News and Events

Rambam Doctors Bring Smiles to Patients – Worldwide

Publication Date: 8/11/2022

Maxillofacial specialists from Rambam Health Care Campus traveled to Madagascar to perform life-changing surgery on children with cleft palates and lips, and then shared their specialized knowledge at an international conference in Scotland.

Dr. Omri Emodi and Dr. Zach Sharoni performing life-changing surgery in Madagascar. Photography:  Rambam HCCDr. Omri Emodi and Dr. Zach Sharoni performing life-changing surgery in Madagascar. Photography: Rambam HCC

Two physicians from Rambam HCC, Dr. Omri Emodi, deputy director of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Dr. Zach Sharoni, a senior physician in the Department of Plastic Surgery Department, recently returned from a ten-day mission in Madagascar where an international team of oral and maxillofacial surgeons, plastic surgeons, physicians, and medical professionals, brought smiles to the faces of dozens of local children born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.

Cleft lip and cleft palate are common birth defects that occur when a baby's lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. In the West, Corrective surgery is performed to close the opening of the palate and restore structure and function. These young patients also receive psychosocial care, speech therapy, and nutritional support – feeding a baby or child with a cleft palate or lip is challenging and some are often undernourished. However, Third World countries lack professionals with the needed expertise. The Republic of Madagascar has only five surgeons who can perform cleft lip or cleft palate surgery. These five must serve a population of 30 million people.

Dr. Emodi focuses on all aspects of treatment for patients with craniofacial deformities at Rambam HCC. He and Dr. Sharoni have participated in numerous medical missions around the world as volunteers with Operation Smile in Vietnam, Ghana, and Ethiopia, to name a few. Based in the USA, Operation Smile has some 6,000 volunteers from over 60 countries who provide world-class cleft care that transforms the lives of children, mostly in third-word countries, who ordinarily do not have access to this corrective surgery.

Immediately after the mission, Dr. Emodi led a workshop during the Cleft 2022 Conference of the International Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in Edinburgh, Scotland assisted by representatives from the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Rambam; Professor Adi Rahmiel, the director of the department and Dr. Tal Capusha, a specialist in the field. Dr. Dekel Shilo, a senior physician at Rambam contributed to the planning of the workshop.

Attendees were introduced to methodologies used in Israel for treating cleft palate, cleft lip, and other facial deformities – with a particular focus on pediatric jaw reconstruction. The Rambam physicians used 3D technology to demonstrate the precise planning and visualization for all stages of oral and maxillofacial surgery, thanks to an added “Rambam” advantage; they have access to a specialized laboratory at Rambam – the 3D Room. Equipped with different types of 3D printers and software for surgical planning, they are able to print models and surgical splints for jaw reconstructions. This is particularly helpful for treating a variety of maxillofacial deformities, including pediatric hemifacial microsomia syndrome – a condition in which half of one side of the child’s face is underdeveloped.

Whether volunteering in the field, or passing on their knowledge and expertise, Rambam’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery team is committed to helping their patients smile – in some cases – for the first time.