The 2018 Cleft Exchange in Lanzhou, Gansu, China

March 2019 – Vol. 38, No. 2

Tsung-yen Hsieh, MD
5th year Otolaryngology Resident at University of California, Davis.

Dr. Liu, department chairman from Gansu Provisional Hospital, discussing management of patient’s with cleft lip and palate with the team members.

I had the opportunity to participate in the 2018 Cleft Exchange by Love without Boundaries from November 25, 2018, to November 30, 2018, in Lanzhou in Gansu, China. We were based at the Gansu Provincial Hospital. Most of the children we evaluated and treated were from impoverished families in the Gansu province as well as surrounding regions. Some families even traveled to meet us from Mongolia, Tibet, and Kazakhstan. During our time there, we successfully performed 52 cleft lip and palate surgeries in collaboration with the local Chinese medical team.

An aspect I found unique to this trip was the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues in China. Having grown up in Taiwan as a child, I am fluent in speaking, reading, and writing in Chinese. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to bridge the communication gap with the patients, parents, and providers in Lanzhou. We were able to share clinical experiences and surgical techniques with one another in a collaborative and educational manner. Some of the topics we discussed with the Chinese surgical team included timing of surgery and long-term management as well as various lip and palate repair methods. Overall, the trip was a very thought-provoking and insightful experience.

Under the supervision of my faculty mentor, Dr. Travis Tollefson, (University of California, Davis) and our trip supervisor, Dr. Christopher Tolan (Midwest Facial Plastic Surgery), this trip helped me gain surgical experience and showed me the extraordinary impact we could make on the lives of the children and their families we were able to provide our services to. Being a part of a medical exchange, I feel that we were able to not only provide care for the patients of Lanzhou, but also to share the surgical techniques utilized by the Chinese providers and exchange our perspectives on the management of patients with cleft lip and palate.

I am extremely thankful to the AAO-HNSF for providing me with a travel grant for this medical mission trip. The people and experiences from this trip will continue to impact me and my career. I plan to continue to go on humanitarian trips in the future. I have developed a passion throughout medical school and residency for global health. Humanitarian efforts have been some of my most rewarding experiences, and I am committed to providing both exceptional care and education on future trips.