My parents were surgeons, and I grew up wanting to be just like them, especially my father, as he was a plastic surgeon. From my MBBS at JJ Hospital in South Mumbai to my masters at SRTI Medical College in rural Maharashtra, my education exposed me to a wide variety of patients. After my studies, I worked in a public hospital for a few years before switching over to Shushrusha Hospital, where I have been for the past 8 years.
I first heard of Smile Train in 2013 during a conference at Nagpur. I was studying under Dr Nitin Mokal, a plastic surgeon working with Smile Train. I loved the cause - providing treatment to underserved cleft patients is something I thought was not only noble, but also something that is often overlooked. I was also drawn to the fact that Smile Train never compromised on quality - whether it was in terms of the partner hospitals chosen, the surgeries that were provided, or the constant training provided to the partner doctor.
When doctors perform mass surgeries at large-scale camps, there is very little focus on pre-operative care and post-operative follow up. With Smile Train, the treatment encompasses far more than just the cleft surgery, and can sometimes create relationships that last for years. Thanks to this, doctors really get to build a bond with the patient and understand them. I believe this improves the care and treatment we provide to patients.
I have been associated with Smile Train for the past four years, and I’ve lost count of how many cleft patients I’ve treated! Every year, there are cases that I know will stay with me forever. It’s hard to pick the most memorable - they’re all equally special to me. It’s a great feeling to know that not only have you performed a surgery that’s life-changing, but also that you’ve done it while being mindful of their financial constraints.
To the women out there who are contemplating a medical career - times have changed, and husbands are willing to do their share in the home. I feel that if you find a partner who understands what you’re going through, it makes your life easier. Over the years, there have been many challenges - when I was studying in SRTI Medical College, I was the first female resident in the department in over nine years. Since it was in Beed, in rural Maharashtra, I had to learn Marathi to communicate with patients. Many people also told me that I should not work too hard, otherwise it would be difficult to make time for my family. But over the years, these challenges have only made me stronger. Looking back, there’s nothing I would change!
As shared by Dr Mahinoor Desai, a Smile Train partner from Shushrusha Hospital in Mumbai.