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A good sport with a healer hand
Laila Das

riding, shooting, swimming, cycling… She gave it all up for a medical education, but that didn’t quench her thirst for sport. Instead, Laila Das took up the challenge of combining the two — from starting the only women’s cricket team in a Calcutta medical college at Nilratan Sirkar (NRS) before her graduation in 1986, to becoming the science officer at the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

“I have always been sports crazy. I was a good shooter when I was young, but had to give it up for various reasons, including education and finances. But as my father was a police officer, I had the advantage of using the police training college facilities,” the 48-year-old says.

After nine schools, it was on to Calcutta University for an MBBS in gynaecology, and mother and childcare, and then NRS. “I had a good private practice, but I couldn’t forget sports, my first love,” she smiles. So, in 1986, Das became the first woman to complete the post-graduation diploma course in sports medicine from Jadavpur University. “The vice-chancellor told me that I was the only woman from any Asian university to do so,” the member of Life Saving Society adds.

Since joining SAI in 1988, the member of the Indian Olympic Association’s women’s commission went to Birmingham on her own to specialise in sports medicine, and was also sent to the Central Institute for Research in Sports, Moscow, in 1990, by the government. During the six-week course, Das worked on tissue biopsy, “ a subject not so well researched here”.

The treasurer of the SAF Games Association and member of the Asian Basketball Confederation has travelled from China to Kathmandu and all over India as medical officer with teams to football matches, SAF games, Saarc games and the Davis Cup. She’s been in Australia and in Pakistan, giving talks at international conferences on her research, which have been published in numerous medical journals at home and abroad. She was conferred an honorary doctorate in Sri Lanka for her paper, on women and sports in 1995.

In fact, that’s her forte. Currently, the Salt Lake resident who helped start up a sports medicine diploma course at Dhaka University, is doing a doctorate in menstruation-related problems in sportswomen there, besides teaching. The visiting lecturer at the Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh and Punjab University in Patiala has also been selected as faculty member for Calcutta University’s soon-to-be-started post-graduate diploma course in sports medicine. “Together with a colleague, I am trying to write a book on sports medicine. My dream, though, is to open a rehabilitation and recovery centre,” she signs off.

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