7th January, 2022, saw the passing of one of the community’s most loved, cherished and respected stalwarts – surgeon and gastroenterologist – Dr. Tehemton Erach Udwadia. Considered as the Father of Laparoscopic Surgery in India, Dr. Tehemton Udwadia, who was the recipient of the Padma Bhushan, passed away at the age of 88, after a brief age-related illness. Not surprisingly, there was an outpouring of condolences and praise for Dr. Udwadia, which summed him as much as the perfect gentleman as the professional, and a true Parsi.
An icon of the community as well as a legend of the medical fraternity, Dr. Udwadia was a man of great discipline, with a large heart, always rendering free services to the priests and the poor. Dr. Udwadia practiced at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital, Hinduja Hospital and also rendered his services at the Parsee General Hospital. He touched and healed the lives of thousands. He was also a Professor of Surgery at the J J Hospital, having trained and mentored some of India’s most talented and brilliant medicos today.
He was popular for his passion for teaching, his love for students and his compassion for patients. He was known for his sense of humour, which would often put to ease nervous patients before their procedures. He seamlessly commanded great respect and regard, as a mentor and a pioneering surgeon, with skills as unique as his commitment and contributions to the field of medicine.
Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi also condoled his passing, tweeting on social media, “Dr. Tehemton Udwadia leaves behind an indelible mark in the field of medicine. He is widely respected for his innovative zeal and desire to remain ahead of the times when it comes to treatment methods. Pained by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers. RIP.”
Born in Mumbai on 15th July, 1934, to a family originating from Udvada (Erach and Perin Udwadia), Dr. Udwadia did his early education at Mumbai’s St. Mary’s School and Wilson College, and graduated in medicine from Mumbai University. He started his career as a research fellow at the King Edward Memorial Hospital and Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College in 1958 (till 1962). In 1993, he founded the Indian Association of Gastrointestinal Endo-Surgeons, serving as President from 1993 to 1998. He also served as the President of the Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy of India, Association of Surgeons of India and the Society of Endoscopic and Laparoscopic Surgeons of Asia. He was also the President of the Indian chapter and the World body of the International College of Surgeons.
In 1972, he became India’s very first surgeon to introduce laparoscopy in surgery, and the first to perform laparoscopic surgery in the developing world in 1990. He authored books including ‘Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy’ and ‘Laparoscopic Surgery in Developing Countries’, as well as ‘More Than Just Surgery: Life Lessons Beyond the OT’ (published 2021). He has published over 90 articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Through his life and brilliant career, Dr. Udwadia received innumerable awards and honours. Some of his felicitations include receiving the ‘SAGES Millennium Award from the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons’ (2000); the ‘Dr. B. C. Roy Award’ (2000) – the highest Indian award in the field of Medicine, from the Medical Council of India; the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Association of Gastrointestinal Endo-Surgeons’ (2004); the Padma Shri – India’s fourth highest civilian award (2006) and the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award (2017) for Medicine.
Dr. Udwadia’s funeral rites were conducted at Doongerwadi the next day (8th January, 2023), which also witnessed a massive outpouring of grateful and grieving friends, relatives, ex-patients, and admirers. He is survived by his wife, Khorshed Udwadia, elder son Rushad – an eminent surgeon settled in Vancouver, Canada; his younger son Ashad – also an established orthopedic surgeon in Manchester’ and daughter – Dinaz.