Plastic Surgeons Kick-Off 2009 with Mission Trips to Developing Countries

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Parents of a child born with cleft lip and palate often have one New Year's resolution, to make sure their child lives a normal life. For some, this year's resolution will be met. Building on a tradition of volunteering and philanthropy, members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) will usher in 2009 by demonstrating, "it is better to give than to receive," by traveling overseas on behalf of several charitable organizations to donate their reconstructive surgical skills to children with facial deformities in developing countries. Plastic surgeons will also teach local physicians techniques to enable them to continue to perform cleft procedures long after they've returned to the U.S.

"The economic downturn might be slowing the number of facelifts and liposuctions performed, but for many plastic surgeons the New Year brings ongoing opportunities to give back," said ASPS President John Canady, MD, Iowa City, Iowa, who will participate in a mission trip to Guatemala this February with the local charity Miles of Smiles. Canady, who specializes in cleft lip and palate repairs, said "Children with facial deformities often face discrimination and ridicule in their communities. When surgeons donate their surgical talents to children and give physicians in developing countries the tools to continue helping people in their areas, they restore lives."

To kick-off the New Year, plastic surgeons will participate in medical mission trips from January-March in Central and South America (Guatemala, Columbia, and Nicaragua). These missions are made possible through a generous $1 million grant from The Smile Train. The grant will help defray costs such as medical supplies and transportation. Funds from the grant will support additional medical mission trips by ASPS Member Surgeons throughout 2009. Non-profit organizations that have received grants for first quarter missions include: Children of the Americas, Healing the Children Northeast, Xeroderma Pigmentosa Foundation, and Nicaplast.

ASPS Member Surgeons participating in these medical missions will do so in coordination with one of the above organizations. ASPS Member Christopher Gordon, MD in Cincinnati, Ohio, will be a participant in the first medical mission trip taking place January 17-24 with the Children of the Americas in Guatemala.

"I've volunteered for previous medical missions and there are several things that are always consistent-the medical facilities are primitive, it takes a team of people to make them successful, and the spirit of the children and families are incredible," said Dr. Gordon.

The spirit of giving back didn't begin with the upcoming 2009 mission trips. Over the last two years, ASPS Member Surgeons have donated their time and surgical skills. In fact, 25 mission trips, 812 cleft surgeries, 635 reconstructive procedures and 65 international physicians were trained last year alone through The Smile Train grants.

"I believe there is a calling inside these surgeons. They love the opportunity to get back to the core of what drove them to become plastic surgeons in the first place," said DeLois Greenwood, Vice President of Smile Train. "We are coming up on our tenth year and expect to help our 500,000th child this year. Although our core mission is to train local doctors, sometimes there simply aren't local doctors to train. In these cases, we're proud to be a part of the effort to get these skilled plastic surgeons on airplanes and overseas where they can make a difference in lives of children who really have no place else to turn."

Nearly 5.2 million reconstructive plastic surgery procedures were performed in the United States in 2007, and of those, 28,000 were birth defect reconstructions, according to ASPS statistics.

Editor's Note: If you are interested in chronicling ASPS Member Surgeons on their journey to developing countries for 2009 medical mission trips, please contact ASPS Public Relations at media@plasticsurgery.org.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the world's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Representing more than 7,000 Member Surgeons, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. ASPS advances quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery. 

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