An ode to Dr Debashish Danda: The life of a remarkable rheumatologist

The Trailblazer from Tripura: On a Path Less Trodden

The medical fraternity is still reeling from the shock demise of Dr Debashish Danda, MBBS, MD, DM, FRCP, a luminary in the field of rheumatology and clinical immunology, on February 24, 2024, in a harrowing vehicle mishap. A distinguished professor of medicine and rheumatology, Dr Danda leaves behind an indelible legacy in rheumatology. Born and raised in the quaint village of Satchand in Sabroom, nestled within the South Tripura district of India, Dr Danda’s journey from humble beginnings to international acclaim is a testament to his unwavering commitment to advancing rheumatology scholarship and patient care.

The Beckoning: Academia in Rearview

Educated at premier institutions across India, Dr Debasish Danda’s illustrious career started with the completion of his MBBS at the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER) in Puducherry, followed by an MD in Internal Medicine from GSVM Medical College in Kanpur. His thirst for knowledge led him to pursue a three-year post-doctoral degree (DM) in clinical immunology at the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS) in Lucknow. Dr Danda further received 3-year advanced training in rheumatology at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Flinders Medical Center, and the Repatriation Hospital, Adelaide, between 2001 and 2004.

The Beacon: The North Star of CMC Rheumatology

In 1996, Dr Debashish Danda commenced his tenure at the Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, where he dedicated his life to serving the institution with zeal. He joined the century-old mission hospital as the faculty of Internal Medicine-II. After his training in Adelaide, Dr Danda established the Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at CMC Vellore in 2004, laying the foundation for groundbreaking research and compassionate patient care. He built the department’s core infrastructure and services, including a well-equipped laboratory,musculoskeletal ultrasound machine,dedicated extremity MRI machine, nailfold capillaroscopy, and real time PCR, among other amenities. Conducting the Annual Conference of the Indian Rheumatology Association (IRA) at CMC in 2011 has been one of the highlights of the eminent physician’s career; it was a historic first for the IRA to host the President of the American College of Rheumatology.

The Body of Work: Research, Scholarship, Advocacy and Beyond

Throughout his tenure, Dr Danda’s contributions to rheumatology science have been unparalleled. His pioneering work in vasculitis and Sjogren’s syndrome earned him international acclaim, with over 200 scientific publications to his name. Notably, his research on Takayasu arteritis, including the development of the Indian Takayasu Arteritis score, has significantly impacted disease assessment and management protocols worldwide. Dr Danda started a 3-year DM program at CMC under the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University, Chennai. He also established the two-year postdoctoral clinical fellowship training at CMC. Dr Danda was not recluse to the brick and mortar of the hospice and spoke his mind through his par-excellence works and even social media posts. He had concern for the shortage/lack of primary care rheumatology in India, he advocated for the same, even as a large slice of patients fell prey to the ‘quackery in traditional medicine’ and the ‘modern day quackery of internet misinformation.’

Awards, Accolades and Achievements Galore

A visionary leader, Dr Debashish Danda held esteemed positions, including President of the Indian Rheumatology Association and President of the Asia-Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology (APLAR). He spearheaded numerous initiatives aimed at advancing academic rheumatology in India and beyond, ensuring equitable access to quality care for all. From 2017 to 2019, he was the President of the Indian Rheumatology Association.
Dr Danda’s commitment to excellence extended beyond academia, as evidenced by his receipt of prestigious awards such as the Distinguished International Rheumatology Professional Award from the American College of Rheumatology. He was honoured with the ‘Chikitsa Ratna Samman’ by the state government of Tripura. While awards abound, Dr Debashish Danda’s true accolades are the fraternity across diverse departments and the countless patients who have been impacted by his relentless pursuit of excellence in imparting care, compassion, and camaraderie.

Rabindranath Tagore: An Epilogue

An avid admirer of the bard of Bengal, Rabindra Nath Tagore’s works, Dr Debashish Danda, often quoted the Indian polymath in his trivial posts. Here’s an excerpt from Gitanjali that he attempted to translate from Bengali to English:

Let my head lower down
under the dusts of your feet,
Oh Lord.
Drown all my pride into my tears.
In my attempts to gift glory to myself,
I only insult myself.
By going around my own self,
I am only lost every moment.
Drown all my pride into my tears, oh Lord.
May not I publicise myself
in my own work.
Fulfil your wishes
In my life.
I long for your extreme peace,
Your supreme beauty in my soul,
Let me be hidden by your presence
In the lotus forest of my heart.
Drown all my pride into my tears, of Lord.


Dr Debashish Danda is survived by his wife, Dr Sumita Danda, who is the Head of Clinical Genetics Department at the CMC Vellore, and his son, Asheerwad Danda. May his enduring legacy continue to inspire and lead many to seek excellence above all.

Contributed by:

John Mathew MD, DM

Professor and Head, Clinical Immunology & Rheumatology, Christian Medical College, Vellore