Drs. Haren and Pratima: Saving Lives and Changing the World from a HumanGood Community

Resident Stories   |   By HumanGood


Drs. Haren and Pratima have long believed that an extraordinary life requires doing extraordinary good. 

Dr. Pratima, who was on the staff of the world-famous Wills Eye Hospital, specializes in giving and saving people’s vision through cornea transplants. She is a leading ophthalmologist with expertise that has saved thousands of eyes. 

Her husband, Dr. Haren, is a renowned trauma, vascular and general surgeon. He spent his career saving lives, and ultimately served as the director of three Philadelphia hospitals. 

The pair were raised by parents who instilled the importance of doing good in the world in them early. Believing deeply in the rule that those with immense gifts must give immense gifts to the world, the couple shifted their focus in their 60s. 

They decided to look beyond their Philadelphia community to their home country of India. Poverty has dramatically lowered life expectancy in India, with the poorest households living much shorter lives than the richest households. Lack of access to medical care has led to untold preventable suffering in the region. 

“We were both raised by parents who lived by a generous philosophy of selfless work for others, so we are honoring their legacy by helping to make the world a better place,” Dr. Pratima says. 

Since 2003, the duo has donated millions of dollars in free health care services to poorer populations in Shamlaji. More than 100,000 people across 100 villages have benefited from their expert care. The two offer 350 free cataract surgeries monthly and free plastic surgeries to help people present their best selves to the world. 

Unsatisfied by merely offering health care, they actually purchased a hospital and have converted it into a more modern facility, ensuring that their work and legacy extend well beyond the care they personally offer. 

About 1 in 1,000 babies is born with a cleft lip or palate, a defect that can affect nursing in young babies and which may carry significant stigma. Expert surgery, though, can permanently fix the cleft. 

Dr. Haren recalls the life-changing power of the first such surgery they performed on a young child in an impoverished village.“I remember her parents being so relieved and happy as she was getting teased about her looks,” he says. “We recently tracked her down and found out that she’s doing well and has plans to become a nurse. These are the types of stories that make my heart happy.” 

“We like to say that we didn’t choose Shamlaji; it chose us,” he adds. 

The spirit of giving in this pair is alive and well more than two decades into their initial commitment. Dr. Haren lights up when talking about establishing the first ambulance service in the state of Gujarat. 

“We knew we needed to do something as people didn’t have the means to get to the hospitals quickly enough,” he explains. “After much research, establishing guidelines and talking to the government, we now have reliable ambulances, an emergency number and an EMS app. And the best part is that all ambulance rides are free.”

The Frankford Health Systems has recognized the profound dedication of Drs. Pratima and Haren with its prestigious Spirit of Philanthropy award. No one who knows them, including their neighbors at Rydal Park & Waters, is surprised by their dedication or by the award. 

The couple now manage the hospital remotely but diligently travel to India twice yearly to continue to volunteer their time and expertise. Now in their 80s, they are proud to call Rydal Park & Waters home. Many residents travel for pleasure, for family or, like Pratima and Haren, for volunteer work. 

“The people we have met at Rydal Park & Waters are so welcoming, and the community offers so many opportunities to recharge our minds, bodies and spirits. And that does us good which, in turn, allows us to do more for others.”


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