The Cupcake Man Project is a volunteer-centered program that was started formally at the Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Texas by Dr. Niraj Mehta in 2014. The idea originated in 1995 at a time in Dr. Mehta’s life when he was struggling to find meaning in his profession.


In the midst of another 100-hour work week as a resident physician at Ben Taub’s sister hospital Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), he noticed something that would change his life. It was his patient John’s birthday!​

What is the goal of the Cupcake Man Project? 

Determined to make this day a special one for his patient, Dr. Mehta presented John with a cupcake while singing “Happy Birthday.” John, his nurse, other patients in the room as well as Dr. Mehta were so touched by the gesture that by the end of the song, everyone was in tears.


Profoundly moved by the experience, Dr. Mehta continued to celebrate birthdays at LBJ Hospital for over 14 years with his team for patients on his internal medicine service. He moved to Ben Taub Hospital in 2010 and realized that something was missing.


Although hundreds of birthdays and thousands of lives had been touched, what if the patient was not on his service? Were other teams celebrating birthdays on their patients? When he realized the answer was “No”, he formalized the project so that every single birthday would be celebrated at both hospitals. Since all services were now involved, more birthdays have been celebrated in the last six months at both hospitals than Dr. Mehta’s team celebrated in the previous 14 years! All members of the hospital staff, including physicians, nurses, medical students, and volunteers, have joined forces to make the Cupcake Man Project a success at both institutions. Countless smiles and tears of joy as well as memory burns of “Healing begins with Feeling” continue to be captured with each unique celebration.


What is the goal of the Cupcake Man Project? 


Our project’s goal is to foster deeper and more meaningful relationships between healthcare providers and their patients by celebrating birthdays with those patients who have no choice but to spend their birthdays in the hospital.


How big is the problem in the United States?


The Cupcake Man Project is thriving at two large county hospitals in Houston – Ben Taub Hospital and LBJ Hospital. The two institutions together have over 50,000 hospital admissions per year. Given the current number of patients, over 1000 birthdays will be celebrated this year alone.


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 35.1 million hospital discharges in 2010 from non-Federal short-stay hospitals in the United States. Using this figure, over 700,000 people in our country may be forced to spend their birthday in the hospital.


What is your strategy to achieve this goal?


The Cupcake Man Project’s strategy involves expanding our program to hospitals across the country by providing a blueprint for celebrating a patient’s birthday. In doing so, we aim to touch and change millions of lives, including patients, their loved ones, and all those involved in patient care.