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Nair: Dr Sharad Kumar Dicksheet

Born 13 December 1930, died 14 November 2011

Winner of the Hamdan Award for Volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Services 2001–2002 for his exemplary works and his selfless service to humanity

Sharad Kumar Dicksheet was born in Pandharpur, Solapur district, India, in the Western Indian state of Maharashtra on 13 December 1930, and was one of six children. He had initially chosen to study science, for which he enrolled at Nizam College of Hyderabad. He achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951 and was then admitted to medical college and obtained his Medical Degree in 1956, following which he served for a short time in the Indian Army. Dicksheet moved to the USA in 1959 and pursued higher training in ophthalmology. However, he later changed to study plastic surgery, securing a master’s degree (MD), and he went on to work at Fairbanks Hospital, Alaska, and at Mount Sinai Hospital and the New York Methodist Hospital, New York. Sharad Kumar Dicksheet married and divorced and had three children.

Highlights of Dr Dicksheet’s contributions

Dr Dicksheet founded The India Project, in 1968, providing plastic surgery treatment for the impoverished in Indian society. He would work half of the year in the USA and the rest of the year in India, overseeing free medical camps and performing thousands of cosmetic corrective surgeries for cleft lip, ptosis and squint. In 1978, during his tenure at the Fairbanks Hospital, Dr Dicksheet was involved in a car accident which left him paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. He also developed laryngeal cancer, which resulted in him having to use a voice box, and suffered two heart attacks. However, despite these challenges, he did not stop his social services, which he continued to provide until his death. Dr Dicksheet continued to provide a free medical service for 42 years under the banner of the India Project in collaboration with the non-profit organization Bharatiya Jain Sangathan, and is credited with personally performing over 65 000 operations; a total of 266 000 operations have been carried out under the project.

He was also known as a quick surgeon, with reports that he took less than 30 minutes to perform cleft lip surgery and even less time for squint and ptosis operations. He reportedly performed 100 to 150 operations a day. Overall, it is reported that 18 155 operations were carried out under the banner of the India Project in 2003–04. To ensure the continuity of his programmes, Dr Dicksheet formed a trust and bequeathed his assets to the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr Dicksheet’s India Project is unique, as no-one who provides assistance receives any kind of remuneration. All contributions and donations go directly to fund camp operations, and all administrative and surgeon costs are borne on a voluntary basis. High volumes of medical equipment and supplies are required to run the camps, and are purchased with money provided by Dr Dicksheet and with contributions and donations made by organizations, businesses and private individuals in the USA. Dr Dicksheet contributed the entire prize money received from the Hamdan Award for Medical Sciences to run the medical camp in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India, under the name of ‘H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Medical Camp’.

As the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, India, expressed so eloquently ‘The humanitarian contribution of this man sets an example for the world. While following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, who preached that “Service To God is Service To Mankind,” he has exemplified how much more one can give when one is willing to give one’s entire life, totally. He has shown that no obstacle in life is insurmountable when one has a goal to reach and ignoring his own suffering and misfortune.’

Awards and recognition

Dr Dicksheet was the recipient of the coveted Diwaliben Award in India for his selfless service to humanity – one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on an individual in India. Other recipients of this award include Nobel Laureates Mother Teresa, His Holiness the XlVth Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Albert Schweitzer.

A Maliniac Fellow of the Plastic Surgery Foundation, Dr Dicksheet was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize eight times, five of which were in successive years. In 1997, he received the Humanitarian Award of the American Society of Aesthetic Surgery and the Vanguard Award in 1998. In 1999, he was nominated Man of the Year by The Week. He received the Indian Merchants’ Chamber Award in 2000, and, a year later, he received the Chemtech Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Medical Integration Council. In the same year, the Indian government honoured him with a Padma Shri, an award presented to civilians. Dr Dicksheet was a nominee for the 2001 Gandhi Peace Prize, and is also a recipient of Concord Hilton Foundation Award. He received US$100 000 for the 2001 Kellogg’s Hannah Neil World of Children Award, which was used towards his humanitarian efforts in India. He also received the Bhagini Sanskar Parishad Award 2001, the NRIworld–Merrill Lynch ‘NRI of the Year Award’ in 2001 and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the World Congress of Cosmetic Surgery. In 2008, the American Medical Association conferred on him the Nathan Davis International Award.

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