A world renowned plastic surgeon and his team have performed over 32,000 free cleft-palate surgeries to help children smile again. Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh established GS Memorial Plastic Surgery Hospital in the memory of his father to provide state of the art reconstructive plastic surgery to the needy patients at a very affordable cost. The hospital partnered with Smile Train, a charity providing corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.
Dr Singh came from humble beginnings and lost his father when he was 13 years old. After his father’s death, his family lived in extreme poverty. He and his older siblings sold homemade soaps to help support the family. In 1982 his older brothers pitched in to pay for Singh’s medical entrance exams. He went on to earn an M.B.B.S (an international medical degree equivalent to an M.D. in the US) from Banaras Hindu University in 1988, a Master of Surgery in 1991 and a Master of Chirurgiae in plastic surgery in 1994.
Dr. Singh said since around 2008-2009 they have performed over 4,000 free cleft surgeries under the Smile Train initiative. Thousands of other cleft surgeries have been performed at his center under his leadership. Cleft palate is a common birth condition. It can occur alone or as part of a genetic condition/syndrome. Symptoms arise from the opening in the mouth, causing difficulty in speaking and eating. Repairing a cleft lip or palate can sometimes require multiple surgeries depending on the patient.
Dr Singh is a global trainer and speaker under the Smile Train initiative. His hospital in Varanasi has become a major centre where surgeons across the world come to train in cleft lip-palate surgeries. Dr. Singh and his team have also performed 6,000 free extensive burn surgeries. His efforts inspired the making of Burned Girl (2015), the National Geographic documentary that won international awards for detailing the life of nine-year-old Ragini, whose childhood burns were treated surgically by Dr. Singh.
Singh said every child he has operated on reminds him of himself when he was a child. His service to the poor has earned him wide recognition. He was among celebrated guests at the 2009 Academy Awards and the central court for the 2013 Wimbledon Men Singles Final. “My father Gyan Singh and mother Giriraj Kumari (she died last year) 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.”