Left her footprints in the sands of time Competence. Commitment. Courage. Compassion. Integrity. Determination. Dr V Shanta was a rare amalgam of all these qualities.\u00a0 So, it was no surprise that even as a young doctor, she readily responded to the call of visionary\u00a0 Dr\u00a0 Muthulakshmi Reddy, to work for the treatment of cancer and the establishment of a Cancer Hospital in Chennai.\u00a0 Those were the initial years of post-Independence India, when the institutional infrastructure for health care and medical treatment of even ordinary diseases was rudimentary.\u00a0 In this context, a Cancer Hospital was considered a quixotic \u2013 almost laughable \u2013 proposition. But the pioneers were a determined lot.\u00a0 Dr Shanta, along with her mentor Dr V Krishnamurthy, threw herself into this work with tremendous enthusiasm.\u00a0 Brick by brick, the two of them built a cancer treatment facility in Chennai.\u00a0 From a cottage facility, it now stands tall as a centre of excellence with 535 beds in two campuses \u2013 the main campus in Gandhi Nagar and the Annexe on Sardar Patel Road.\u00a0 There were a number of people in governments and pubic life, who helped. Equally, there were quite a few who frustrated them at every step. Obstacles only strengthened their resolve to forge ahead.\u00a0 Today\u2019s research, tomorrow\u2019s treatment... In addition to the hospital, there is a well respected Research Wing, whose mission set by Dr Krishnamuthy was: today\u2019s research, tomorrow\u2019s treatment.\u00a0 And it has a college only for super-specialties in the treatment of cancer.\u00a0 Recognising that prevention is always better than cure, Dr Shanta set up extensive Outreach programmes.\u00a0 The establishment of a comprehensive Cancer Registry is one of her many outstanding contributions to the field of cancer treatment. Dr Shanta spread the message of hope that cancer is curable if detected early. And she seriously worked to remove the stigma attached to the disease.\u00a0 She was particularly irked at the pejorative use of the word cancer to describe objectionable practices. eg. Corruption is a cancer that is eating into the vitals of the body politic.\u00a0 She wrote open letters to anyone who said or wrote such things and asked them not to do these\u00a0 again. Compassion was the defining characteristic of Dr Shanta and her mentor.\u00a0 Their principal objective in setting up this cancer facility was to provide high quality treatment for the poor and disadvantaged. Only 40 per cent of the beds are paying beds.\u00a0 About 40 per cent of the patients are treated totally free of cost. And the remaining patients are highly subsidised.\u00a0 But the quality of treatment is the same for all.\u00a0 Dr Shanta knew that a few people abused the system by understating their income, but magnanimously chose to ignore that.\u00a0 Funds sought her... In the initial years, funds were a constraint.\u00a0 But as her stature grew, funds sought her.\u00a0 And she was proud of the fact that a significant portion of the donations received were from ordinary people. That was the public\u2019s homage to a noble soul. Awards and honors \u2013 national and international \u2013 were showered on her.\u00a0 There was a role reversal though. The awards gained stature, not the awardee. \u00a0-Dr R Swaminathan, IAS (Retd) As the poet sang, she made her life sublime and departing left behind her footprints in the sands of time.