Usha K Luthra did her MBBS from Lady Harding Medical College, New Delhi, Delhi University, with first rank in Medicine and MD (Pathology and Bacteriology) and PhD on 'Experimental Cervical Carcinogenesis' from Agra University, under the supervision of Professor PN Wahi. She had her post-doctoral training in Pathology and Cytology with Professor Shields Warren and Olive Gates at the Harvard University, Boston, USA. Her training in new initiatives in Cytology was with Professor George Weid at Chicago University, Chicago, USA. In 1970, Luthra joined Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) heading the newly created Division of Non-communicable Diseases. In 1987, she took over as Additional Director-General at the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Academic and Research Achievements: Luthra occupied the first faculty position in a medical college in Cytology in India and was responsible to a large extent in promoting the growth of this important field in biomedicine in the country. Her singular work on the concept of precancerous lesions of the uterine cervix and their biological behaviour has largely paved the way for controlling of cervical cancer at the national level. She was also responsible for developing important areas of non-communicable diseases, the research results of which have led to the planning and execution of some important National Health Programmes. As Additional DG of ICMR she planned and promoted research on a wider canvas at national and international levels with exceptional competence. She has published over 180 research articles including monographs and books. She has mentored a large number of MD and PhD students.
Other Contributions: Professor Luthra was the Founder Director of the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology, New Delhi, and the institute's study of pre-cancer and cancer of uterine cervix elucidated, for the first time, the role of specific Human Papilloma Viruses (HPV) in these lesions in India. Based on these results, work is progressing towards preparation and trial of HPV vaccine. Luthra was also the Project Director of the National Cancer Registry Project and played a major role in establishing a network of population and hospital-based cancer registries that are providing most authentic data on problem of cancer in India both for research and control. These outstanding contributions earned her an Honorary Membership of the International Association of Cancer Registries, Lyon, France (1994). She was the President of the Indian Society of Oncology and Indian Academy of Cytologists; Vice President of UICC XVI International Cancer Congress and Indian College of Pathologists; Member of the Indian Association of Pathologists and Microbiologists; and Founder Member of Indian Academy of Cytologists; and of Indian Society of Oncologists. She is currently an Associate Editor of Journal of Clinical Cytology and Cytopathology (International Academy of Cytology). She is a life Member of the Delhi Public School Society and involved in promoting quality education, good health and behaviour in the youth.
Awards and Honours: Professor Luthra received the Shakuntala Amir Chand Prize (1964), Raja Ravi Sher Singh of Kalsia Memorial Cancer Research Award (1967), Dr PN Raju Oration Award (1969), Indian Academy of Cytologists Oration Award (1971), Sandoz Award for Cancer Research (1971), Basanti Devi Amir Chand Prize (1973), Hari Om Ashram Alembic Research Award of Medical Council of India (1981), Dr Borges Memorial Oration Cancer Award (1985), Erica Wachtel Memorial Oration Award by British Society of Clinical Cytology (1991), Padma Shri (1992), and Jamee W Reagan Lecture in Clinical Cytology Award by the International Academy of Cytology (2001). She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, London, Fellow of International Academy of Cytology, USA, Founder Fellow of National Academy of Medical Sciences (India), Indian College of Pathologists, Emeritus Member of American Association of Cancer Research, USA, Member of International Academy of Pathology, British Society of Clinical Cytology and European Association for Cancer Research.