India team completes surgical missions in Indore and Jaipur

October 2019 – Vol. 38, No. 9

By: Sabrina A. Brody-Camp, MD

During the second half of January 2019, a surgical team led by otolaryngologists and facial plastic surgeons Matthew Johnson, MD, Ryan Winters, MD, and Regina Rodman, MD, traveled to both Indore and Jaipur, India. This medical mission trip was performed in partnership with The India Project with the goal of alleviating the burden of cleft lip, cleft palate, and other craniofacial deformities in this underserved patient population. The India Project is a nonprofit organization originally founded by otolaryngologist and facial plastic surgeon, Sharad Kumar Dicksheet, MD, and now run by his daughter, Supriya Dixit Hayer, MD. This year’s team had volunteers from across the United States and was composed of American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery surgeons, otolaryngology-head and neck surgery residents, anesthesia providers, a pediatric intensivist, nurses, surgical technicians, a medical tattoo artist, and administrative coordinators. Thanks to the support of the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Humanitarian Travel Grant Program, I was able to volunteer and accompany the group on this incredible trip.

Many of the patients came from tribal or undeveloped areas of the country and traveled a great distance—often hundreds of kilometers—to obtain expert care from the team. With the help of local volunteers, the screening day in each city was a great success, with nearly 1,000 patients screened at each of the two sites. More than 50 surgeries were performed, including several cleft lip and palate surgeries, both primary and revision. Four first-stage microtia cases using rib cartilage were successfully completed. Other conditions treated included lymphovascular malformations, traumatic scars, severe burns, Tessier orofacial clefts, and other congenital defects or lesions of the head and neck. Residents, including myself, were highly involved with the team, helping in the screening days, as well as participating in all aspects of operating.

Coordination with the local volunteer organizations, hospital staff, and other providers was instrumental in helping to deliver quality care and allowing for postoperative follow up. This organization makes specific effort to partner with local physicians to provide education and collaboration. Indian practitioner Rahul Chhajlani, MD, and his team of surgeons, pediatricians, residents, and dentists provide continuity of care for patients between missions. The India-based team continues to stay in close communication with the U.S.-based team now that the trip is over, providing outcome photos, posing clinical questions, and planning for future procedures. Partnership with local surgeons in both Indore and Jaipur allowed the team to perform large and complex cases that require close follow up and secondary staged procedures.

A tremendous group of dedicated volunteers and resources provided by The India Project helped to ensure that the trip was a success. The same team of surgeons have committed to ongoing service in this area, which will allow for future care and follow up next year.

Planning for the next trip is underway, with ongoing efforts to expand. I am incredibly grateful to the AAO-HNSF Humanitarian Travel Grant Program for allowing me to join this hardworking group. The experience has solidified my commitment to integrating international work into my future career.