Surgical Mission to Phillipines

During my residency training I had the privilege of participating in a surgical mission trip to Philippines to provide care for many underserved patients. This trip proved to be a life-changing experience and this past January I was invited to return for another mission trip. Our team was comprised of myself and another maxillofacial surgeon, 2 plastic surgeons, 3 general surgeons, 4 anesthesiologists and two surgical assistants. We were able to provide a total of 84 surgeries to the community in just 4 days. Since the incidence of cleft lip and palate is much higher in Asia, that part of the world is a common destination for surgical mission trips.
Cleft lip and palate is a birth defect caused by abnormal facial development during pregnancy. Contributing factors to Cleft lip and palate deformities include chemical exposures, radiation, maternal hypoxia (lack of oxygen), certain drugs, nutritional deficiencies, physical obstruction as well as genetic influences.

In developed countries, like the United States, specialized teams are formed in most cities to provide the necessary life-long care for cleft lip and palate patients. Patients require multiple surgeries during the course of their life time including; repair of the lip around the age of 3 months, repair of the palate around the age of 18 months (followed by bone grafting at the cleft site), orthodontic treatment, jaw corrective (orthognathic) surgery, dental implants, extensive dental procedures, placement of ear tubes (myringotomy) due to recurrent ear infections, speech therapy, pharyngeal flap surgery (to improve speech) other various cosmetic procedures.

In developing countries, such as the Philippines, many patients do not have access to such specialized teams and these patients don’t get the appropriate care they need during their developing years. Even worse is that Cleft lip and palate patients are typically ostracized by society as the community does not understand the deformity and how it is easily fixed to allow for a normal life.

We performed our surgeries at the Howard Hubbard Memorial Hospital, which was built by the Dole corporation to provide healthcare to their employees as well as the surrounding community. Dole Philippines, Inc. is the largest provider of fresh and canned pineapple in the world and employs over 6,000 people in the region. Our mission would not be possible without the incredible support of the Dole company and the hospital staff.

The most remarkable and rewarding thing about these mission trips is the appreciation and thankfulness you get from the patients and their families which reminds me of why I wanted to pursue this career in the first place. Providing care in an underserved, rural and poverty stricken area of the world makes you realize how important your services can be to someone and how fortunate we are here in this country. In addition, the sense of accomplishment and community service at the end of the trip is hard to put into words. I hope that I can continue to participate in these types of trips and help improve the lives of those less fortunate.

Written by dmoms

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