As a multi-faceted personality, Dr Navin Mehta is not only a leading surgeon and a well-known phil- anthropist, but also among the most revered community leaders, someone who has always been on the
vanguard for a worthy cause.
Practicing in New York as an otorhinolaryngologist
and an expert in neck, head and facial surgery, Dr Mehta
has earned mainstream recognition in this highly specialized field.
As chairman of the Medical Board of New York Eye &
Ear Infirmary for 18 years, he is the first Indian in the 180
years history of the prestigious hospital to hold that position.
Dr Mehta is often a silent donor to many philanthropic activities in the US as well as India.
The act of giving runs in his family. Growing up in
India, Dr Mehta saw his father give money to as many as
100 beggars who would line up at the door of his father’s
shop each morning.
“These were modest amounts, but that goes so far in
India for people who have no food,” he recalls. “My father
always told us that we were always to share, not just
money, but also our knowledge, our talent, our time, our
entire good fortune.”
Dr Mehta arrived in America with the values that he
imbibed from his father. “My first paycheck as an intern
was very modest, just a stipend really,” he quips. “I asked
my wife, should I bother to give away 10 percent of it?
And, she said, ‘Give the whole check away.’ So we gave it
to the American Red Cross.”
While the amount was small for the American Red
Cross to notice, but Dr Mehta says he always remembers
that moment from 1976. “It was the beginning
and ever since I have given substantial money
to many charities, both in the US and in
Dr Mehta strongly believes all Indian
Americans should be giving and volunteering
so much more.
“So many of us have done so well, but the
population of the poor is huge. I don’t mean
just the Medicaid/welfare population, but the
working poor. Nobody cares for them. We
must care for them,” he explains.
Dr Mehta is known to routinely hound his
friends and colleagues and encourage them to
donate to charities of their choice.
“I know once they start, they will enjoy it
and do more. Even if they only have a little, I
tell them, with every drop we can fill the bucket together,” he quips.
“The peace and inner joy you get from sav-
ing a life or helping someone fulfill a dream is
something you cannot get from money,” he
continues. “Philanthropy is addictive. The
feeling you get from it makes you want to do
While the act of giving is central to Dr Mehta’s
lifestyle, he believes that education is the most important
gift because it is permanent.
“The person will take this with him,” he says. “He is
changed. It is inside him. Now he can share it with oth-
Over the last several decades, Dr Mehta has continued
to help many needy people medically, surgically and
As president of the Manhattan, New York chapter of
the American Association of Physicians from India
(AAPI), Dr Mehta and his colleagues continue to work on
many projects which benefit the community at large.
Dr Mehta’s other roles include, vice chairman of the
Otolaryngology Department Surgical Case Review
Committee since 1988, co-chairman of the Utilization
Review Committee at the New York Eye and Ear
Infirmary since 1991, and surgeon director of the infirmary.
Dr Mehta has been associated with several cultural
and charitable institutes, such as Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
USA, Share and Care, Gujarati Samaj of New York,
Association of Indians in America (AlA), American
Association of Physicians from India (AAPI), Gandhi
Mandir, Jaina, Sanatan Mandir and Indian Cultural
Society of New Jersey.
He is also an affiliate of the Royal Society of Medicine
by Royal Charter, London. Dr Mehta is also a founding
trustee and board of director of Shree Dwarkadhish
Temple, Sayreville, NJ and Gujarati Samaj of New York.
He has been a director of Shree Vraj Mandir in
Pennsylvania since 1992.
Dr Mehta has been associated with the Bhavan, USA
since the last two decades, in various capacities. He started off in 1993 as a vice-chairman and later on as chairman
for almost two decades.
He initiated events promoting Indian culture in the
US; conferences on various subjects, such as Indian philosophy, literature, and ayurveda, were organized under
his able guidance and support.
Under his chairmanship in 2007, the 8th World Hindi
Conference was jointly organized by India’s Ministry of
External Affairs and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in New
The conference was inaugurated at the headquarters
of the United Nations, followed by the first academic session on “Hindi” at the United Nations. Representing the
Bhavan, USA, as the chairman, Dr. Mehta emphasized in
his speech the need to put forward the case of global platform for the Hindi language.
In the same year, under his chairmanship and initiative, another Hindi language promotional and cultural
endeavor, “Bachchan Sandhya”-100th birth anniversary
of great Hindi poet Harivanshrai Bachchan, was celebrated at the prestigious Lincoln Center. Legendary actor and
son of Harivanshrai Bachchan, Amitabh
Bachchan recited his father’s poems.
Dr Mehta’s philanthropy is not limited to
the Bhavan and the cultural community, but
also extends to humanitarian activities.
He played an active role, financially as
well as physically, in the relief work during
the earthquake of 2001 and cyclone of 1998
He was associated in adoption of the villages for rehabilitation during the rebuilding
of Kutch after the 2001 earthquake.
Among the many awards Dr Mehta has
won over the years for his professional
achievement and leadership in the community, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, remains
the closest to his heart. The medal honors the
contributions made to America by immigrants. Dr Mehta is an avid reader and a great
supporter of Gujarati culture and literature.
He was closely associated with the inaugural Chalo Gujarat Gujarati conference in
New Jersey in 2006.
He lives with his wife Rashmi and children Nirav, Sneha and Suniti in Fort Lee, NJ.
Above, Dr Navin Mehta. Below, Dr Mehta receiving the Ellis Island
Medal of Honor in New York.
In silence, he donates to worthy causes in US and India
The act of giving runs in
Dr Navin Mehta’s family
and is central to his lifestyle,
but education, he says, is the
most important gift because
it is permanent
India Abroad October 3, 2014 Response Feature A75