (Air) at the Air Headquarters.

Padma Bandopadhyay was born on 04 November 1944 to Shri V. Swaminathan and Smt. Alamelu at Tirupati . Seeing her mother sick, who was almost in the hospital for the rest of her life ,she decided to become a doctor and cure her mother and also thousands of such people who suffered.

Brought up in Delhi and studied Pre Medical in Kirori Mal college. She stood first in the whole course. When the Armed Forces Medical College opened in Pune in 1962, she applied and passed the entrance examination in the first batch. However, sending a daughter far away from home to stay in a hostel and study for a medical course for five years was out of question for Padma’s family members, and so she did not join AFMC. The following year she convinced her parents and joined the ‘B’ Batch of AFMC.

During her studies, she excelled in every field and passed with many prizes, medals and cash prizes. She opted for the Air Force and she was posted as an Internee at Air Force Hospital, Bangalore. There she met her husband to be, Flt Lt Satinath Bandopadhyay.

She was commissioned in the IAF in 1968 after passing out of the Armed Forces Medical College. A problem with her eyesight forced her to give up the dream to become a pilot and stick to a medical career in the IAF. She specialised in aviation medicine in 1975, which was then a new field . Over the years, she has completed 23 research projects and has 27 publications to her credit . She is the the first woman officer to become an aviation medicine specialist.

During the 1971 war with Pakistan, Bandhopadhyay, then an intern fresh out of the IAF command hospital in Bangalore, was posted along with her husband, S.N. Bandhopadhyay, at the Halwara airbase in Punjab. For their contributions to the war effort, both Bandhopadhyay and her husband, an administrative officer, were awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM), an award for exemplary devotion to duty. This resulted in the first-ever husband and wife team to be honoured with the VSM at the same defence ceremony by the President.

Sqn Ldr Padma Bandopadhyay became Wing Commander and she was posted to DIPAS (Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences ) where she did laudable research work on high altitude. During this time she lived at High Altitude areas both in the Western and Eastern Himalayas. She was instrumental in making the new acclimatization schedule for Indian Soldiers at high altitudes and preventive measures to HAPO (High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema and HACO ( High Altitude Cerebral Oedema).

A member of the Indian Society of Aerospace Medicines, International Medical Society and New York Academy of Sciences. Has also been a member of a research expedition to the Arctic. She is the first Indian woman to have conducted scientific research at the North Pole. In the late eighties, she went to the Arctic to join an Indo-Russian physiology experiment to determine whether people from tropical Indian climates could acclimatise themselves to extreme cold conditions. She spent four months at the North Pole between November 1989 and February 1990. On her return, she was awarded Indira Priyadarshini Award for being an Outstanding Lady with so many achievements. This was the first time any Lady in uniform was honoured with this Award. She was also awarded the Air Force Wives Welfare Association Trophy by AFWWA.

Padma was promoted to the rank of Group Captain and was posted as Deputy Principle Medical Officer (Specialist) of Western Air Command, Indian Air Force when Indo-Pak relations reached their lowest ebb. During the Kargil Operations she toured all the forward areas and looked after the medical needs of the Air Warriors.

She made history again by becoming the First Lady Air Commodore of Indian Air Force on 26 June 2000. She took over the command of the most prestigious Air Force Medical Unit, Air Force Central Medical Establishment. She was awarded Ati Vishisth Seva Medal for her service of meritorious order on 26 January 2002.

She was promoted and became the First Lady Air Vice Marshal of Indian Air Force and also the first of all the Air Forces of the world. She took over as Additional Director General Armed Forces Medical Services. She did laudable job and was promoted to the highest rank of the Medical Branch – Air Marshal on 01 Oct 2004. She took over the command of Air Force Medical Services and became the first lady Air Marshal of the world and also the first Lady Director General Medical Services of the forces. She is also the first Lady Honorary Surgeon to the President of India. Source: