Doctors span the globe, lending a hand

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Two doctors from Peters have made 40 mission trips outside the U.S., traveling to more than 12 countries on four continents in the past 15 years to help disadvantaged people in emerging nations.

Vasu and Durga Malepati, husband and wife, spent two weeks in Kenya distributing hats, blankets and mosquito nets that they had purchased.

They've provided towels and blankets to a leprosy hospital in India, and Vasu Malepati has helped perform cleft lip surgery to patients as part of the Pittsburgh-based Surgicorps team, which provides free surgical and medical care to needy people in developing countries.

Following the tsunami in Indonesia a few years ago, he treated a man who had lost his family for depression with counseling, medication and a monetary donation to help him get back on his feet. In Honduras, he removed a bullet lodged behind the ear of a man who was shot while serving as an estate overseer.

Vasu Malepati, 64, an ear, nose and throat doctor, has provided care to patients in his office at Monongahela Valley Hospital for the past 27 years.

His wife, Durga Malepati, 62, also had been on the medical staff at Monongahela Valley Hospital before her retirement last year.

Last year, both doctors were awarded the 2012 Gibbons Award for Dimensions in Community Service by Monongahela Valley Hospital.

The Malepatis subsidize their own missions out of pocket, paying for everything from air fare to accommodations and meals.

Their service efforts have taken them to Honduras, Guatemala, British Guyana, the Philippines, Haiti, Peru, Ecuador, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. They also have made several trips to India, their native country.

On several trips, the couple have been accompanied by their son, Sarath Malepati, a doctor, and their daughters, Sunitha, now attending law school, and Swathi, a medical student.

Their latest venture in mid-March took them to El Salvador, where they treated patients at clinics, made home visits and taught personal hygiene. The daughter Swathi taught English and gave vaccinations.

"We go on community service missions at least three or four times a year," Vasu Malepati said. "Now that I'm close to retirement age, we plan on going even more often. Our next mission will be in July, when we'll visit Bhutan for a month."

Locally, the couple have volunteered at the Salvation Army soup kitchen on Pittsburgh's North Side.

"My wife makes soup at home, and we take it to the kitchen and serve it to the needy," Vasu Malepati said.

In 1979, both doctors immigrated to the United States and came to live in Pittsburgh, where they had relatives.

Vasu Malepati attributes the inspiration for his community service to Indian spiritual leader Sai Baba, Mother Teresa, his parents and his wife.

In India, he had met Nobel Prize winner Mother Teresa, known for her humanitarian work.

"Just being in her presence, I could feel as though I was seeing 'the light.' She had a divine presence," he said.

"In my mind, I try to keep the words of Sai Baba alive," Vasu Malepati said. "Helping hands are holier than praying lips."

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Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer:


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