August   
2009

Vol 9 - No. 2


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Receiving ICCC President's Award 2009 from Hon. Minister Stockwell Day 

Dr Asha Seth: Angel of Hope 


BY SAM MUKHERJEE
 

When a newborn is named in India, proud parents invariably believe that the child will make a difference in the world.  Deeply wishing that their progeny will live up to the conferred name, they find one with a meaning.  Dr.  Asha Seth’s christening could not have been more apt.  Little did the five year old who dreamt of becoming a doctor comprehend that she would turn into an apotheosis of hope (Asha being Hope in Hindi) in the lives of thousands of people.

 

Asha was surrounded with the love and care of her doting parents and ample encouragement from an elder sister fuelled her desire to strive and attain her dream.  Asha excelled in school and accolades came easy.  But she was aware that medical school was not for the meek and allowed no distraction to deter her from a deep inner calling to serve humanity.    

Soon, out of an overwhelming 15,000 applicants, Asha was selected to attend King George’s Medical College in Lucknow.  Tardiness was never a part of her lexicon and in a short while she bagged the first prize for writing a paper on Latent Tuberculosis in Indian Women. 

In medical school she met the love of her life, Arun, who shared the same values and indomitable zest to assist the afflicted.  During the Indo-Chinese war in 1962 Asha organized a blood donation camp for the Indian army, a most opportune experience that drew her dormant leadership qualities to the forefront. 

Asha Seth had begun to live the life of service she had imagined would be hers someday.  Married to Dr. Arun Seth, the now Dr. Asha Seth set out to experience the world outside India.  Always adventurous and ready to observe and learn from other cultures, the young couple relocated to the U.K.  Enriched with experiences from learning at the Belfast University Hospital, the University of London Hospital and the Queen Charlotte Hospital, Asha wanted to broaden her vistas.

Dr. Asha Seth arrived in Canada and never left.  Distance stretched the umbilical cord further from her homeland but could never yank it askew for she had never felt restricted by geographical borders.  Dr. Seth continued training at St. Joseph’s Health Centre and Hospital for Sick Children and has been a staff at the former since 1976.   Simultaneously she began private practice in Obstetrics and Gynecology.  For Dr. Seth, the excitement of bringing a new life into the world never diminished with the passage of time.  “The joy increased each time and gave me one more opportunity to appreciate the miracle of life,” she confirms and adds, “Every delivery is unique with its own challenges and the collaboration of the family and doctor is a peerless bond.”  After delivering thousands of babies, Dr. Seth has stopped.  But she misses the excitement of rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night to be the angel of hope.  Her job done, she would leave the proud parents to enjoy a fulfilling life with their children.  She would move on, as silently as she had arrived, ready to embrace as many outstretched hands as possible. 

Sometimes decisions are complex and there are always competing factors.  But innumerable families still count on her to show leadership and she has to rise to every occasion.  Even when Dr. Seth was immersed into bettering the lives of her patients she never suffered a loss of peripheral vision.  She broke from the pack not simply by fostering a career of superlatives but by offering immense hope to the unfortunate.  She feels that her life has a purpose and promises to reach out with charitable ventures as long as she can.  She is convinced when she states, “Physicians without empathy are unsuccessful.  In the long term they cannot be happy.”  


With Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty at ICCC Award Gala 2009


With Dr. Arun Seth and Hon. MP Deepak Obhrai

Forever ready to adapt to change, the veteran doctor takes advantage of new technology and constantly updates her skills.  With endearing humility, she declares that she will always remain a student.  Benevolent and unconcerned with fame, Dr. Seth has neither the time nor the inclination to hit the snooze button.  Give till it hurts and then give some more is the motto she lives by.  Recognizing that education plays a key role in shaping people, who in turn build sustainable societies, Dr.  Seth has been donating an annual scholarship to an outstanding Ontario student to further education beyond high school.  By setting up the North Indian Medical & Dental Association of Canada (NIMDAC) she reached thousands of physicians and dentists in Ontario and helped a number of charitable organizations.  She also dedicated time and offered personal donations to the Stephen Lewis Foundation for HIV/AIDS.  

Be it the Southeast Asia Tsumani, Gujarat Earthquake Relief Fund, Pakistan Earthquake Relief Fund or for the underprivileged in the Dominican Republic, Dr. Seth shared their pain and assisted with money and medicines.  She is a strong bolster of Doctors without Borders, an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists.  This year, Dr. Seth became the lead sponsor for the Aim For Seva Hostel in India to help underprivileged children from a tribal area.  Among numerous other philanthropic endeavors, she raised funds to help build Vishnu Mandir, a spectacular Hindu temple in Richmond Hill, and assisted in the building of a new centre for the Zoroastrian Society of Ontario.  She also props Panorama India, a non profit organization that helps to unite all Indo-Canadian cultural associations and groups in the GTA to celebrate unity in diversity through arts and culture.

In 2003 Dr. Seth undertook a major fundraising project for the Canadian Museum of Hindu Civilization, a museum dedicated to world peace.  In 2004 Dr. Asha Seth was the first South Asian woman to be appointed as Chair of the Province of Ontario Medal for Police Bravery Advisory Council, Canadian Police Services, a position she still holds.  She is also on the Firefighter Bravery Advisory Council of Ontario, Canadian Firefighters Association.  In 2006 she organized a gala for the Wall of Peace Initiative.  Among a thousand attendees were Dalton McGuinty (Ontario’s Premier), John Tory (MPP, Fr. Leader of the Ontario PC Party) and Hazel McCallion (Mayor of Mississauga) and other luminaries.

Dr. Seth also supported the Canadian Hellen Keller Centre.  As a speaker and mentor she has conducted several teaching sessions on Obstetrics and Family Practice and was invited by McMaster University in Hamilton to conduct a lecture and workshop.  She is also a major donor and source of help to the Association of Women of India in Canada (AWIC) and the Abused Women Program of the South Asian Women’s Centre. 

A supporter of the Scarborough General Hospital, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Trillium Health Centre, Covenant House and The Kidney Foundation of Canada, Dr.  Seth has been serving as the Chairperson for the fundraising committee for the St Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation since 2007.  A gala in 2010 is aimed at generating $30 million for the women’s health initiative.  The funds will be directed towards women’s health in areas such as Oncology, Child Birth, Minimal Invasive Surgery and Mental Health.             

When Dr. Seth says, “We all have a heart and we can all do something,” her undisguised passion to contribute in one way or another is evident.  Indeed ill health is part of the human condition but as long as they continue to make physicians with a heart like Dr. Asha Seth, hope will always make a comeback.

_____________________

About Sam Mukherjee, you can read more at www.sammukherjee.com

 

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