Mary Verghese

Mary Puthisseril Verghese
Born (1925-05-21)21 May 1925
Cochin, Kerala
Died 17 December 1986(1986-12-17) (aged 61)
Vellore, Tamil Nadu
Nationality India
Education MBBS, Fellowship in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Medical career
Profession Physician
Field Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Institutions Christian Medical College, Vellore
Notable prizes Padma Shri 1972

Mary Puthisseril Verghese (1925–1986) was a physician in India who was among the earliest pioneers of Physical medicine and rehabilitation in the country. In 1963, she took charge of what was the first department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with an inpatient facility in India at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. She was instrumental in expanding the services of the department with the establishment of the first inpatient rehabilitation institute of the country in 1966.[1] In recognition of her contributions to the field of medicine, she was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1972.[2]

An award has been instituted in her memory by the Mary Verghese Trust, and the first Dr. Mary Verghese Award for Excellence in Empowering Ability was given in 2012 to S. Ramakrishnan, founder and president of the Amar Seva Sangam.[3][4]

Early life and education

Mary Verghese was born in Cherai village, Cochin, Kerala, India, in a prosperous family. Her father was a respected leader in the local church and community. She was the seventh of eight children in the family. Elder to her were sisters Annamma, Aleyamma, Thankamma, and brothers John, George and Joseph. Martha was her younger sister. After her schooling at the Union High School in Cherai, Mary attended the Maharaja's College, Ernakulam, for her college studies. She had her graduate training in medicine at the Christian Medical College, Vellore between 1946 and 1952. She got to meet Dr. Ida S. Scudder, the founder of the institution, for the first time at the time of her admission to the course. On completing her training in medicine, aspiring to specialise in gynaecology, she joined the department of gynaecology.[5]

Spinal cord injury and later years

It was while working there she was injured in a road crash in 1954 that resulted in complete spinal cord injury. She became paralysed from the waist down (mid thoracic injury). Her injuries were managed by Dr. Paul Brand, who subsequently was her mentor and under whom she learnt surgical skills related to leprosy rehabilitation. Dr Paul Brand pointed out that she could sit in her wheelchair and operate on the hands of people with Hansen's Disease. Following a course of rehabilitation at Australian Rehabilitation Center, Perth, Verghese secured a fellowship at the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, New York, under Dr. Howard A. Rusk, a pioneer in the field. On completing her fellowship in 1962, she returned to India to head the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Christian Medical College, Vellore. She started the rehabilitation institute in 1966, and headed the first fully functional physical rehabilitation unit in the country. She was involved in providing rehabilitation services primarily for persons with spinal cord injury, leprosy, and brain injury. She continued to work at the Christian Medical College till 1976.[6]

Her biography, titled "Take my hand: the remarkable story of Dr. Mary Verghese", authored by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, was published in 1963.


In recognition of her contributions to medicine, in particular, to the field of physical rehabilitation in India, Mary Verghese was awarded the Padma Shri by the then President of India, Shri. V.V. Giri in 1972. She was awarded the World Vision Award in 1985.

Death and legacy

Verghese died in December 1986 at Vellore. The rehabilitation institute established by her has been named in her honour. The Mary Verghese Trust that was started by her in 1986 continues to conduct vocational training programs for persons with physical disabilities. The trust also jointly conducts the annual get-together program for persons with disabilities, the Rehab Mela.[7] In 2012, Mary Verghese Award Foundation was established.

Rehabilitation Institute, CMC Vellore.

The Rehabilitation Institute in Bagayam, Vellore continues to help people with disabilities. The institute treats people with spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain or head injury, amputations (lost limbs), children with cerebral palsy and many other less common problems. Dr Mary is constantly remembered as the pioneer she was - starting a service that is still going more than 50 years later.

Recipients of Mary Verghese Award

Year Recipient Organization
2012 S. Ramakrishnan[3] Amar Seva Sangam, Tamil Nadu
2013 K. V. Rabiya[8] Chalanam, Kerala
2014 N.S. Hema[9] The Association of People with Disability, Karnataka
2015 C. Antonysamy[10] The Worth Trust, Katpadi, Tamil Nadu


  1. "Mary Verghese". Department of PMR, CMC, Vellore. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  2. Padma Shri Awardees – Padma Awards – My India, My Pride – Know India: National Portal of India
  3. 1 2 "Amar Seva Sangam founder-president honored". The Hindu. 19 February 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  4. Mishra, Anil Dutta (2009). World Crisis and the Gandhian Way. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 128. ISBN 8180696006.
  5. Full text of "Take My Hands The Remarkable Story Of Dr Mary Verghese"
  6. Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the Rehabilitation Institute, 1991 Archived 11 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. Murthi, P.V.V. (20 February 2012). "More rehabilitation centres needed for paraplegics". The Hindu. Chennai, India.
  8. "Rabia awarded 2013 Dr. Mary Verghese Award". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 17 February 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  9. Hema, N.S (16 February 2014). "Mary Verghese Awardee displays can-do spirit". The Hindu. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  10. Antonysamy, C (23 February 2015). "Worthy recipient of Dr. Mary Verghese Award". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
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