Dr Adenwalla, who has been working at Jubilee Mission Hospital in Thrissur since 1958, has performed over 20,000 surgeries for children with cleft deformities.

Pioneer of cleft care for children Dr Adenwalla passes away in Kerala at age 90
news Obituary Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 18:57

Dr Hijri Sorab Adenwalla, known for conducting numerous cleft lip and palate surgeries on children, passed away on Wednesday. A popular public figure among the residents in Thrissur, Dr Adenwalla died due to age-related ailments. He was 90.  

For over 17 years, since 1958, Dr Adenwala and his team at Jubilee Mission Hospital in Thrissur in Kerala had performed reconstructive surgeries on over 20,000 children who had been born with cleft deformities. Cleft lip or cleft palate occurs when certain soft tissues do not fuse together during fetal development.

It was under his leadership that the hospital became the first in south India to partner with Smile Train, an international children’s charity which aims to provide free cleft surgeries to children around the world.

“With a heavy heart, we remember Dr Hirji Adenwalla, who passed away this morning. One of our first partner surgeons and a pioneer of cleft care in India, his energy and enthusiasm to create smiles knew no bounds. He will always be a guardian angel for children with clefts,” according to a statement from Smile Train.

“Despite being nearly 90 years old, he was meticulous in his examination and performed at least three cleft surgeries in a week until nearly the very end. It was truly a joy to see him interact with children in a gentle way - he was the very picture of benevolence and compassion. He will always be a guardian angel for children with clefts,” Smile Train India added. 

After graduating from Jerbai Wadia Hospital in Bombay, Dr Adenwalla shifted to Thrissur in 1958 along with his wife, where he worked at a small Mission Hospital. The hospital was very basic and hardly had 20 beds. He was often called in for various medical tasks, ranging from delivering babies to handling snakebites and more. 

After the hospital grew and more doctors were recruited, he was able to focus on his surgical speciality. It was then that he was inspired to take up the cause of performing cleft surgeries for children born with cleft lip and palate.

Dr Adenwalla was bestowed with the prestigious Joseph G McCarthy Award for Cleft Surgery and also a Lifetime Achievement Award as ‘Smile Maker’ in 2018.

Condolences from the medical community poured, with many recalling the man who touched the lives of many children and who was a mentor to several maxillofacial surgeons.

“Dr Hijri Sorab Adenwalla left his earthly abode this morning. He had a service history of 60 years at Jubilee which makes him one of the three doctors who were there when Jubilee was only a dispensary. Dr Adenwalla had marked Jubilee’s name in medical history by making it the very first hospital to partner with the Smile Train organisation,” stated medicos from Jubilee Mission Medical College.

“Dr Hijri S Adenwalla - Missionary surgeon, cleft surgeon par excellence, amazing teacher, loving, kind-hearted, selfless gentleman. A legend passes away this morning, leaving behind hundreds of his trainees include me who will continue to be inspired for the rest of our lives. RIP sir,” wrote Dr Sunil Richardson, a visiting professor at Stanford University, and Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon in Oman, on Facebook. 

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