Downtown

Others come first in her life

Dr. Celia White, Consultant, Obstertrics and Gynaecology. Photo: V. Ganesan   | Photo Credit: V_GANESAN

She almost didn’t make it to being a doctor. This noted obstetrician-gynaecologist was all geared up to study B.Sc. Physics in Queen Mary’s College, Chennai, way back in the late 1950s. Thanks to late Dr. Ratnavel Subramanyam of Madras Medical College who posed her the query: “What will you do with a B.Sc.?”, and followed it with the advice to go for a seat in Medicine. This bright and lovely Doveton Corrie student turned her attention to doing an MBBS. She passed out of MMC in 1964 with flying colours — she had a varsity rank to boot.

Celia White was an eager young NCC cadet while in college and also passionate about sports. Once when her mom did not give her permission to take up a course in gliding, the youngster got her sister Betty White-Felix to sign the application form. Years later, when inside the Madras Christian College premises, Betty got to watch a glider in the sky, she nearly had a fit, not realising what she’d let her younger sibling in for.

During her final year MBBS, Celia sought the go-ahead from her professor, the very same Dr. Ratnavel Subramanyam, to take part in an inter-collegiate sports meet in Vellore. She was told in no uncertain terms to decide between the two — medicine or sports. Celia said she’d do both. Promptly enough, she returned with the championship in her pocket from Vellore.

Daughter of late Samuel Cecil White of the Railways, Dr. Celia completed her M.D. in 1974 and when, after a stint in Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, Chennai, she was posted to Tirunelveli, she came rushing back to the city. Her mother suffered paralysis and Celia was the ministering angel. The young doctor never got around to marrying, and on being sent to Kanchipuram for her next assignment, the young gynaecologist decided “enough was enough”. She applied for a post in Bahrain after taking VRS in 1988. She became a consultant in the American Mission Hospital there and also helped her sister Betty and her spouse, Clement Felix who’d just then retired as the Headmaster of the MCC Higher Secondary School, to move in there with her and take up jobs.

The doctor became a patient in 1997 when it was found she had a tumour in her heart and Dr Cherian in Chennai was the best hand to do the surgery. Dr. Celia packed her bags and returned to Chennai for good. “I don’t have regrets,” says the cheerful, gentle and soft-spoken physician even as she and her sister take care of the ailing Mr. Felix in their apartment at Jeremiah Road, Vepery. Wanting to help the poor destitute, the two sisters, both in their 70s,have been making things of beauty — in yarn that is — for the last few years now. Betty Felix turns out woollen dresses for infants and the doctor knits scarves and wraps. “Yes, we are particular about the yarn, we get it from Australia”. With the money they get from friends for these lovely shawls and baby clothes, they provide for the livelihood of many families.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 4:09:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/others-come-first-in-her-life/article6868941.ece

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