Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh, a plastic surgeon, wanted to become a doctor since he was a child. He currently provides free corrective surgery to children born with cleft lip and palate.
Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh was a deserving student who, in addition to his education, sold goggles and cleaned soaps to help support his family in Varanasi in 1979. Dr. Subodh is now well-known as a plastic surgeon for providing free repair surgery on children born with cleft lip/palate. He has performed 37,000 free cleft-palate procedures to restore the smiles of 25,000 families.
Dr. Singh’s commitment to the needy has earned him numerous honours, including appearances at the 2009 Academy Awards and on the central court of the 2013 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final.
Dr. Subodh’s father Gyan Singh, a railway clerk, died in February 1979, when Dr. Subodh was just 13. The death probably occurred as a result of insufficient medical treatment.
Dr. Singh adds, “I have seen that little Subodh, who lost his father when he was only 13 years old, in every cleft youngster that has come to me. My father, Gyan Singh, and mother, Giriraj Kumari, instilled in me the importance of serving the needy and living ethically.
Following my father’s death, the family experienced financial difficulties because we were living in modest railway quarters in Varanasi.
My father’s eldest brother acquired a position in the railways on compassionate grounds a few months after his death, but the family’s finances were far from adequate. When his brother, who worked for the Railways, received his first bonus of Rs 579 in 1982, he utilised it to pay for young Subodh’s medical entrance preparation fees.
Subodh was moved and vowed not to let his brothers’ sacrifices go in vain, passing not one, but three medical entrance examinations in 1983, including the Armed Forces Medical College, BHU-PMT, and the UP state Combined Pre Medical Test.
Dr. Singh initiated a free treatment week in 2002 to commemorate his father’s death anniversary.
From 2003 to 2004, The Smile Train project saw him performing corrective cleft operations.
According to Dr. Subodh, “We set a target of 2,500 cleft operations by December 2005. While the Smile Train India team thought our goal was too lofty, they suggested we aim for 500 free operations by the end of 2005. Under this effort, we have performed about 4,000 free cleft operations each year since 2008-09.”
Dr Singh and his team of plastic surgeons, social workers, nutritional experts, and speech therapists devised an outreach campaign to follow cleft children from around the country, with a focus on eastern and northeastern India.
According to Dr. Subodh, “We have not only rectified congenital deformity, but we have also reconciled families where the husbands abandoned the ladies due to the delivery of a cleft baby. Through targeted nutritional support training programmes, our team has saved hundreds of extremely malnourished cleft children.”
Kartik Mondal, a Malda-based labourer, recalls how Dr. Singh and his team saved his five-month-old critically starved son Sonu. They then fixed his birth time cleft lip-palate condition.
Mondal claims that a government hospital in Kolkata refused to treat his son and told him that he would have to wait for surgery. Dr. Singh and his team in Varanasi offered him a second chance at life.
Dr. Singh works as a global trainer and speaker for the Smile Train project. His hospital in Varanasi has grown into a significant training facility for cleft lip and palate surgeons from all around the world.
According to Dr. Singh, when we began this effort in April 2004, the average age of the patients was 10.8 years. The average age is now one year, bringing us closer to our goal of medically restoring smiles to all cleft children as young as three months old.
Megan Mylan’s Smile Pinki, a 39-minute documentary on the Smile Train initiative, was inspired by the idea.
The documentary depicts how Dr. Singh and his team altered the life of Pinki Sonkar, a poor small cleft girl. Pinki and Dr Singh were both present at the Academy Awards event in the United States in February 2009.
Pinki Sonkar was given the honour of flipping the coin for the pre-match toss of the Men’s Singles Final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon’s Centre Court four years later, in the presence of Dr Singh.
Dr. Subodh and his team have also done 6,000 free extensive burn procedures to help serious burn patients reclaim their lives.
His work influenced the production of Burned Girl, a National Geographic documentary that won worldwide accolades for portraying the life of Ragini, a nine-year-old girl whose childhood burns were surgically repaired by Dr Singh.