Hyderabad: In the passing away of Dr Putla M Lentin at the ripe old age of 94 on Monday, Hyderabad has lost one more ‘Gem’ of a medical teacher and practitioner of the ‘old school’.
A few generations of students of the premier Gandhi and Osmania Medical Colleges in Hyderabad, especially during the period of 1960-90, must surely have been influenced by her dedication to teaching and her caring attitude.
“ Dr Lentin was an impressive teacher, strong in her subject and strict in the class. Away from it, she was very kind and affectionate,” recalled Dr Pradeep Deshpande, a noted Nephrologist and one of her students in post graduation medicine (MD). Dr Deshpande had visited her to greet on her 94th birthday on December 19, 2021.
She belonged to a generation of medical professionals like Dr V N Waghray, Dr Jaswanth Rao, Dr Brahmaji Rao, Dr P Siva Reddy, Dr Kakarla Subba Rao, Dr C M Habibullah and many others, who have left an indelible mark on Hyderabad. Some were popular, while many like her maintained a low profile.
Always active, Dr Lentin continued to practise decades after her retirement. Belonging to the Parsi community and driven by service to society, She would never charge the poor and the widowers who sought her advise at her Boggulkunta clinic- cum-spacious residential bungalow in Abids.
Dr Lentin suffered a major setback in her personal life, when her businessman husband, Mr Parvez B Hodiwala died due to complications of an eye surgery performed at the Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital around 1985.
The well known SD Hospital was hosting an international conference on latest advances in eye care and some experts from Russia too were demonstrating new techniques. It was a largely attended and covered meeting.
Undeterred by the personal loss, Dr Lentin, who did not have children dedicated her life and time to the medical profession in the decades that followed.
I had the chance of meeting her during the mid 1980s, thanks to my father, who had got a waterproofing work done in her bungalow. Her friendliness and knowledge immediately struck me as ‘A go-to-general physician’ and a reservoir of medical knowledge.
To recall, her impact on my belief in her abilities to diagnose and explain medical issues, let me narrate a personal experience. It was in October 1988, that the PTI, where I was working as a Journalist selected me to visit France on a 12-day official tour as a guest of the European nation.
The assignment was to cover developments related to the 200 years of the French Revolution (1789) and 100 years of the construction of the Eiffel Tower (1889) that were falling in 1989 and progress in different fields in that country. The French Government was planning a ‘Festival of France’ in India to showcase it in the metro cities during 1989.
Since, the visit was in December, the peak winter in France and I was recovering from an ailment for which cold climate was a challenge, my doctor, Dr M M Pandit advised a rethink. Unwilling to let go my ‘Bon Voyage’, that too to a dream country, I sought the counsel of Dr Lentin.
To my utter delight, Dr Lentin not only infused confidence in me by asking me to go, enjoy the diverse beauty of Paris, eat lot of cheese and taste wines, but also put in a word to my doctor. No, wonder, it turned out to be one of my most memorable Journalistic assignments and in the bargain I returned home braving the winter, 3-4 kgs heavier with all the indulgence.
Dr Lentin had an amazing way of explaining complex medical issues in a simple way which helped the patient. I too used to rely on her explanations in some of my stories on healthcare.
Somasekhar Mulugu, former Associate Editor & Chief of Bureau of The Hindu BusinessLine, is a well-known political, business and science writer and analyst based in Hyderabad