74-year-old professor of medicine and the author of a ‘revolutionary’ textbook in the field, Parveen Kumar, was recently awarded the prestigious Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services in the field of medicine.
Dames Commander or Damehood is the female equivalent of knighthood in the country and is an honour conferred in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Kumar has become the third Indian-origin woman to be honoured with the rare royal honour for women since the order was instituted in 1917. The other two Indian women were Maharani Lakshmi Devi of Dhar (in 1931); and educationist Asha Khemka (in 2014).
This year, many Indian-origin people have been named for royal honours apart from Kumar like Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and Sandeep Singh Virdee, founder of the Darbar Arts Culture and Heritage Trust.
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar’s mother-in-law Annabel Mehta, president of NGO Apnalaya, has also been named for an MBE for services to the underprivileged in Mumbai.
Kumar was born in Lahore in 1942 and went to the UK to study medicine. Currently, she is a professor of Medicine and Education at Bart’s and the London School of Medicine. Apart from her royal honour, Kumar has had many achievements in her career, including being named the first Asian Woman of the Year Award in 1999.
Her citation honouring her with Damehood states, “She is the co-editor and author of the revolutionary 1989 textbook, ‘Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine’. The book is symptomatic of her efforts to improve the education of medical students, doctors and nurses in training both at home and abroad,” reported HT.
Kumar considers her mother her biggest inspiration. In an interview, she said, “She was a remarkable lady. She inculcated in me the principles of hard work, honesty, and giving. Anything was possible, even as a woman.”
“Her giving and voluntary work lasted to the end of her days. I have this vision of a tiny 80-year-old Indian lady in a sari (hitched up over snow boots) delivering meals on wheels to elderly people in a Surrey town. I always wondered what the locals must have thought of her.”
The coveted list also includes author JK Rowling and musician Paul McCartney, who are among the nine named for the Order of the Companion of Honour. Other Indian-origin women who are being honoured are Aisha Kulwant Gill for her work in the field of criminology and Sital Singh Dhillon for services to higher education.
Gill, who is a professor of criminology at the University of Roehampton, has been working against forced marriage, honour crimes and violence against women.