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Teaching the Next Generation

Recently, Dr. Jorge Palacios, ReSurge’s surgical outreach director in Ecuador, traveled with a team of Ecuadorian reconstructive surgeons to a small Andean town called Loja. There, they provided life-changing surgeries for patients with clefts, disabling burns and hand injuries-continuing the care ReSurge volunteers gave in the past. What is also remarkable about their philanthropic journey is that his fellow surgeons were his former students.

"Can you believe that our dream is finally coming true, that our graduated residents are taking over the responsibility of keeping [ReSurge founder] Don Laub’s and ReSurge’s dream alive?" said Dr. Palacios.

In the last nine years, Drs. Palacios, Shafquat Khundkar (Bangladesh) and Shankar Rai (Nepal) have pioneered the first plastic surgery residency programs in their countries. They founded the programs to significantly increase the pool of local reconstructive surgeons devoted to helping the poor in their own communities—and it is working. Today, young men and women are training to care of their own countrymen in critical need of reconstructive surgery.

In Ecuador, 21 plastic surgeons have graduated from Dr. Palacios’s program; others are in the process of completing their requirements. The majority of the graduates are working in outlying provinces, like Loja and Portoviejo, where reconstructive surgeons are needed the most.

"I feel so proud, because they are very prominent and respected members of their communities," commented Dr. Palacios. In 2003, Dr. Khundkar founded Bangladesh’s first plastic surgery master’s program. In 2005, he established the first plastic surgery fellowship program. There are now 150 students between both programs, 75 of whom are residents or new plastic surgeons. Dr. Khundkar has helped double the number of plastic surgeons in Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries on earth where half of its people live in poverty.

"If I don’t teach people to do plastic surgery, there will be no one doing plastic surgery after me," said Dr. Khundkar. "My expectations are that these students who will be coming out will have the same feelings which I have in regard to the patients and they will have the same attitude and the keenness to work for the poor people of the country."

His expectations are being realized. Thus far, all 75 of Khundkar’s residents and former residents share his philanthropic spirit and are using their talents for those who need it most, the impoverished of Bangladesh.

A few months ago, Dr. Rai founded Nepal’s first plastic surgery residency program for the same reason: to provide more desperately needed care to the poorest in the country. In January, the program will begin.

In Dr. Palacios’s words, the dream is coming true. ReSurge helped to teach these expert surgical outreach partners, and now these partners are training the next generation.

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