To inspect, diagnose and treat patients is the daily duty of doctors. For Doctor Pushkar Waknis, this duty goes beyond maintaining the health of his patients. Indeed, he ensures that the children who come to him are operated upon free of charge, for the simple reason that a surgery at a young age will ensure a better future for them, and can improve the quality of their lives.
Dr Waknis is a maxillofacial surgeon based in Pune. Oral and maxillofacial surgery specializes in treating diseases and defects in the face, jaw, and tissues in the oral and facial regions. Encouraged by his professor Dr Peter Kessler, he began operating on clefts in his child patients for free – inspired by the belief that a bright present will lead a better future.
A cleft is a deformity in either lips or palate or both, where the tissues in these muscles have not grown completely. This hampers speech in the patients and can also pose a problem in eating.
Although he has received the Persistent Foundation Samman award in 2013, he finds his true rewards “in the folded hands of the patients’ parents and in their smiles and happy tears.”
His fondest memories are of a girl who was originally from Roha in Konkan and brought to Pune for a cleft surgery. Named Shrisha Divekar, the cleft patient went on to become the face of Spreading Smiles.
The team hopes to take this project further into rural areas. Their vision is to employ a full-time Medical Social Worker, who can reach out to remote areas in India and identify children whose lives could be changed through cleft surgeries. Unfortunately, the team lacks enough funds for this at present.
Source: Better India