Kimit Rai, a clinical instructor in UBC’s Department of Surgery, is the president and founder of Operation Rainbow Canada (ORC), a non-profit organization that provides free cleft lip and palate corrective surgery to impoverished children and young adults in developing countries. Without surgery, these children often have difficulty nursing or eating, resulting in chronic malnutrition. They can grow up with dental or speech problems, and may be subject to ostracization. Dr. Rai’s humanitarian interventions have so far transformed the lives of more than 2,000 children and their families.
Born to refugee parents in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dr. Rai developed his skills as a surgeon at the government general hospital in Kuala Lumpur and in the Malaysian army. When an opportunity to study plastic surgery at UBC arose, he seized the opportunity, receiving certification in 1975 and opening a surgical practice shortly thereafter.
In 1994, Dr. Rai met the founder of Operation Rainbow (USA) and volunteered for several international medical missions. Inspired by the organization’s work, he co-founded Operation Rainbow Canada in 1998.
Today, the organization has successfully completed 23 missions in nine countries. It has no paid staff. Dr. Rai serves as both teacher and mentor on the missions, providing education and hands-on training to the Canadian medical residents who volunteer their time, and the health care professionals in the host countries. Operation Rainbow has also trained Canadian plastic surgery residents, as well as anesthesia fellows and paediatric residents in BC Children’s Hospital.
As an internationally recognized plastic surgeon with more than 25 years of clinical experience, Dr. Rai’s work has been published extensively and he is a frequent speaker at educational symposiums. He’s held numerous distinguished positions, including Chief of Surgery for the Simon Fraser Health Region, and president of the north west society of plastic surgeons and of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Dr. Rai is an inspirational leader whose work has improved the lives of thousands of underprivileged children and provided invaluable training for Canadian health professionals and those in host countries who will carry on the work. In 2013, he was the recipient of a Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.