When he was a young boy growing up in India in the 1940s, Dr. R.U. Hosmane watched as the sick and infirm beat a path to his family’s front door. His father, Dr. U.G. Hosmane, practiced medicine in Gokarn, a southern India town on the Arabian Sea. Hosmane watched as his father patiently treated the sick, never discriminating between the rich and the poor.
“My dad never turned anyone away,” said Hosmane, a Lewes urologist. “Some would pay now. Some would pay later. Some would never pay. They were all people who needed his help.”
A vivid memory is his dad cleaning syringes and other medical equipment in their kitchen sink. “My dad never had a car in his life,” Hosmane remembered. “He made all his calls on a bicycle." These were images Hosmane never forgot. They eventually led to him organize a medical-surgical mission back to the area where he grew up.
A Beebe physician since 1978, Hosmane led a group of volunteer doctors and nurses with him on his mission, giving local people free medical exams and performing surgeries. Over a week in February, his team examined more than 450 patients and performed over 50 surgeries on some of India’s poorest people. Hosmane, despite his age, performed 10 operations himself.
“We asked to see only the most unfortunate patients,” said Hosmane. “In India, the main problem is access to treatment. The medical providers there are very knowledgeable. But the infrastructure and facilities are 50 years behind the U.S. Many people die from complications because they don’t have the money or access to doctors. Many of the people we treated had never been examined by a doctor.”
Hosmane graduated from University of Bombay and got his graduate degree from The Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, U.K. He came to the U.S. in 1964 and practiced at Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Hospital until 1966. For the next eight years, he practiced medicine in England.
In 1974, he returned to Hahnemann and in 1978, he applied for staff privileges at Beebe Hospital in Lewes. He became the second urologist in the hospital’s history and for the next 15 years was the only urologist on staff. “I grew up at the beach in India, so when I came to apply for Beebe Health Care staff privileges, they took me to the DeBraak Inn on the Lewes Bay for lunch. When I saw the bay I asked if I could fill out the application right there before they hired someone else. I love the beach. I love to walk on it. I even slept on it a couple of times,” he mused.
The mission addressed one of the Rotary Foundation’s Areas of Focus, which is Disease Prevention and Treatment. The cost of the trip was $15,000. The Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary Club raised the money locally. The money bought specialized equipment including a cystoscope, ureteroscope and equipment for prostate surgery. After the mission, the equipment was donated to the hospital in Sirsi, so staff could sustain the work that was done.
The U.S. team consisted of four physicians, six nurses, one nurse practitioner, and a nonmedical volunteer. One of the physicians was Hosmane’s son, Vinay R. Hosmane. R.U. Hosmane’s wife, Kusuma, helped with trip logistics, patient registration and translation. All volunteers paid their own expenses, which included airfare and personal expenses. The local Rotaries and hospital raised money to pay room and board.
Six additional physicians from India, four of whom were cousins of Hosmane, as well as many nurses and volunteers, assisted in making the mission successful. “In fact, the Indian medical team stopped doing elective surgery for the week we were there in order to assist us,” said Hosmane. “So many people showed up, they had to add another day for registration,” as word spread throughout the region that doctors were helping patients.
Though Hosmane saw many patients that week, one young boy stood out and showed how ignorance was a major cause of suffering in India. “A 3-year-old boy had a condition where his testicles never dropped into the scrotum. If left untreated, this could cause sterility at best and testicular cancer at worst. His mother was both afraid and didn’t have the money for the surgery. But we convinced her it was the right thing to do. Some of the barriers are people’s beliefs. Some Muslims are against inoculation.”
Hosmane said the planning was as difficult as the trip itself. He estimated he made over 1,000 calls setting up the mission. And because India is 10 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, it made for some long days. The mission also involved teaching as the team tried to improve the learning curve of the Indian medical professionals.
Hosmane has been a member of the Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary Club for several years and said the Rotary’s philosophy of Service Over Self fits nicely with a career in medicine. “You only live once, so make the best of it,” he said. “Help the people who are less fortunate. Take the skills you have and go help someone. What I’ve learned over the years hasn’t come from books. It comes from my experience working with patients. Get involved in a cause. If I make one person better and you make one person better, that’s two people who are cured. We need more people to get involved. Much more can be done. Everyone has skills and expertise. Give back.”
People giving back has paid huge dividends in India. “Polio had been practically eradicated from the 1.2 billion Indian population,” said Hosmane. “They have been free for three years, and although they are still concerned about infected people from Afghanistan and Pakistan crossing the border into India, they have beaten this scourge for all intents and purposes. “
Throughout the mission, Hosmane’s team received thanks and gratitude from the Indian people. The patients were grateful for the expert medical care they received. The Indian medical team appreciated the up-to-date equipment and training. But the real payoff came when Hosmane received a telephone call from a cousin with a message that made the whole trip worthwhile. “Your father would be very proud of you,” she said.