Vimla V. Nadkarni (1948 - 2021)


Although small in stature, Vimla Nadkarni (née Lala) was a giant in shaping both Indian and global social work. Professor Nadkarni is well-known internationally for her work as President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) from 2012–2016, although she was active in many areas of international social work and served on numerous international projects, editorial, and advisory boards. She headed the Department of Medical and Psychiatric Social Work and was the Founding Dean of the School of Social Work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, India, from which she retired in 2013 after 42 years of service. Professor Nadkarni died 20 November 2021. 

Vimla was born into a large family in South Bombay,* and took a Bachelor of Arts (with Honours in Psychology) at St. Xavier’s College (University of Bombay) in 1969, a Master’s of Arts in Social Work at from TISS (with Honours, with a Specialisation in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work) in 1971, and a Bachelor of General Law from Kishinchand Chllaram Law College (University of Bombay) in 1976. Under the guidance of Armaity S. Desai at the TISS, Vimla submitted her PhD thesis, Intervention in issues of pollution using integrated social work practice, ( in 1991 and was awarded her PhD in 1996. (Desai herself was awarded the Katherine Kendall Award of the International Association of Schools of Social Work in 1992.) Vimla married journalist Vithal C. Nadkarni in 1977; their daughter lives and works in the United States. 


Professor Nadkarni was motivated throughout her life by feminism, a passion for human rights and human dignity, and a drive to elevate the quality of social work education and practice. She served as the Secretary General of the Family Planning Association of India (2001–2002), President of the Bombay Association of Trained Social Workers for two terms (1994–1998), and Vice President for two additional terms (2011–2015). Professor Nadkarni was instrumental in establishing the Indian Association of Social Work Education in 2013 and served as Vice-President of the Association of Schools of Social Work in India (ASSWI). She was elected as a Member-at-Large of the Board of Directors of IASSW in 2008, and as President from 2012 to 2016 ( Professor Nadkarni was a founding member of the Social Work and Health Inequalities Network (SWHIN; Prof Nadkarni served on the Advisory Board of the Global Institute of Social Work, Singapore (; as Honorary Director for the Niramaya Health Foundation, Mumbai (an NGO focused on child and adolescent health); and the Advisory Group for the Mumbai-based Khula Aasman Trust, which uses the arts to engage social change for marginalised communities ( She remained active throughout her entire life, serving on the Advisory Board for the 9th Social Work Congress of the National Association of Professional Social Workers in India, which was held in October 2021, just a month before her death. 

Professor Nadkarni’s international recognitions includes Kellogg (1994) and Fulbright (1995) Fellowships. She was the 2nd Annual Hokenstad International Lecturer (nominated by the Council of Social Work Education) in 2008. She participated in numerous international boards, editorial boards, consultancies, and nearly 100 international, national, and local conferences, seminars, and workshops. She published more than 40 articles and book reviews in refereed journals, and many book chapters. A selected list of publications follows below. 

*Note: the name Bombay reverted to Mumbai in November 1995. Names current at the time are used here.


Campanini, A. Shank, B., & Tiong, T. N. (2021). Tribute to the late Emeritus Professor Vimla V. Nadkarni, PhD. 

Global Institute of Social Work. (2021). Tribute to the late Professor Vimla Nadkarni.

Pulla, V. R. (2021). Vimla Nadkarni: Compassionate and assertive doyen of social work. Space and Culture, India, 9(3), 73–76. 

Selected publications


Nadkarni, V. (1973). Social aspects of epilepsy. Neurology India, 21(4), 165–174.

Nadkarni, V. V. (1986). A model of community health for medical social workers, Indian Journal of Social Work, 46(4), 469–482.

Nadkarni, V. (1989). Repertoire of interventions in the field of drug abuse. Indian Journal of Social Work, 50(1)1, 9–16.

Articles and book reviews

Jesani, A., & Nadkarni, V. (1993). Patients' rights—a perspective. Indian Journal of Social Work, 54(2) 167–171. 

Nadkarni, V. (1998). Review of the book Engendering AIDS: Deconstructing Sex, Text, and the Epidemic by T. Wilton. National Medical Journal, 11(6), 298.

Nadkarni, V., Maitra, S., Hans, G., & Kumar, A. (1998). Health advocacy: Implications for the social work profession. Indian Journal of Social Work, 59, 321–339.

Books, book chapters, and technical reports

Chitale, V., Das, S., & Nadkarni, V. (1992). A study of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices on AIDS in four locales in Maharasha. Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Nadkarni, V. (Ed.). (1992). Drug abuse prevention: Focus on the community level worker. Tata Institute of Social Sciences. 

Nadkarni, V. (1993). Ecosystems perspective of mental health. In M. Purnima & G. Katy, (Eds.), Mental health in India: Issues and concerns (pp. 246–258). Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Articles and book reviews

Nadkarni, V. (2002). Integration of STI/HIV/AIDS in family planning services: The FPAI experience. Journal of Family Welfare, 48(1,2), 6–21.

Nadkarni, V. V. (2002). Interventions on garbage pollution using integrated social work practice framework. Indian Journal of Social Work, 63(3), 313–339. 

Nadkarni, V. (2005). Review of the book, Family care in HIV/AIDS, exploring lived experience by P. D’Cruz. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 122(6), 549–551.

Books, book chapters and technical reports

Rego, A., & Nadkarni, V. (2002). HIV/AIDS in India. An annotated bibliography of selected studies (1990–2000). New Delhi: Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action [CREA].

Rego, A., Nadkarni, V., & Vasundhra, D. (2003). HIV/AIDS in India. In R. Chandiramani, S. Kapadia, R. Khanna, & G. Mistra (Eds.), The Gender and Reproductive Health Research Initiative: Mapping a Decade of Reproductive Health Research in India. Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action [CREA].

Nadkarni, V. V., & Soletti, A. B. (2006). A situational analysis of child-headed households and community foster care in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh States, India. A Study conducted by India HIV/AIDS Alliance & Tata Institute of Social Sciences. New Delhi: HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Articles and book reviews

Nadkarni, V. (2010). Editorial—Social work education in Asia: New horizons. Social Work Education, 29(8), 815–817. doi:

Nadkarni, V. (2010). Review of the book, Social work education: Voices from the Asia Pacific, C. Noble, M. Henrickson, I. Y. Han (Eds.). Social Work Education, 29(8), 932–935.

Nadkarni, V. V., & Sinha, R. (2016). Transforming social work education in India: Integrating human rights. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 1(1), 9–18.

For the full review, references, and additional publications/resources, click here.