Israeli Doctors Join Mission to Help Hundreds of Children in Vietnam
For more than 30 years, Operation Smile has provided more than 200,000 free surgical procedures to children and young adults around the world suffering from facial deformities – giving each one a new start in life in some of the world’s most impoverished communities.
During this year’s Operation Smile campaign in Vietnam, two Israeli doctors joined 300 delegation members from 18 countries to provide free reconstructive surgery for children born with conditions such as a cleft lip or cleft palate, as well as other facial deformities.
Dr. Omri Emodi and Dr. Zach Sharony hail from Rambam’s Health Care Campus. Dr. Emodi works in the hospital’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and Dr. Zach Sharony works in the Department of Plastic Surgery.
A cleft is an opening in the lip, the roof of the mouth, or the soft tissue in the back of the mouth. A cleft palate occurs when the two sides of a palate do not join together. Children born with cleft conditions often suffer from ear disease and dental problems, as well as problems with speech development. They may also have difficulty speaking, hearing, breathing, or eating properly.
In developing countries, parents often cannot afford the corrective surgeries their children need for healthy, productive lives. Operation Smile has often reached areas where children and families have never even seen a doctor or healthcare worker.
As the largest volunteer-based children’s medical charity providing free cleft surgeries, Operation Smile heals thousands of children every year. The international children’s medical charity works in more than 60 countries to heal children’s smiles with a network of more than 5,400 volunteers from more than 80 countries including Israel.
During January’s Vietnam mission, the Israeli doctors were part of an international medical team that performed more than 500 cleft surgeries during the 10 days they spent volunteering across the country. Delegation members operated 12 hours each day and helped children at six different sites throughout Vietnam.
“The atmosphere among doctors was extremely convivial. Our free time was filled with conversation, jokes, and mutual invitations,” remarked Dr. Sharony. “The cliché that medicine is a bridge between cultures was more apparent than ever.”