Pioneering cardiologist Dr. Navin Nanda is considered throughout the world to be the father of echocardiography. His innovations have provided cutting-edge advancements in the field, including three-dimensional, contrast and both conventional and color Doppler echocardiography.
Now in his 80s, he has had two medical institutes in India named after him in tribute by two former students. Trained by him in the U.S., they then went on to establish these facilities in Jaipur, Rajasthan and Nashik, Maharashtra.
Nanda himself is a former president of AAPI and a distinguished professor of medicine and cardiovascular disease at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He is credited with developing techniques that have revolutionized the worldwide practice of modern cardiology not just for adults but also in children, infants and the fetus.
Academics and research in cardiology, however, is rare among the majority of Indian-American physicians. Nanda said he credits his mentor, Dr. K.K. Datey at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai with inspiring the career choice that set his life on course. He said it was Datey’s encouragement that was catalytic after he came to the U.S. and completed his residency. Nanda arrived in the U.S. in the early 1970s and pursued his specialty at the University of Rochester in New York.
Echocardiography, considered the most effective noninvasive technique in the assessment and management of cardiac diseases, h has grown exponentially as a result of Nanda’s work. He was the first to discover the pulmonary valve by echocardiography, diagnose a bicuspid aortic valve by echocardiography, invent treadmill exercise echocardiography, introduce color Doppler both in the U.S. and India, invent the techniques of transpharyngeal and transgastric ultrasound and pioneer the use of echocardiography in cardiac pacing and electrophysiology.
One of the earliest citations Nanda received was from the American College of Cardiology which states that the Award was given to him for "enhancing cardiovascular care throughout the world'' and for being a “role model for others to follow in his footsteps.”
In Jaipur, where Nanda’s bust was unveiled last year at the Institute of Echocardiography, Emergency Medicine and Paramedic Training, the institute was recently renamed the Dr. Navin C. Nanda Institute of Echocardiography, Emergency Medicine and Paramedic Training. The first of its kind in India, it was founded by Dr. Harvinder Dod, an Arkansas interventionist cardiologist who trained in Alabama with Nanda several years ago.
Dod called Nanda “a father figure to his numerous students like me. Despite his trailblazing achievements, he remains an extremely humble and loving person and mentor.” The Jaipur institute was established with funds from the Rajasthan government and is India’s first such facility to give paramedics expertise in treating patients on site after an accident or heart attack. It will also provide training in echocardiography.
In Nashik, Dr. Vinod Vijan, another Nanda mentee, established the Navin C. Nanda Institute of Excellence in Cardiovascular Ultrasound. Nashik is the location of Bombay University – now known as Maharashtra University of Health Sciences – where Nanda received his initial medical training.
Vijan called him “a living legend who has touched the lives of over two generations of cardiologists….He has taken echocardiography to heights of excellence so much that echocardiography is the most widely used modality in cardiology even replacing the stethoscope with the ultrasonic stethoscope.”
Another student, Dr. Ajay Jindal, senior cardiologist and chairman of SND Foundation Hospital in Rupnagar named his hospital’s echocardiology lab after him, recalling his own awe of Nanda as one of his students.
“Joining Dr. Nanda's lab in the University of Alabama was with some fear as he was known for his craving for excellence and perfection,” he said. “This reputation initially put some pressure on me, but slowly I settled down, I found him the person who was always in pursuit of bringing out best from his fellows.”
When he returned to India, Jindal said, “I could not find any other way to pay my gratitude’s but to dedicate and name my hospital echo lab after him. One thing is for sure -- I see him as the Indian-American cardiologist of the century, I would say even of the millennium who left his country and excelled in a distant land and did India proud.”
Nanda had earlier told India Abroad the tribute namings were “extremely humbling.” He said he found them even more fulfilling because they were established by former students “with a sense of altruism to give back to the motherland.”
Dr. Dev Maulik, professor in the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, noted how some of Nanda’s advances directly benefitted young people in India. “Concerned with the demographic differences in the cardiac disorders, he was the first to demonstrate high incidence of myocardial infarction in young adults in India and relationship of diabetes mellitus to myocardial infarction,” said Maulik, who is also senior associate dean of Women's Health and professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University’s School of Medicine/Truman Medical Center.
“But beyond all his professional achievements and fame, the grandest quality of Dr. Nanda is his universal human values, a man of humility and compassion who is always eager to help others with an enduring commitment to improving the human condition,” he said.
“Dr. Nanda has encouraged and facilitated cross-pollination of ideas and collaboration in research. His teaching conferences typically include a diverse faculty and audience. He has brought us together from all corners of the world in the pursuit of knowledge and innovation,” said Dr. Robert Gatewood, head of the Cardiology Group in Buffalo, New York.
“His devotion, dedication and innovations in cardiology are known to every cardiologist in the world,” said Dr. H.K. Chopra, president, Cardiological Society of India.
Dr. Nurgūl Keser, professor of cardiology at the University of Sakarya and on the faculty at Istanbul University, worked with Nanda as a fellow in his echocardiography lab in 1997 and has stayed close as a colleague. Keser said Sakarya University gave him an honorary doctorate in the field of Health and Medical Sciences -- the first time it was given to a physician outside of Turkey.
Nanda has also been recognized by virtually all of the leading cardiology organizations and societies in India and in the past decade was the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the International Service Award from the American College of Cardiology for ‘enhancing cardiovascular care throughout the world’ and being ‘ a role model for others to follow.” He has also received lifetime achievement awards from the Indian College of Cardiology, Cardiological Society of India, Indian Society of Cardiology, Indian Heart Rhythm Society and the Indian Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists.
Nanda is also the founding president of the American Association of Cardiologists of Indian Origin.
At the time of Nanda’s AAPI presidency, he was credited with uniting various factions when the organization was at crossroads in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was in danger of unraveling.