Dr. Jivraj Narayan Mehta was the first Chief Minister of Gujarat.
He was born on 29 August 1887 to Narayan and Jamakben Mehta in Amreli in Bombay Presidency. He was son-in-law of Manubhai Mehta, then Dewan of Baroda state. In his early age, Dr. Eduljee Rustomji Dadachandjee, a civil surgeon in Amreli prompted him to take up medicine. He subsequently secured admission into the Grant Medical College and Sir J.J. Hospital, Mumbai, after clearing a stiff written test and a thorough viva voce examination that was conducted by the British IMS officers.
His medical education was sponsored by the Seth VM Kapol Boarding Trust. He topped the class in his First Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery (the then equivalent of MBBS) examination. In his final year, he won seven of the eight prizes open to his batch and shared the eighth prize with his hostel roommate Kashinath Dikshit.
Later, for postgraduate studies in London he applied to the Tata education foundation for a student loan and he has been selected in one of the only two students for this prestigious fellowship from amongst several bright students who had applied for it. Jivraj Mehta lived from 1909 to 1915 in London. He was the president of the Indian Students Association in London where he studied medicine and did his FRCS there. He won University gold medal in his MD examinations in 1914. Later he has been made a member of the prestigious Royal College of Physicians of London.
He was briefly the personal doctor to Mahatma Gandhi after returning to India and joined the independence movement.
He was twice incarcerated (1938 and 1942) by the British government for his role in Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement. After independence in 1947, he held various public offices. He served as the first “Dewan” (Prime Minister) of the erstwhile Baroda state in free India sworn-in on 4 September 1948, director general of health services and secretary to the ministry of health in the central government during the partition period, minister of public works, finance, industry and prohibition for the then Bombay state.
He was the first Chief Minister of the newly formed Gujarat state from April 1960 to September 1963. Later he has also served as the Indian high commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1963 to 1966.
He was the founder of Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College and King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. He served in these institutions as their first Dean over a period of 18 years (1925–42).
In the 1930s, Mehta had gauged the fundamental importance of research in medical education. As the dean, he made many efforts towards securing adequate funds for the institute. is enterprise. Drs. P. C. Bharucha, M. D. D. Gilder, N. A. Purandare and R. N. Cooper responded overwhelmingly to his appeal for financial donations to the college research corpus. However, similar requests to the Indian Research Fund Association went for nothing. Then Dr. Jivraj persuaded Sir Walter Morley Fletcher to visit KEM Hospital on his visit to Bombay to attend a dinner. He shown him the commendable research going on and also impressed upon Sir Walter the acute need of Government support for such a research program. The result was Government sanction of funds within a few weeks for the same projects through the Indian Research Fund Association.
Mehta with other medical personalities like Nilratan Sarkar and Dr. B. C. Roy strongly forwarded the case of the metropolitan city of Delhi, when the Government was contemplating establishment of a central medical research institute at Dehradun. Their proposal was accepted by the government and result was All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Delhi. He was also involved in the planning of the medical colleges and hospitals at Poona (now Pune), Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Aurangabad. In the establishment of the Topiwala Nair Municipal Hospital, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Hospital and the Dr. Balabai Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, he played a key role. He was thrice elected president of the All India Medical Congress and also president of the Indian Medical Association.
Mehta died on 7 November 1978.
The newly instituted first-ever Dr. Jivraj Mehta Awards were also presented to veterans Dr. G. S. Sainani (Mumbai), Dr. V. Mohan (Chennai), Dr. Sidharth Shah (Mumbai), Dr. Ashok K. Das (Pondicherry) and Dr. S. K. Sharma (AIIMS, New Delhi) on Feb 4, 2015