RSDM Faculty, Students Complete Surgical Missions in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh

A pediatric surgical patient in Sri Lanka.

After her husband threw hot oil on her in a fit of rage, the patient, from Sri Lanka, suffered neck and facial scarring so severe she couldn’t turn her head. Another burn victim couldn’t lift her arm due to a webbing of scars that surrounded it.

Movement was restored by a team of RSDM surgeons on a mission to the nation, where they set up their first reconstructive surgery clinic in 2017. This year, they returned. “The fact that they could move those parts of their bodies again, they were very happy,’’ said Dr. Shahid Aziz, a professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, who headed the effort.

The clinic was established in the city of Jaffna, a central location during Sri Lanka’s six-year civil war, which ended in 2008. Many residents sustained burns on their faces and bodies, facial fractures and mutilated ears and noses, the result of shrapnel and other attacks. The RSDM surgeons were able to treat about 30 patients within five days, and they plan on returning next year.

Aziz also continued Smile Bangladesh, an annual mission he founded in 2006 to help citizens disfigured by cleft lips and palates. In the U.S., cleft palate surgery, which takes only an hour to complete, is commonly performed on infants. But in Bangladesh, there are many older children and adults who have lived with the deformity all their lives, according to Aziz, who was born in Bangladesh.

Because there is a shortage of skilled surgeons there, RSDM held its first
symposium on orthognathic surgery during the trip. The surgery, which corrects
misalignment of the jaw and face, is often used to repair cleft lips and palates. “They’ve never had proper training and adequate resources to support this work,’’Aziz explains.“Part of my goal is to help bring this type of surgery to Bangladesh.’’