Saturday, July 12, 2008
A year ago a footage emerged from a remote village in India . The video showed a young girl receiving surgery to separate her fingers, which were badly burned and fused together. Why did this operation make headlines around the world? The surgery was performed by a 7-year-old boy named Akrit Jaswal.
Now 13 years old, Akrit has an IQ of 146 and is considered the smartest person his age in India -a country of more than a billion people. Before Akrit could even speak, his parents say they knew he was special.
'He learned very fast,' says Raksha, Akrit's mother. 'After learning the alphabet, we started to teach him joining of words, and he started writing as well. He was two.'
At an age when most children are learning their ABCs, Akrit was reading Shakespeare and assembling a library of medical textbooks. When he was 5 years old, he enrolled in school. One year later, Akrit was teaching English and math classes.
Akrit developed a passion for science and anatomy at an early age. Doctors at local hospitals took notice and started allowing him to observe surgeries when he was 6 years old. Inspired by what he saw, Akrit read everything he could on the topic. When an impoverished family heard about his amazing abilities, they asked if he would operate on their daughter for free. Her surgery was a success.
After the surgery, Akrit was hailed as a medical genius in India . Neighbors and strangers flocked to him for advice and treatment. At age 11, Akrit was admitted to Punjab University .. He's the youngest student ever to attend an Indian university. That same year, he was also invited to London 's famed Imperial College to exchange ideas with scientists on the cutting edge of medical research.
Akrit says he has millions of medical ideas, but he's currently focused on developing a cure for cancer. 'I've developed a concept called oral gene therapy on the basis of my research and my theories,' he says. 'I'm quite dedicated towards working on this mechanism.'
Growing up, Akrit says he used to see cancer patients lying on the side of the road because they couldn't afford treatment or hospitals had no space for them. Now, he wants to use his intellect to ease their suffering. '[I've been] going to hospitals since the age of 6, so I have seen firsthand people suffering from pain,' he says. 'I get very sad, and so that's the main motive of my passion about medicine, my passion about cancer.'
Currently, Akrit is working toward a bachelor's degrees in zoology, botany and chemistry. Someday, he hopes to continue his studies at Harvard University .