ASTANA – Doctors from the U.S.-based Surgicorps International conducted 72 free reconstructive surgeries during its May 19-25 mission in Astana.
American plastic surgeons together with local surgeons from the Maternity and Childhood Care National Centre treated children with severe congenital facial malformations, such as cleft lip and palate and burn scars.
Students from Nazarbayev University School of Medicine (NUSOM) headed by Massimo Pignatelli took part in the operations as volunteers. They also served as interpreters between Surgicorps team and local doctors.
“I believe that this is a unique chance to be in a surgery room with one of the best surgeons and professionals and watch how their knowledge, skills and passion to work changes the lives of people,” NUSOM student Dias Argandykov said.
Sophomore medical student Yekaterina Khamzina also shared her interest in this programme. “To work with Surgicorps International is an excellent opportunity to learn from some of the most committed doctors in the U.S. An opportunity to observe surgeries and assist the team in the surgery room makes it a valuable experience. It is also a great chance to help and apply my knowledge in practice,” she added.
The main mission was Surgicorps’ third trip to Kazakhstan after their two introductory trips in October 2016 and March 2017, during which they identified significant demand in reconstructive surgeries and compiled the list of children scheduled for the operations.
Headed by Surgicorps founder Jack Demos, 12 doctors served the needs of Kazakh patients including Tara Burns, Melinda Handler, Betty Hearne, David Kim, Guy Leone, Aamir Siddiqui, James Terman and Anna Wooten. The group included surgeons, anesthesiologists, therapists, paramedics, nurses, surgical assistants, physiotherapists and pathologists.
This unique project initiated by the Asyl Bala Foundation with the help of the International Assistance Group and Surgicorps team seeks to exchange experience and knowledge between local surgeons and U.S. colleagues as well as decrease the disability rate among children in Kazakhstan.
Surgicorps International is a non-profit organisation founded by Jack Demos in 1994. The idea to establish medical missions came to him during his first medical mission trip to the Philippines. The team strives to provide free reconstructive surgeries to people in need in developing countries who are unable to access treatment due to either poor medical conditions in a country or financial obstacles.
Each mission gathers 15-35 doctors as well as non-medical volunteers, young people who plan to become doctors. They assist the team in coordinating schedule, helping patients in pre- and post-operation periods as well as recording the entire trip in form of photos or blogs. Teams normally change, because needs in various specialties and medical equipment vary across destinations.
The mission is supported by various donations, yet doctors who volunteered are fully responsible for their expenses. Each trip costs $40,000 – $90,000, depending on the amount of equipment required for each country.
Surgicorps surgeons have conducted more than 5,000 life-changing surgeries in 20 countries since 1994. This year they have been to Bhutan, Kazakhstan and plan to visit Guatemala, Zambia and Vietnam.