After four years of medical school, five years of general surgery training, three years of plastic surgery residency, one year of plastic surgery fellowship, I realized that I had strayed from my original purpose in going to medical school: to help people. On July 1st 2012 I flew to Guwahati India and realized that purpose once again by becoming the medical director of Operation Smile’s Comprehensive Cleft Care Centre.
As the medical director it was my responsibility to ensure that the 2,500 surgeries that were performed throughout the year were performed in a safe and sufficient manner. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of the center I performed approximately 350 surgeries myself, directly impacting the lives of numerous people. Seeing the excitement and delight in the eyes of a patient when they first looked into a mirror after surgery was always the best part of my day. The Guwahati Comprehensive Cleft Centre is Operation Smile’s flagship hospital devoted to the treatment of children and adults with cleft lips and/or palates and is one of the largest centers in the world. It was constructed specifically in the state of Assam to help treat the estimated 30,000 people that were born with a cleft but never had access to a plastic surgeon.
Living in a third world country taught me a lot about the human spirit and our ability to be happy without the luxuries of the first world. Over the course of the year I became integrated into the Assamese culture and traveled extensively, not only learning about India and its rich culture but also about myself. I feel extremely fortunate that I had this life changing opportunity and that I had the courage to take a leap of faith and travel to a remote part of India, giving myself and my time to people that truly needed it.