How Dr. Divya Singh mirrors her values in gift planning
When she was four, Dr. Divya Singh’s family moved from Bhopal, India, to Queens, NY. Even at that young age, she sensed a discrepancy between the extreme poverty she had observed in India and the wealth she saw in the US. That awareness was heightened when she visited Bhopal in 1985, a year after the infamous industrial gas leak that killed thousands of shantytown residents. “Poor people are affected disproportionately by disasters,” she notes. “People who have don’t seem to be as affected.”
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature from Columbia University, Singh realized her heart wasn’t in academia. She briefly moved to San Francisco, and her volunteer work there with AIDS patients inspired her to go to medical school. She went on to become an orthopedic and hand surgeon. She practiced first in Oregon, then settled in Seattle, working to mend limbs, decrease pain, and improve quality of life through orthopedic care.
Last year, Singh had an epiphany. She was on the fast track to burning out when she remembered why she had gotten into medicine in the first place: to provide care in the developing world. She had participated in brief overseas service trips in the past—in Rwanda, South Africa, and Myanmar—but now she felt the pull to do more. She resigned from private practice and set out to chart a new course for her career.
Since 2011 Singh has volunteered through Orthopaedics Overseas, an organization focused on improving orthopedic care in under-resourced settings by educating local healthcare providers. In places like Malawi, where there are few orthopedic surgeons, her work is focused on training medical officers on the basics of fracture care: treating simpler injuries, and transferring patients to a bigger facility when more complex treatment is needed. In larger hospitals such as Yangon General Hospital in Myanmar, she works with the orthopedic residents and fellows. She now serves on the board of Orthopaedics Overseas and continues to do medical work abroad.
Her experiences have taught her how fragile life can be. That’s why she decided to join our Legacy Circle and include Oxfam in her will. Singh, like so many others, has approached gift planning in a way that mirrors her values and will help create a just world for decades to come.
Like her resolution to leave surgical practice, including Oxfam in her will was a long time coming. Since becoming a doctor, Singh has been following humanitarian organizations and donating to educational issues and disaster relief. She was drawn to our advocacy work, particularly our advancement of girls’ education and women’s microfinance.
In high school, Singh received a full scholarship to attend Westover, a girls’ boarding school in Connecticut. She credits that opportunity with opening doors and helping her get to where she is today. She subsequently went to Columbia as an undergraduate, and was part of that school’s first co-educational class. “Having received so much educational support enabled me to lead a comfortable life,” she says. “I’m a strong believer in paying it forward; it’s important to create opportunities for others.”
Thanks to her commitment, the ideals that attracted Singh to Oxfam—social justice, women’s empowerment, and access to education for girls around the world—will be supported well into the future.
“Life is short,” she says. “Do what you can when you can.”
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