ICAS:MP pays homage to the memory of Malavika Subramanyam

Sebastian Vollmer, TM 6 module coordinator and director of CeMIS, wrote an obituary to honour Malavika Subramanyam’s life and work.

We are deeply saddened about the untimely and unexpected passing of our colleague and ICAS TM 6 coordinator Malavika Subramanyam.

Malavika was an Assistant Professor of Social Epidemiology at IIT Gandhinagar. Soon after graduating from Manipal University as Medical Doctor in 2000 and teaching there as an Assistant Professor of Community Medicine for about a year, Malavika decided to study public health in the United States. She received a Master of Public Health from the University of Northern Colorado in 2003 and afterwards pursued doctoral studies with a Presidential Scholarship at Harvard University. She graduated from the Harvard School of Public Health as Doctor of Science in 2009, and her thesis focused on the socioeconomic determinants of childhood undernutrition in India. During her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, she worked with the Jackson Heart Study to study psychosocial determinants of health among African Americans in the United States. While pursuing her doctoral studies, Malavika also served as an Editorial Assistant for the journal Social Science & Medicine. There she corresponded with authors and referees and curated the collection of commentaries on Sir Michael Marmot’s report, Fair Society, Healthy Lives. Her work greatly contributed to the success of the journal as a leading outlet in social epidemiology.

With a doctoral degree from the world’s leading university, all doors were open for Malavika. She decided to use her skills to study the health of the underprivileged in India and through her work improve their health and living conditions. She made important contributions to several different areas of public health, including but not limited to the dismal impact of economic growth on improving childhood undernutrition, attitudes about menstrual health among boys and girls, as well as the psychological consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures in India. Her work has been published in some of the leading journals of the discipline, including The Lancet Global Health, PLOS Medicine and Social Science & Medicine. Her work has been widely cited, recognized by news outlets and beyond its academic impact also had a real-world impact.

Malavika and I jointly led a study in rural Bihar about the empowerment of women related to matters of their own health and the health of their children. I am greatly indebted to Malavika for all I have learned from her about social determinants of health in India, something that also extended to many of my students who have worked with us in the three waves of data collection for this study and subsequent work we have done in Bihar. During this time, I could also observe what an excellent role model and mentor Malavika was for all students who have worked with her. She deeply cared for every single one of them and provided support, both academic and personal. As a collaborator, she was a fantastic team player and working with her was always easy. This was also true for the collaboration at ICAS, where she was instrumental in shaping the intellectual environment of TM 6 and beyond.

Malavika taught several times at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) in Göttingen as DAAD Visiting Professor. She was a beloved teacher and colleague. Everyone who has met her describes her as a brilliant, warm, kind and cheerful person. We will never forget the Bollywood dance lessons that she gave at CeMIS.

We greatly miss her. Our deepest sympathy goes to her family.


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