Dr. Indra Pathmanathan underwent her undergraduate medical education and postgraduate training in public health in the University of Malaya which was in Singapore at that time. During the first thirty (30) years of her career in public health in Malaysia, she worked in academia, research, education of allied health personnel and managing health and educational programmes. Working her way up from the front line to policy levels, she witnessed at first-hand and contributed to many of the key milestones in the development the Malaysian Healthcare system, notably taking a lead role in setting up the national programmes for the health systems research and for quality assurance in health care.
Starting from the mid-1980s she did several consultant assignments for the World Health Organisation, Geneva. The most notable was the co-authorship of the Health Systems Research Training Series jointly produced by WHO and IDRC, Canada in 1991 which remains in use until today.
During the decade of the 1990s, she continued her work internationally, first for the World Health Organization SEARO, and later as a senior public health specialist in the World Bank, Washington. She was the World Bank’s task manager for the large portfolio of projects supporting maternal, reproductive and child health in India. This experience has given her insights in comparing Malaysia’s health development with other countries. Among her various publications, is the 2003 World Bank book entitled, Investing in Maternal Health: learning from Malaysia and Sri Lanka, for which she was the lead author.
After retiring from the World Bank in 2001, she has continued to be a freelance consultant, mostly for international agencies. In this role, she has reviewed, evaluated and provided advice on strengthening programmes for reproductive and child health in Bangladesh and Ethiopia and for quality improvement in health care and also in medical education in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.