Physician couple provides free medical care to 100,000-plus people in their native country.
“We were both raised by parents who lived by a generous philosophy of selfless work for others, so we are honoring their legacy by helping to make the world a better place, and frankly doing good in the world.”
So says Dr. Pratima Tolat about the huge commitment she and her husband, Dr. Haren Joshi, have adopted since their 60th birthdays.
The residents at HumanGood’s Rydal Waters life plan community in Jenkintown, PA, have both had outstanding medical careers. Dr. Joshi is a renowned vascular, trauma, and general surgeon and was the medical director of three hospitals in the Philadelphia area. Dr. Tolat is an accomplished ophthalmologist.
Having already done so much to serve their Philadelphia community, both wanted to do more. Their answer was to step outside their comfort zone and help the people of India, their native country.
Since 2003, Drs. Joshi and Tolat have offered free health care services to more than 100,000 people in 100 villages in Gujarat. They also offer free plastic surgeries, as well as 350 cataract surgeries, monthly. They purchased a hospital (see the Shamlaji Hospital website) in 2003 and have converted it into a more modern health care facility.
Dr. Joshi recalls the first free cleft palate surgery he performed on a young girl. “I remember her parents being so relieved and happy as she was getting teased about her looks. We recently tracked her down and found out that she’s doing well and has plans to become a nurse. These are the types of stories that make my heart happy.”
“We like to say that we didn’t choose Shamlaji, it chose us,” he adds.
The doctors manage the hospital remotely, but spend six months of the year in India to volunteer their time and expertise.
Dr. Joshi lights up when he tells how they helped establish the first ambulance service in the state of Gujarat. “We knew we needed to do something as people didn’t have the means to get to the hospitals quickly enough,” he says. “After much research, establishing guidelines and talking to the government, we now have reliable ambulances, established an emergency number, (1-0-8) and created an [emergency services] app. And the best part is that all ambulance rides are free.”
This article is adapted, with permission, from a HumanGood publication. Photo by Steve Belkowitz.