Riley surgeon values lessons learned during volunteer trips

Patient Care |


Dr. Pankaj Dangle urology

Dr. Pankaj Dangle recently returned from India, where he operated on 22 children with challenging urologic conditions.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

Dr. Pankaj Dangle doesn’t want this story to be about him.

He wants it to be about kids. About the widening gap between need and privilege. About opening our eyes to a bigger world.

That’s what the Riley Children’s Health board-certified urologist thinks about when he travels to countries around the globe, treating children who otherwise would have little access to medical care.

Dr. Dangle, a surgeon now in his third year of practicing at Riley, just returned from a trip to a remote area of Gujarat, India, where he operated on 22 pediatric patients, ages 2 months to 17 years, who suffered from a range of urologic conditions. The hospital he worked in is state-of-the-art, he said, but the patients and their families often must travel hundreds of miles to get there.

Dr. Pankaj Dangle urology

Still, the gratitude they expressed, the stories they shared, often made him cry, he said.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years in various parts of the world,” said the physician, who grew up in India, the son of working-class parents. He has volunteered his time in Senegal, Ghana, Vietnam and Guatemala, in addition to India.

Now married and the father of two teenage daughters, he is teaching his girls the value – and the responsibility – of giving back to the world.

“We were not privileged to have what my kids have,” he said of his childhood. “We lived very simply. Kids here who grow up and don’t see the other side of the world don’t have that exposure.”

Dr. Pankaj Dangle urology

That’s why his eldest daughter will accompany him on a medical mission trip next year.

His duty to give back was ingrained in him by his parents. It’s a lesson he shares with his daughters and the younger doctors-in-training at Riley.

While no one accompanied him on this trip, which he financed on his own, he likely will travel with fellow Riley urologist Dr. Martin Kaefer on his next medical mission to Guatemala in the fall, and he is optimistic that he will have the company of at least one or two residents or fellows.

“I think it’s important for their education and for their holistic experience of life,” he said of the new class of physicians. “It’s important to continue doing things in whatever capacity we can to help less fortunate people around the world or even in our neighborhood. You don’t have to go that far. In Indianapolis, there are so many families who can benefit from what we do every day, and that can be in any form.”

Dr. Pankaj Dangle urology

Dr. Dangle, who came to Riley after eight years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center, said he has struggled with the disparities he sees in living conditions, medical care and opportunity on his trips, but it keeps him humble.

“I try to teach that to my residents and fellows, to be aware that we are very privileged, to be mindful of our surroundings and to be careful not to waste resources. Hopefully, they incorporate that in their practice.”

His wish is that future generations will look at the world beyond their doorstep with love and not hate, to acknowledge what they have and what others are missing.

“I think seeing these things can open your eyes to a new world and then you start valuing what you have and making good use of it for you and the people around you and for society in turn.”

The urology program at Riley Children’s Health is ranked No. 3 in the nation in the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,

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Pankaj P. Dangle, MD, MCh, FAAP

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Martin Kaefer, MD, FAAP

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