Dental Tribune India

Dr Hirji Adenwalla – a pioneer in cleft surgeries in India, a great humanitarian and visionary

By Rajeev Chitguppi, Dental Tribune South Asia
May 31, 2020

Dental Tribune South Asia pays tribute to Dr Hirji Adenwalla - an eminent cleft lip and palate surgeon who passed away on 27th May 2020. The man, who was fondly called as the Smile Maker, put smiles on the face of more than 15,000 children by doing cleft surgeries, a lot of them free of cost.

Dr Hirji Adenwalla completed his medical education and specialization in surgery at Jerbai Wadia Hospital in Bombay and moved to Kerala, where he founded the Charles Pinto Centre for Cleft Lip and Palate at the Jubilee Mission Hospital, Thrissur in 1959. The centre was named in honour of his former boss. Although he excelled as a surgeon and gained massive respect from all around, he kept on thinking about serving the poor people in the area.

In the late nineties, he shifted his focus exclusively into cleft lip and palate, in which he gained immense experience and started treating a huge number of poor patients from all over India and surrounding countries. He went on to operate around 500 to 600 cleft cases per year for nearly 2 to 3 decades up to the age of around 90 yrs. He cared for the poor to an extent that he had a charitable account of his own. If ever he came across any poor patient he would give them the money to pay the hospital bills and operated on the patients free of cost.

He was the one who got the Smile Train project to India and helped thousands of poor people benefit from cleft surgeries free of cost. After working for over 40 years and treating children with cleft problems, a new partnership was formed in 2001, when Jubilee Mission Hospital and Dr Adenwalla became Smile Train’s first Indian partners. Over the next 19 years, Smile Train helped the Charles Pinto Centre transform into a modern, multi-disciplinary hub of cleft care and training with Dr Adenwalla at its core. Under Dr Adenwalla’s guidance, the centre went on to become one of India’s leading comprehensive cleft training centres, which has been guiding young medical students coming there from all over India.

An excellent teacher, highly principled professional, who never compromised on ethics at any point in time. Dr Adenwalla fought cancer in his seventies bravely and overcame it. Dr Adenwalla continued to perform at least four cleft surgeries per week till the day he passed away in that same small house on the Jubilee hospital grounds, which he and his wife had first moved into more than 60 years ago.


1. Dr Sachin Majati - Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon who worked under Dr Adenwalla's mentorship.

2. Smile Train website: Click here to read more

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