When you think of Park Avenue plastic surgeons, you think of glamorous doctors and their equally glamorous patients — movie stars and models visiting the office on the QT, socialites searching for the Fountain of Youth.
But while Dr. Lopa Y. Gupta — with offices on Park Avenue in Manhattan and Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains — is an undoubtedly glamorous woman (that glistening dark hair, those flashing dark eyes, that generous smile); one with a strong sense of aesthetics (architecture and interior design are two passions), there’s a side to her that’s a world away from Park Avenue.
“Not everyone has a lot,” she says. “If you do, you have to give back.”
In 2001, when she was pregnant with her third child, Kasmira, Gupta went off to Bhopal, India, to offer her services to the afflicted and destitute, her two older children — 7-year-old Sarina and 5-year-old Dilan — watching and learning right behind her. Gupta felt it was necessary for them to understand the importance of serving others early on. Those experiences led the Scarsdale-based family to create SaDilKa Foundation, named for the first two letters of each child’s name (Sa for Sarina, “serene” or “peace”; Dil for Dilan, “dil” meaning “heart” in Hindi; and Ka for Kasmira or Mount Kasmir, “reaching new heights”).
SaDilKa is dedicated to the Four Ts — Treating the suffering around the world free of charge; Teaching youngsters not only about preventive medicine but the need for education; Training doctors; and Testing in the sense of researching new treatments. As a facial plastic surgeon with an emphasis on eyelid surgery, Gupta has treated trachoma and other eye infections as well as tumors in her work in India, China and Africa. Her husband brings to SaDilKa his expertise as a urologist with a specialty in kidney stone procedures.
For Lopa Gupta, the seeds for giving were planted in Mumbai, where she mostly lived during the first eight years of her life. At age 5 she visited an uncle who practiced medicine out of his home, where lines formed outside.
“(The people) looked subdued as they waited in line,” Gupta says, “but had smiles plastered on their faces as they left. And I thought, ‘Oh my, this guy is a magician.’ It made me feel that I wanted to do the same thing.”
Growing up in Wyomissing, Pa., about 45 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Gupta was fast-tracked in Northwestern University’s six-year honors program in medical education, receiving her MD with the highest distinction.
“I went to medical school to be a neurosurgeon,” she recalls. “I had interned with a neurosurgeon in high school. But then I realized I would start work at 4 in the morning and end at midnight. I wanted a family.”
At Northwestern, she met and fell in love with Mantu Gupta, who, like his future wife, had been a high school valedictorian fast-tracked in the honors med program. It was Mantu who suggested that Lopa switch her area of concentration from the brain to the eye because of its close proximity. She went on to do research in retinal diseases and her residency in ophthalmology at Stanford University. Gupta further refined her specialty during a fellowship with Dr. Orkan G. Stasior in Albany, mastering eyelid surgery.
Gupta has performed more than 6,500 eyelid surgeries, using the CO2 laser and radio waves interchangeably. (Radio-wave surgery, she says, is more current and uses a smaller machine.) It’s evident that the pride she takes in this work is equaled by her pride in the seeds sown by SaDilKa. Sarina, now premed at McGill University, has worked in an ob/gyn clinic in Africa and taught children with cerebral palsy in China. Dilan, studying math at Columbia University, tutors kids in Harlem.
“There’s not a greater joy as a parent,” Gupta says about philanthropic lessons learned. “This is the real stuff.”