Neonatal specialist Dr Sunil PaulRaj uses music and medicine to help those most in need

Belfast's 'singing doctor' has combined his medical skills with his love of music to help change the lives of those in need both in Northern Ireland and India.

Dr Sunil Paulraj is a neonatal specialist at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

When a tsunami struck South East Asia in 2004, he rushed home to Bangalor to help the victims.

"In the aftermath of the tsunami we took out two musicians initially to India and we thought we’d do something for the victims of the tsunami," he told UTV.

"We didn’t know what we were getting in to, it kind of snowballed into a huge organisation.

"Today we have over 100 musicians who travel with us from different parts of the world, we go and perform for charities."

The project expanded a number of years later to combine both of Dr Sunil's passions.

"In around 2015, we started a medical wing and the idea was to first donate medical equipment," he explained.

"We have a lot of decommissioned medical equipment in the hospital which can be used, they are in very good state and a lot of third world countries really welcomed them.

"Then what followed from that was to take out doctors and nurses and do a bit of teaching and from those experiences we also learnt a lot as doctors and nurses."

Since then, the medical wing has completed five tours while the musical group have completed 17.

Each trip proving a life-changing experience for both medics and musicians.

Dr Stan Craig is a lead consultant in the Royal Victoria Hospital's neonatal unit.

He travelled to India to deliver training with Dr Sunil a number of years ago.

"I had been to various parts of Africa, but I'd never been to India before," he told UTV.

"We were able to run a two day conference for a small hospital in a very isolated part of South India and we were able to run both medical and nursing teaching conferences.

"We were able to see some of the work those units were doing, albeit with different resources.

"I think the thing that impressed me was how dedicated the doctors and nurses in the hospitals we were visiting were to their patients and trying to deliver a similar level and intensity of care to ourselves but with a lot less resources and that was very impressive and challenging."

Toccata soloist Fiona Keegan said taking part in the trip was a "journey of faith".

"I had a phone call on a Saturday morning and Sunil, who I now know as a very dear friend of mine, was on the other end of the phone and started talking to me about needing an alto for this concert," she told UTV.

"I honestly thought he said Bangor as in Co Down but then further in the conversation it was Bangalor in India, so I kind of had to take a deep breath and say, 'Start again, what is this about?'."

As for chorister Carol Carson, it's the friendships she's made through music that mean the most.

"I wanted to join a choir that had a purpose and a meaning and I just jumped at the chance," she said.

"One of my best friends in the choir is Fr Collins. We come from both divides," she explained.

"He is from west Belfast and I live in Carrickfergus. We’ve both been in each others churches singing which is a lovely thing, a cultural thing and the fun we have behind the scenes is great."

Dr Sunil says the combination of medicine and music has created perfect harmony between cultures.

"People are the same all over the world.

"We have the same needs, we want an education, we want a roof over our head, we want food and we want to educate our children and that’s very simple.

"It’s from that, people begin to realise they’re not very different from each other at all."

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