A pediatrician, a mother & an Army Lieutenant General : Meet Dr. Kanitkar from medicine world

Faiz Abbas Abidi   |  


Photo Credit: MNN

"Waaqif Kahan Zamana hamaari Udaan se 
Wo aur the jo haar gye aasman se "

The Urdu couplet fits perfectly for Major General Madhuri Kanitkar who  was few days ago elevated to the rank of Lieutenant General in the Indian Army becoming the third woman officer to secure the coveted rank above all odds. Life was a roller coaster ride for Dr. Kanitkar who loves to take challenges both as a doctor & a serving Indian Army officer. There is nothing which is impossible to achieve in her dictionary. Nevertheless she is an inspiring figure for all, who shattered all barriers to achieve targets which many considered out of box. 

Madhuri is also the first woman pediatrician to hold the second-highest post in the force.
With the new rank, the major general was posted as Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff under the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) at the headquarters in Delhi. Dr. Kanitkar is the only doctor on the Prime Minister’s STIAC (S&T) Innovation Advisory Committee. Dr. Kanitkar is also the first trained paediatric nephrologist of the armed forces.

In a heartfelt message, Lieutenant General Madhuri, told the media,  “Women have the opportunity to grow in this organisation that is fair, transparent, respected and safe for a woman."

When it comes to qualifications, few have these many in their kitty.  VSM, MBBS, MD (Paediatrics), DNB (Paediatrics), Fellowship Paediatric Nephrology, FIAP, Fellow FAIMER. Major General Madhuri Kanitkar has achieved what few have been able to.

She stands tall & strong  in a field that is male-dominated, and has definitely made her mark. Seeing her accomplishments, one figures that she might have decided to join the army much earlier in life. She laughs, “No. I was studying in Fergusson College as a 12th standard student and I planned to do medicine. I had friends in NDA and I used to see that there is something different and smart about them. And I had a roommate who was from an air force background. So, she was keen to join AFMC (Armed Forces Medical College, Pune) and that was the first time I heard about it. So, I came with her (to the college) and saw the distinct difference and the neatness, cleanliness, discipline somehow really impressed me.”

If there is one message I would like to share, it is to enjoy every day in uniform with childlike enthusiasm and challenge yourself to achieve the impossible. Never give up, just give back! To every woman in uniform, I can say ‘half the world is yours to take, but the full is yours to give’. So, always give your best,” she added.

Another notable first is that Lieutenant General Madhuri Kanitkar and her husband Rajiv, who is also a lieutenant general is the first couple in the Armed Forces to achieve the rank.

However, it was not completely smooth sailing. The Army was a largely male-dominated space in the 1980s and had very few women-friendly policies.

Worth mentioning is Dr. Madhuri topped her MBBS batch at the Armed Forces Medical College with the presidential gold medal for the best outgoing student. Getting into AFMC isn’t a cakewalk. But if you have the merit and the marks, you can get in. Did she have family support? “Honestly, I didn’t even tell my parents that I’m joining AFMC. I wrote my father a letter after getting selected and joining the college.” Things didn’t go her way and she had to join BJ Medical College in Pune instead. But her heart was with AFMC. She was keen on going back as firstly, it “was the armed forces, and secondly, I met my future husband (there).” After a huge tantrum at home, “my dad let me come back to AFMC with the condition that when I pass out, he will not pay my bond money and I must join the armed forces.” And the rest is history.

In an interview with SheThePeopleTV, Dr. Kanitkar recalls If I had to get up in the morning and not wear the army uniform, I would not know what to do because all my life I have worn a uniform. It started with school and then in Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) we had a uniform. The day I graduated, ours was the first batch which had a Passing Out Parade and so, we got into uniform from day one. It’s been a continuous thing. And that was what attracted me in the first place.

I could have become a civilian doctor as I didn’t have a service background, but I went against my father’s wish to become an army doctor. He was very wary about me being posted all over the country but I persisted. It happened so that I visited the AFMC institute by chance with a friend whose father was an Air Force Officer and I was so impressed by the discipline.

I realized that the college in AFMC was not just making doctors but involved students in so many extra-curricular activities that I got very easily convinced. I have always been a sportsperson, someone into dramatics and a lot of activities so that bit of AFMC gelled very well with my personality and I decided that this would be my career path.

I didn’t want to just become a doctor, I wanted to enjoy and have fun while becoming a doctor.

The first woman to hold this position is Surgeon Vice-Admiral and a former 3-star flag officer Punita Arora who serves in the the Indian Navy and the Indian Army.

Lieutenant General Padmavathy Bandopadhyay is the second woman to achieve this feat.

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