Vadakenadayil Ittyerah Mathan earned his MBBS and obtained MD in general medicine and PhD in Epidemiology from the Madras University through the Christian Medical College, Vellore. He was trained in Gastroenterology at the Boston University with Professor Bob Donaldson and established the Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences at the Christian Medical College, Vellore on his return in 1972. He was also the Medical Superintendent (1989-94) and Director (1994-97) with significant administrative contributions.
Academic and Research Achievements: Mathan's initial work concentrated on the clinical characterization and epidemiology of Idiopathic Tropical Malabsorbtion Syndromes (Tropical Sprue). Data from several epidemics of Tropical Sprue suggested that they were the result of an infectious agent, but no pathogen could be identified. The studies were extended to cover acute infectious diarrhea and it was found that severity of illness, a critical factor in determining mortality, was related to a lamina propria microvascular lesion, and a murine model was developed to show that gram negative bacterial endotoxin could be responsible for this lesion. It was shown that Vitamin B12 deficiency was virtually absent in the predominantly vegetarian population and that faecal contamination of water sources was an important source of this nutrient. He has mentored over 28 students for MD in Gastroenterology and produced six PhDs.
Other Contributions: Professor Mathan, established a multidisciplinary team of research workers in the Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences at Vellore. He was Associate Director and Chief of Laboratory Sciences at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh (1998-2000); Senior Technical Advisor to the National AIDS Control Organization, New Delhi; and the ICMR Chair of Epidemiology. He was president of Indian Society of Gastroenterology (1982).
Awards and Honours: Professor Mathan received Hoechst Om Prakash Award (1974), Boots Gastroenterology Award (1986), Warner Gastroenterology Award (1988), Om Prakash Bhasin Award (1996), Dr Ambedkar Award for Lifetime Achievement in Medical Research by ICMR (1996), Ranbaxy Science Foundation Prize (1997), INSA TS Tirumurti Memorial Lecture (1997), FRCP, London (1998), PN Chuttani Award from the Indian Society of Gastroenterology (1998); and the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (1999). He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Medical Sciences (1982) and a Honorary Member of the British Society of Gastroenterology (1996).