The saintly surgeon

Widely regarded as "the father of cleft reconstructive surgery in India,” 90-year-old Dr Hirji Sorab Adenwalla passed away in Coimbatore this morning. Starting his medical career as a missionary doctor at the Jubilee Mission Hospital (JMH) in Trichur, Kerala over 50 years ago, as his work expanded, the medical legend was able to help convert the facility into a multi-specialty center.


Past president of the Indian Society of Craniofacial Anomalies, credited with having performed thousands of surgeries during his lifetime, Adenwalla was in the operation theater even a few days prior to his demise. As he had written in Parsiana, "If perfection is one’s goal, then nothing can be more challenging than the repair of a wide cleft lip and palate (see "My tryst with clefts,” September 21, 2017).” At the JMH, Adenwalla had started the Charles Pinto Centre for Cleft Lip, Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies, naming it after his mentor who was the pioneer of plastic surgery in India. With financial support from Smile Train, Adenwalla was able to expand his care of the indigent and the needy and took pride that "never ever was a patient turned away” from this Centre.

Variously regarded as "a saint among surgeons,” and "a great teacher who has mentored scores of maxillofacial, reconstructive and plastic surgeons all around the globe” at the JMH, Adenwalla himself never forgot the guidance he had received as a junior from outstanding surgeon Dr Rustom Cooper, doyen of orthopedic surgery Dr Rustom Katrak, and the man who pioneered pediatric surgery in India, Dr Rustom Irani.

"He was the most compassionate, humble human I have ever had the privilege of knowing,” remarked Khushnum Mama paying a tribute to the "soft-spoken, hard-working and dedicated” professional who was her local guardian when she was a veterinary student in Trichur.

A regular contributor to Parsiana despite his busy schedule, the humanitarian doctor would willingly accede to our requests to review medical publications. His comments on issues on which he felt strongly spiced up our Readers’ Forum column.

Considerably influenced by "Meher Baba’s love, compassion, wisdom and an all pervading gentle humor,” the Adenwallas considered their hometown as Ahmednagar where the Meher Baba ashram is located.

The genial surgeon is survived by his wife Gulnar, daughters Dr Homai and Meher, and son Dr Firdaus.

Photo: Parsiana archives