Humanitarian Travel Grant: Otolaryngology and Plastic Surgery in Rural Belize

June 2020 – Vol. 39, No. 5

Brittany A. Leader, MD

Thanks to the generous support from the AAO-HNSF Humanitarian Travel Grant, I had the opportunity to serve the people of Corozal, Belize, in February. I traveled with Partners for Belize, a group that has been helping the people of Corozal for over 10 years. Corozal has an underserved and predominately rural population of 90,000 in northern Belize. Our team consisted of more than 60 people and provided both medical and surgical care across three different locations in the greater Corozal area. There is no full-time otolaryngologist in Belize, so we provided an essential service. I assisted facial plastic surgeon Devinder S. Mangat, MD, his fellow Sidney J. Starkman, MD, and otolaryngologist Mark Gutowski, MD. We spent a day conducting preoperative screening followed by four busy operative days. We treated pediatric and adult patients and performed a wide range of surgeries, including cleft palate repairs, congenital neck mass excisions, parotidectomies, thyroidectomies, rhinoplasties, and tonsillectomies.

Jacklyn is a five-year-old girl who was born with a cleft lip and palate. When Partners for Belize first started traveling to Corozal, patients were presenting as teenagers with unrepaired cleft lips and palates. Now that the group has been going regularly, children are seen and treated at much more age-appropriate times. Jacklyn’s cleft lip was repaired by our group on a previous visit, and during this trip we repaired her cleft palate.

This was my first mission trip, but it will not be my last. I was truly humbled and honored to be able to work with the people of Corozal. This experience provided an incredible opportunity to advance my knowledge of complex pathology, as well as serve those with extremely limited access to healthcare. I look forward to participating in further humanitarian work throughout my career.