The scholarship for the five-year MBBS course was awarded by California’s ‘Saloni Heart Foundation’ to the five students who had cracked NEET exam in 2020 and secured admission in medical colleges of Odisha.
The students were felicitated on a virtual platform attended by leading medical professionals of the US and founder of the ‘Zindagi Foundation’ Ajay Bahadur Singh on late Saturday evening.
The US-based group will also connect these budding doctors with America’s leading pediatric cardiologists and pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons through the mentoring programme.
The Bhubaneswar-based Zindagi Foundation provides coaching, food, lodging and study material, free of cost, to medical aspirants from poor financial backgrounds.
All 19 students of the organisation have successfully qualified for NEET 2020 and many of them have got admission into prestigious medical colleges.
The ‘Saloni Heart Foundation’ began the programme last year by financing studies of Krishna Mohanty, a poor fatherless girl from Odisha.
Those selected in the current year are Kshirodini Sahoo, Subhendu Parida, Debashish Biswal, Mrutyunjaya Tripathy and Brutti Sundar Behera.
Hailing from disadvantaged backgrounds, the selected students are children of landless farmers, daily labourers, vegetable sellers, roadside vendors, with most of the families hardly getting two square meals a day.
Despite the challenges, these five students performed excellently in NEET 2020 and secured seats in prestigious government medical colleges of the coastal state.
Fourteen students of Zindagi Foundation had cracked the medical entrance test in 2018 and 12 of them had got admitted to government medical institutions in Odisha.
Speaking at the event, Singh said, “These students come from very poor background and their families barely manage to have proper meals every day. We provide them all facilities free of cost and help them realise their dream of becoming doctors.
“Families of these students are not in a position to afford even the nominal fees of government medical colleges and their happiness converts into sorrow.
“We approached some groups like Saloni Heart Foundation who have taken the responsibility to cover expenses for their studies, food and hostel accomodation during the entire five-year MBBS course,” he said.
Noting that the challenge was more severe this time because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Singh, himself an academician said, “We did not let the spirit of the students dip and provided all assistance to help them crack the difficult NEET exam.”
The scholarship amount is transferred to the bank accounts of the students directly to ensure complete transparency, he said.
Singh, the man behind the Zindagi programme, was a brilliant student and wanted to become a doctor.
However, he had to quit studies due to sudden illness of his father and start earning to meet the medical expenses of his ailing father.
Navigating through severe financial difficulties, he even sold tea and ‘sharbet’ (squash) at Deogarh Shravani Mela in Jharkhand in the early 90s to sustain his family after the death of his father due to kidney ailment.
“I could not become a doctor myself but I live my dreams through them,” he said.
Saloni Heart Foundation was started by Milli and Himanshu Seth after the death of their daughter Saloni due to a heart ailment at the age of 13 in 2018.
Saloni had a history of congenital heart disease and wanted to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon.
Himanshu Seth said, “Saloni had aspired to become a doctor, but unfortunately left us at an early age. By financing MBBS studies of these poor students we want to see a Saloni in them.”
The felicitation ceremony was also attended by world renowned doctors Dr. V M Reddy, P. Venugopal, Padma Bhushan awardee, ex-director and Head of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, AIIMS and Ketan Patel, Managing Director HP India.