Dr. Tzach Sharoni, a senior plastic surgeon at the Rambam Health Care Campus, who was also the Israeli representative in an international delegation to India, restored smiles to patients who had undergone previously unsuccessful surgeries.
Dr. Tzach Sharoni, a senior physician in Rambam’s Department of Plastic Surgery, recently visited Vijayawada, India, as a member of a delegation from Operation Smile, an international voluntary organization that has spent the last 40 years recruiting experienced plastic surgeons from around the world for aid missions to 40 third-world countries. The organization’s aim is to bring smiles to those suffering from congenital malformations, especially of the lips and palate. Each delegation consists of surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, dentists, nurses, technicians, photographers, and others, who are flown to remote locations for a short, intensive period of time to perform surgeries and offer treatment for these facial disfigurements. In total, more than 200,000 patients have been treated over the years.
The current delegation to India consisted of 40 representatives from the United States, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Nicaragua, Kenya, South Africa, Israel, and other nations. The delegation's recent visit to India focused on helping patients whose previous surgical procedures had failed. Out of 100 patients, 90 were found to be suitable for repeat surgery. As a result, the delegation found itself operating for six straight days—with the help of 40 local volunteers—in multiple operating rooms of a hospital designated for this purpose by the local governor.
"Unfortunately, there are a number of organizations that arrange delegations for nefarious purposes. Several organizations are taking advantage of these third-world countries, which are desperate for Western standards for training and gaining experience. Young, inexperienced surgeons are sent— sometimes even before completing their internships—in order to practice these types of surgeries, which are relatively rare in the West. They do this to raise their technical level and provide more quality medicine in their countries of origin, at the expense of the helpless patients," explains Dr. Sharoni regarding the failed procedures. Operation Smile operates in a totally opposite fashion. Not only are interns and young specialists not allowed to operate – even senior plastic surgeons are admitted to the organization only after proving that they routinely perform such procedures, and after proving their capabilities under observation.
In addition, there is strict control over all surgeries through pre/post image evaluation by the organization’s US-based supervisors; all surgeons must meet strict standards to ensure that the operations have the best possible outcome and leave these young patients smiling.
Dr. Sharoni performing surgery in India.