A Hard-Earned Honor

It isn’t surprising that Niru K. Pandeya, D.O.’69, FAAOS, FAACS, FAAPRS, FAIS, FICS, received a 2022 Presidential Citation from the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons for his outstanding contributions to osteopathic plastic surgical education for more than 50 years. He is a retired longtime plastic surgeon and surgical educator at DMU and A.T. Still University, a retired chief flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and brigadier general and state air surgeon in the Iowa Air National Guard. 

What’s impressive is that Pandeya accomplished all that amid numerous obstacles. In the 1960s, many U.S. medical schools and hospitals refused to admit international students and doctors. “I had, perhaps, the largest collection of rejection letters,” says the native of India. 

He persisted, graduating from the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, now DMU, with a passion for surgery. At the time, D.O.s were still considered lesser physicians by some. He was invited to observe surgery at the Cleveland Clinic by two of its plastic surgeons, but he was turned away at the operating room’s entrance by the then-head of the surgery department. 

In addition, when Pandeya wanted to pursue additional plastic surgical training, there were no such osteopathic programs in the United States. Still, he persisted. He completed a two-year fellowship at the Karolinska Institute and Hospital and Umea University Hospital in Sweden, training under Sten Stenstrom, Bengt Nylen and Eric Moberg, who were widely published and had surgical procedures and instruments named after them. 

Despite the discrimination he faced, Pandeya expresses gratitude for the mentors he had at DMU and elsewhere, including Howard Graney, D.O.’33, and Norman Rose, D.O.’63, FACOS, FICS, DFACOS, two distinguished osteopathic surgeons at Des Moines General Hospital.

He’s also grateful for the ACOS Presidential Citation and the fact it shows he was able to build a career he enjoyed. 

“When you start at the bottom, you get used to getting kicked around,” he says. “But I never thought of giving up. I’m too hard-headed, I guess.” 

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