Dr Kakarla Subba Rao was born on 25 January, 1925 in a middle class agricultural family at Pedamuttevi, a small village in Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh. He had his early schooling at S.R. High School, Challapalli and The Hindu College at Machilipatnam, between 1937-1944. In 1944 he joined Andhra Medical College at Vizag and passed MBBS in 1950. Having completed his internship at K.G. Hospital, Vizag in 1951, Dr Subbarao left for USA for higher studies, on a special scholarship. In 1955, he cleared his American Board Exam in Radiology. During 1954-1956 Dr Kakarla worked as a 'Special Fellow' in Radiology at New York and Baltimore. Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, popularly known as NIMS, would have never attained prestigious status without Dr Kakarla Subba Rao, the world renowned radiologist. Established by the Nizam, the institute was known as Nizam Orthopedic Hospital till Dr Subba Rao, took the reins and rebuilt it as a premier health care institute in the state on par with the corporate hospitals.
Dr Subba Rao came back to India in 1956. He joined the Osmania Medical College as Assistant Professor in Radiology and also worked as Assistant Radiologist at Osmania General Hospital till 1962. He became Professor of Radiology and Chief Radiologist. Dr Kakarla left for United States once again in 1970. In 1973 Dr. Subba Rao became a 'Fellow of Royal College of Radiologists (UK). Till 1986 he was associated with faculty of Radiology at different medical institutions in America, rendered his valuable services and distinguished himself in the process. Dr Subba Rao could have settled in the US and made a lot of money but he declined to do so. In 1986, the then Chief Minister N T Rama Rao, requested all the eminent Telugus settled in United States of America to retrun home and serve their brothers and sisters. Dr Subba Rao was the one of the few eminent personalities who responded positively to the Chief Minister's call. He wanted to provide world class medical facilities to the common man in India. So he started reorganizing the Nizam's Institute of Medical sciences (NIMS) at Hyderabad with the help of government of Andhra Pradesh.
Today, NIMS is prestigious medical institute of excellence in patient service, education, training and research. Being the Director, Dr Subba Rao can look with satisfaction at the way NIMS has grown. Indeed Dr Rao is a great builder of institutions. NIMS is a clear proof of his organisational and administrative skills in the field of medicine. From his own experience Dr Rao realises the importance of quality education. 'To compete with the rest of the world one requires good communication skills in English... ' this is what Dr Subba Rao strongly believes in. So, long before the word 'Globalisation' became fashionable, Dr. Kakarla started the International School in Hyderabad, with English as the medium of instruction. Dr Subba Rao is an outstanding Radiologist of international reputation. He always says that a Radiologist is a 'Consultant's Consultant'. He published several books in Radiology, edited different journals and delivered many Oration lectures. Dr Rao recognises the importance of teaching. In fact, he loves and enjoys it. Whether in India or America he manages to find time to interact with the students of the faculty of medical institutions. He has guided many doctors in research and shaped their future
In fact, he is a role model for many a budding radiologist. His students acknooledge gratefully 'what an inspiring teacher he is'. His colleagues and contemporaries always hold him in high esteem. In a career spanning almost over five decades, Dr Subba Rao has presented many papers at medical conferences, workshops and scientific seminars in India and abroad, winning umpteen number of awards and accolades. In recognition of his contributions to the field of Radiology, the Indian Radiological and Imaging Association has confrred on hin the prestigious 'Radiologist of the Millennium' award in the year 2000. The Government of India honoured Dr Kakarla Subba Rao with 'Padma Sri' on 26 January 2000, in recognition of his valuable contributions in the field of medicine and his relentless service to mankind. AP Chapter of Indian Radiological and Imaging Association (IRIA), felicitated him with 'Lifetime Achievement Award' on 17 March 2001. For him, life is a 'Mission'. His philosophy in his own words is, "I pass through this life only once, Let me do the maximum good to the largest number of people!" He was also the founder president of Telugu Association of North America (TANA), an umbrella organisation for all Telugu speaking people in America.