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Israeli Doctors Bring Smiles to Vietnamese Children

March 25, 2015
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Operation Smile in action Every child deserves a future filled with hope. That is one of the core beliefs driving Operation Smile, a leading children’s medical charity that provides free cleft palate and lip surgeries in developing countries. Two Israeli doctors recently joined forces with Operation Smile to heal hundreds of smiles among Vietnamese children, giving new hope for their future.

Drs. Omri Amudi and Zach Sharony hail from Israel’s prestigious Rambam Health Care Campus. Over the course of ten days, they worked with a team of international medical volunteers that performed more than 500 free cleft surgeries at six sites throughout Vietnam. In a bid to assist as many children as possible, volunteers committed to a grueling schedule, operating 12 hours a day. Offering their own time and expertise to those who need it most is a long-standing tradition for both doctors.

As the largest volunteer-based children’s medical charity in its field, Operation Smile mobilizes professional medical volunteers from across the globe. It operates in 60 developing countries, including Vietnam, targeting impoverished communities where facial defects are common.  

Surgery to heal a cleft condition is not only about outward appearance. Health complications associated with the condition, especially in developing countries with little access to quality medical care, can be devastating. The mortality rate of a child born with a cleft is twice as high in his or her first year. Moreover, children suffering from the condition experience severe difficulties eating, speaking and breathing. Then, too, there is social stigma. Children with a cleft are often isolated and spurned. Although cleft surgeries have proven highly successful, many parents in developing countries simply do not have access to necessary funds. That is where Operation Smile and volunteers like Dr. Amudi and Dr. Sharony come in.

Israel has a long history of coming to the aid of developing or disaster stricken countries. Dr. Amudi and Dr. Sharony’s desire to brighten the future of little ones follows an Israeli and Jewish tradition of aiding those in need. It also served as a bridge to cross cultural divides. During the initiative in Vietnam, the doctors worked closely with 300 colleagues from 18 countries, including Jordan and Morocco.

“The atmosphere among doctors was extremely convivial. Our free time was filled with conversation, jokes and mutual invitations,” recounts Dr. Sharony. “The cliché that medicine is a bridge between cultures was more apparent than ever.”

Source: Excerpt of article by Ilse Posselt, Bridges for Peace

Photo Credit: Diego Lema/wikipedia.org

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