In less than 2 weeks I’ll be on my way to Vietnam. To say I’m excited is an understatement, and it’s not because I’m off to see a new country. It’s because I’m going there to do something that I know will make such a huge difference to so many people.
In 2017 and 2018 I was honoured to accompany three esteemed facial plastic surgeons from the USA to Haiti. Mack Cheney, Tessa Hadlock and Jennifer Kim conducted a weeklong intensive Ear Reconstruction Training Program for a local surgical team who had great technical capabilities and knowledge, but had never learned the principles of ear reconstruction.
On our first trip we operated on 15 patients, then returned in May 2018 to complete these ear reconstructions. This experience was not only rewarding for the impact we were able to have on 15 people’s lives, but more so for the pride I felt as a Surgical Educator when I saw the wonderful job the Haiti team did on their own after we left.
Being so inspired by this experience, I wrote the curriculum for future programs and will now deliver it for the first time in Hanoi in March. The Haitian mission was for people who’s ear had been damaged after trauma as this was endemic to the area. In Vietnam the mission will be for those affected by a condition known as microtia, where children are born with absent or tiny remnants of an ear. The principles of a reconstruction are the same however, and we simply have to tailor our lectures to most suit the group that we are teaching.
I know I will find the same dedication from the teams there, and I’m sure I will make lifelong friends just like I did with this wonderful bunch in Haiti!!
In Haiti I was impressed by how attentive the training surgeons were to our lectures (even with me sometimes having to use my broken French to get my message over the line!). It was also a privilege to present Patrick Jean-Gilles, the Chief of the Department, with our textbook so they could continue the work after our departure.
The photos below from before and after reveal how significant the change is for someone who undergoes an ear reconstruction.
These wonderful opportunities to bring such necessary skills to those in need around the world rely on some amazingly people and groups. We’ll be supported by Help Us Give Smiles (HUGS), the Kletjian Foundation and Harvard’s Global Health Institute.
You can see what it’s like on the ground and behind the scenes in these inspiring short videos that follow a team in Guatemala. I look forward to sharing my journey to Vietnam with you!