Nostalgic 90s: When India’s 1st woman dentist visited alma mater
She is now 94. When she passed out from Punjab University (Lahore) in 1944, she was 22. “I don’t know but it happened. I do not take pride in it. I didn’t know how I reached up to here…Jo kutch karna tha who hota raha (What was to be done, it continued to happen,” said Dr Vimla Sood, India’s first woman dentist. She visited Panjab University (PU) on Tuesday for white coat ceremony of students of Dr Harvansh Singh Judge Institute of Dental Sciences. “She wanted to donate her books and some equipment to PU. A common friend contacted me and this is how we got to know about her being the first woman dentist of the country,” said Dr Ashish Jain, principal, Institute of Dental Sciences, PU.
Dr Sood’s father was posted at Lahore at that time. “All were doctors in my family. So they pushed me for dentistry…That time our college, DeMontmorency College of Dentistry at Lahore, was the only dental college in the country,” she said.
The college used to come under PU. There were 30 students in her class and she was the only woman.
“My teachers and principle CD Marshal, who was from New Zealand, helped and protected me,” she said.
Her house used to be 4 miles from the college and she used to cycle her way up to there. “Some difficulties were there. I couldn’t go anytime anywhere,” she remembered.
After passing out from Lahore, she went to New York for internship. “After that I had been to many places in America for learning.” She did her Masters in Children Dentistry in 1955 from the University of Minnesota.
After partition, her family had shifted to Chandigarh where she has been staying presently in sector 18.
After coming back she joined Wellingdon Hospital in Delhi, which is now known as Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. “We used to visit villages with a mobile van clinic. People used to think that I had come to extract tooth but I told them that we could do other things too than just extraction,” she said.
She retired from Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry. She remained single throughout her life.
“There are so many facilities now, medicines have also changed. I don’t understand it (now),” she said.
About her colleagues, she said many had passed away. “It is time to go…,” she said and added that she had turned religious.