Sikh doctor shaves beard to serve COVID-19 patients in Montreal

indica News Bureau-

A doctor at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal, Canada, has put service before self by deciding to shave off his beard, an essential part of his Sikh faith, in order to treat COVID-19 patients.

Kesh (hair) is one of the five Ks of Sikhism. Sikh men do not shave or trim their beards or hair. But Dr. Sanjeet Singh Saluja, co-associate director of emergency medicine at the MUH, knew that battling the novel coronavirus pandemic would need sacrifices.

Beards make wearing the N-95 mask, the only kind of face mask that can protect a person from SARS-COV-II – better known as the novel coronavirus – difficult.

So both Dr. Saluja and his brother, who is a neurosurgeon, decided to shave off their beards on March 30.

“It is an essential part of being a Sikh,” Dr. Saluja, who calls himself a “very religious person,” told McGill Reporter, the staff and faculty journal of McGill University. “It is an essential part of my identity.”

“It was the hardest thing we ever did,” Dr Saluja added. “But we did it because we have jobs to do – to serve patients.”

Dr. Saluja wrote an email to his colleagues at Montreal Impact, a professional soccer team where he is a member of the medical staff, explaining his and his brother’s decision.

We are facing a healthcare crisis and a pandemic that one of us has ever seen and all we ca do is prepare for the worst,” Dr Saluja wrote in the email, which he read out on video (link:

“As some of you are aware, I am a very religious person. It gives me great pride to be a Sikh man and it is a strong part of my identity. One of the pillars of the Sikh faith is seva, which is service to mankind…. However, another pillar of the faith, as may of you know, is kesh, of allowing one’s hair to grow naturally…. In this time of pandemic, I am faced with an existential crisis as the latter has severely limited my ability to serve…. We could choose not to work, but in a time when healthcare workers are falling sick and being quarantined, we would be adding stress to an already taxed system.

“We could decide simply to refuse to see COVID-19 patients until viable protection is available to us, but that goes against our oath as physicians and against our principles of seva,” he continued.

“After counseling with members of our faith, our family and our friends, my brother and I have made the decision to shave our beards.”

He said it was a decision made after “many weeks of soul searching and many sleepless nights,” adding that it had left him with “great sadness”.