Harbans Singh Wasir
(5 March 193723 August 2004)

Dr Harbans Singh Wasir, former professor and head of the Department of Cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), died after a brief illness. He spent almost his entire professional career at AIIMS, which he had joined as an undergraduate student of the second batch in 1957. He did his MD in Medicine in 1965 and DM in Cardiology in 1969 from AIIMS. He joined the Institute in its formative years, and steadily rose to head one of the most widely recognized superspecialty departments of the institution, which he served for 30 years in various capacities.
   During his distinguished career, he excelled in all facets of patient care, clinical research and teaching, and contributed immensely to the development of Cardiology nationally and internationally. He published over 400 research papers and his work on the epidemiology of hypertension and rheumatic heart disease is widely recognized. He received numerous accolades and awards including the prestigious Dr B.C. Roy National award for the development of a new specialty, the ICMR research award, fellowship of the National Academy of Science, and DSc (honoris causa) in Medical Sciences. He was also awarded the Padma Shri (1987) and Padma Bhushan (2000).
   Dr Wasir recognized the importance of preventive cardiology very early and delivered public lectures, published books and wrote in the lay press on the theme of prevention. His books Heart to Heart: A holistic approach to heart care, Haardik Samvad (Hindi), Naroa Dil (Punjabi) were instant hits with lay people. Some of his books were translated into other regional languages as well. His other books include Preventive cardiology, Ageing and heart care; these publications effectively crystallized the disciplines of Preventive Cardiology and Geriatrics. He served as a WHO consultant for cardiovascular disease control in India, Bhutan, Nepal and Southeast Asian countries. He was a visiting consultant to universities in Sweden, Belgium and Russia.
    Dr Wasir combined traditional wisdom with modern medicine and believed in a holistic approach to health. His ward rounds were remarkable for his infectious enthusiasm which was so conducive to learning and patient care. It was common to see morose patients brighten up after his rounds. A man of refined tastes, he was obsessed with punctuality, cleanliness and physical fitness. Himself a fitness freak, he could climb seven floors to his office leaving the hapless residents following him gasping for breath. Although strict with himself, he was forgiving of and kind to others. He was a father figure for his students; someone with whom they could share their difficulties without fear.
   A devout Sikh, he would quote fluently from the Guru Granth Sahib. He served as an honorary physician to four Presidents of India, but his contact with every patient was unique. Young and old, VIPs and common men, artists and artisans were equally dear to him; they just depended on him and loved him. Truly, he was a popular cardiologist.
   He is survived by his wife and two doctor sons.

Department of Cardiology
Cardiothoracic Centre
All India Institute of Medical Sciences
New Delhi


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