THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac’s ninth budget was liberally flavoured with quotes from short stories, novels and poems, but the over-two-hour presentation mentions one lady who has a special relationship with Thiruvananthapuram.
Among other things, Mary Poonen Lukose was the first female student of the University College, the first Indian woman to gain medical degree from UK and the first woman surgeon general of the State of Travancore - and perhaps the world. She was also one of the founders of the Young Women’s Christian Association.
Isaac’s budget presentation remembered the contributions made by Mary Lukose to healthcare. “Dr Mary Poonen Lukose was one of the extraordinary talents who influenced the growth of the healthcare system in Kerala,” Isaac said in his introduction to the budgetary allocations for the health sector.
The network of healthcare institutions and vaccinations launched by Lukose’s generations drove epidemics away from the state. “The average lifespan that stood at 45 even at the time of the state formation rose to 76. In this context, we should seriously view the organised opposition to vaccination and modern medicine that arise from certain corners forgetting our past experience,” Isaac said.
Mary Lukose was born in Kottayam in 1886. She did her schooling at the Holy Angels’ Convent School, Thiruvananthapuram, where she topped matriculation. She was denied admission in science subjects at the University College, so she studied history. Mary left for England to pursue medical studies. She returned to India in 1916. Thereafter, she took up a job as an obstetrician at the Woman and Child Hospital, Thycaud. In 1924, she was appointed as acting surgeon general of Travancore.