Today’s Solutions: July 01, 2022

Dr. Subodh Singh, the plastic surgeon who reached fame by performing free corrective surgeries on children born with cleft lip/palate, attributes his philosophy of generosity to his father, who died when he was young, and his mother who passed last year.

“In every cleft child who has come to me, I have visualized that little Subodh, who lost his father when he was only 13,” Dr. Singh explains. “My father Gyan Singh and mother Giriraj Kumari… taught me to serve the poor and live ethically. I feel God made me a plastic surgeon and not a businessman to serve a divine cause,” he adds.

Dr. Singh and his family are not strangers to poverty either. After his father’s passing in 1979, the family faced a financial crisis which forced Dr. Singh and his older brothers to bear the weight of the family’s debt. Eventually, one of his older brothers found secure employment with the Railways, and when Dr. Singh’s brother received his first bonus of Rs 579, he used it to pay for his younger brother’s medical entrance exams.

Motivated by his brother’s sacrifice, young Subodh studied extremely hard and passed not one but three medical entrance exams including the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC-Pune) exam, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) exam, and Uttar Pradesh Combined Pre-Medical Test (CPMT). In the end, he chose BHU which was close to home so that he could help his family when they needed him.

In 2002, Dr. Singh commemorated his father’s death anniversary by introducing a free treatment week. From 2003 to 2004, he began performing corrective cleft surgeries and became a part of the Smile Train project, which is the largest cleft surgery-focused organization in the world.

In his first few years, Dr. Singh consistently surpassed the targets that the organization set for free cleft surgeries, and from 2008 to 2009, Dr. Singh’s team performed “4,000-plus free cleft surgeries under [the Smile Train] initiative” every year.

Dr. Singh has also organized an outreach program designed to track kids with cleft lip/palate in inaccessible parts of the country, especially eastern and northeastern India. “We have not only corrected congenital deformity but also reunited families where the husbands abandoned the wives for delivering a cleft baby. Our team has saved hundreds of severely malnourished cleft kids through the focused nutritional support training programs,” he says.

Now, Dr. Singh’s charitable work is widely recognized, and he has become an influential surgeon as a global trainer and speaker under the Smile Train initiative, with surgeons traveling from all over the world to train in cleft lip/palate surgeries at Dr. Singh’s hospital in Varanasi.

On top of all the work he does for people with cleft lip/palate, Dr. Singh and his team have also performed 6,000 free extensive burn surgeries. So far, there have been two documentaries (Smile Pinki, released in 2008, and Burned Girl, 2015) that show how Dr. Singh’s work has transformed the lives of the less fortunate for the better.

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