Your Heart, My Hands: An Immigrant’s Remarkable Journey to Become One of America’s Preeminent Cardiac Surgeons
Arun Singh, MD, knows he’s the most unlikely person to become a renowned cardiac surgeon. Growing up in India in the 1940s and ’50s, he was dyslexic, mischievous, and suffered fractures in both arms, leading to temporary paralysis in his dominant hand.
Your Heart, My Hands is Singh’s autobiographical account of his journey after medical school in India and surgical training in the US. Taut and vividly descriptive, the book is a wild ride detailing multiple acts of divine intervention, Singh’s ability to transform his rebellious side into perseverance in a demanding field that was not entirely welcoming to a person of color, and finally his rise to prominence as a professor and cardiac surgeon who performed 15,000 lifesaving surgeries.
Those worlds collided one day in the operating room when a Brown medical student was observing the patch procedure he was performing on a child with a hole in his heart. The reason for the student’s unusual understanding of the technique soon became clear: Singh had successfully performed the same procedure on her when she was 8 years old.
After his retirement from surgery three years ago, Singh’s wife suggested he put his life story down on paper. “I retired April 1 and started writing April 3, 2016,” says Singh, a clinical professor emeritus of surgery at the Warren Alpert Medical School. “At first I started writing it for my children and grandchildren, to show them what we went through, as they enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
But when that was done, he realized others might be inspired by what he calls “a very human story,” and set out to get it published. The book has taken off, and now Singh’s “retirement” is filled with book signings, talks, and interviews for news outlets around the country. He also volunteers at the Rhode Island Free Clinic and teaches the first-semester cardiology and cardiac surgery course in the Bryant University Physician Assistant Program.
One of Singh’s patients, Warren Galkin ’51, donated a copy of the memoir to all of the Warren Alpert Medical School students and to Bryant PA students.
“The media—politicians—everyone says the American dream is over,” Singh says. This book shows “the American dream is alive. It’s a shining beacon. If you have a dream and you’re willing to work hard and you have grit and are willing to accept disappointments, you’ll overcome obstacles.”