Onumebr1ur number one contender probably came as a surprise to many of you, who would have been sitting and trying to figure out which of your favorite Indian docs stole number 1 over the previous four. (Note: Sorry, we don’t consider Deepak Chopra as a proper doctor, not that a wellbeing center would have landed him on this list anyway). Graduating from Madras Medical College and Harvard University,Dr. YellapradaSubbarao is the only one on the list who’s been mentioned in a book written by another on this list, as Siddhartha Mukherjee points out: “Any one of these achievements should have been enough to guarantee him a professorship at Harvard. But Subbarao was a foreigner, a reclusive, nocturnal, heavily accented vegetarian who lived in a one-room apartment downtown, befriended only by other nocturnal recluses.”


These achievements include the discovery of one of the first anti-cancer agents, aminopterin (the precursor of the drug that haunts all pharmacology students – methotrexate) for which he was mentioned in Mukherjee’s novel; along with the discovery of the importance of one of the most critical compounds to living beings – ATP (Yes, an Indian discovered the first super long scientific word you learned). In one of the most cited scientific papers of all time, he was mentioned by his colleague- the legendary Sidney Farber, as a key member in the early fight ysraoagainst cancer. (Do read the chapter in “The Emperor of All Maladies” on Subbarao and Farber. Heck, just read the entire book.)


At a time when it is every Indian’s dream to pursue higher education in America, it’s also been one of the toughest decades since Subbarao’s time for achieving that objective. In the face of stricter immigration and the hounding problem of racial selectivity, we have a lot to learn from Subbarao’s approach (The guy got into Harvard in 1922, while most of us complain about how jobless the USMLE people are for making you write 4 different exams). The two key aspects which we must taking into stride were his determination to persevere in spite of great adversity, and his objective to reach for excellence and not merely success (no, this concept was not invented by Raj Kumar Hirani). We must also mention to aspiring youngsters: PATENT. YOUR.WORK.


Though his associates were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology, the man who helped discover folic acid, Vitamin B12, DEC (the filaria one), and the first tetracycline, was hidden behind a shroud of obscurity. The man at the top of our countdown isn’t a global figure or the face of break-through field of medicine, he’s just a simple biochemist who used his genius to contribute more to the benefit of humanity than most deemed universities do in decades. We hope that our younger readers take a great deal of inspiration from him, and realize that there’s still an entire world out there to discover.


“”You’ve probably never heard of Dr. YellapragadaSubbarao. Yet because he lived you may be alive and are well today. Because he lived, you may live longer.”– Doron Antrim in Argosymagazine.

With that, we have come to an end of this series of Hi-Five. Do watch this space for the next set of Hi-Five.