SAN FRANCISCO, Calif— The American College of Surgeons recently honored Dr. Devendra S. Saksena, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Mumbai, with its prestigious Surgical Humanitarian Award for 2019 for his nearly 50 years of service in establishing cardiothoracic surgery services in India and throughout remote areas of Africa.
After completing his cardiac surgery training in the U.S. in 1971, Dr. Saksena returned to his native India and helped to launch cardiac surgery services in several underserved areas in the country, American College of Surgeons said in a statement.
“After being given a small consulting room and one operating room slot at Bombay Hospital, Mumbai, at the recommendation of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Dr. Saksena started the program that would become the Bombay Hospital Cardiac Surgery Center, the city’s first major cardiac center,” the statement said. “It became a recognized center of excellence, and after Dr. Saksena started the Bombay Medical Aid Foundation in 1979, the hospital provided surgery to medically indigent patients at no charge.”
Some of Dr. Saksena’s most impactful work has taken place in Mauritius, a remote African island nation of approximately 1.3 million people, hundreds of miles from the coast of Madagascar, leaving patients there without access to a developed medical center.
Because the cost of transporting patients was prohibitive, in 1986 Dr. Saksena began performing cardiac operations in a camp setting, where he performed more than 200 operations with a less than 2 percent mortality rate.
“The people of the island valued Dr. Saksena’s services to such a degree that, in absence of a government plan, they began to construct a heart center,” the statement said. “Eventually the government funded the effort and completed the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam National Hospital, marking the first known instance where the foundation for a heart center was literally laid by local volunteers.”
American College of Surgeons also honored four other surgeons for their services with ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Awards and Surgical Volunteerism Awards in recognition of their selfless efforts as volunteer surgeons who provide care to medically underserved patients.
The ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Award recognizes Fellows who have dedicated much of their careers to ensuring that underserved populations have access to surgical care and have done so without expecting commensurate compensation.
Donald R. Meier, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from El Paso, Texas, received a Surgical Humanitarian Award for his decades of surgical training and education service around the world, primarily in West Africa.
Steven Bolton, MD, FACS, a general surgeon in Pontiac, Mich., received the Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award for his efforts over nearly three decades to initiate and operate a medical clinic for underserved residents in Pontiac, Mich.
Richard W. Furman, MD, FACS, a cardiothoracic surgeon from Boone, N.C., received the International Surgical Volunteerism Award for his long career of providing medical care to underserved patients around the world and for cofounding World Medical Mission (WMM).
Alison Smith, MD, a general surgery resident at Tulane University, New Orleans, La., received the Resident Volunteerism Award for the dedication she has shown in her early career to provide medical service to the people of Haiti.
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 82,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit www.facs.org.