Plastic surgery is meant to make people more beautiful and in some cases it is merely to make someone look like everyone else around them. Accident victims often must undergo reconstructive surgery to restore features that have become deformed. Some people are not victims of an accident but instead are born with a physical deformity. Such deformities include cleft palates and lips, which occur in one of every 600-700 births in Nepal. Many lucky children in Nepal, with these defects, are being treated for free, thanks to the Interplast Surgical Outreach Program (ISOP).
Dr. Shankar Man Rai, founder of ISOP, is a motivated surgeon who performs many of these free surgeries. In 1992 he had a fated meeting with an Interplast Inc. team of surgeons from the United States. These plastic surgeons were performing a free surgery to repair a cleft lip on a child and Dr. Rai wanted to learn this procedure. Interplast had been looking for a local surgeon to lead the free surgery initiative in Nepal and he fit the bill. By 1999 Dr. Rai was able to form the ISOP at the Model Hospital on Pradarshanimarg. The organization has, since, done 13,000 surgeries on Nepalese children born with cleft lips and palates.
Dr. Rai told myrepublica.com, “I don’t need to worry whether a needy patient can afford treatment, as what we provide is free of cost. Tell me, how many doctors in the country have the privilege of not having to think about a patient’s financial background?” He says that he feels rewarded knowing that these children can be transformed into normal looking people, regardless of their financial status.
Dr. Rai has created a large organization which performs a wide range of free reconstructive surgeries. His team has many specialists, including plastic surgeons, maxillofacial surgeons, and orthodontists. He even has Nepal’s first hand surgeon working with the ISOP. The team offers more than just surgery. They provide
aftercare such as speech therapy and dental therapy. They have organized camps in many villages to help congenital and burn deformity victims. They also travel to Butwal, Biratnagar, Nepalgunj, Birgunj and Pokara at least once a month.
Dr. Rai told myrepublica.com that he believes that doctors in a country like Nepal must reach out to the people. Many people are afraid to leave their small villages. Towns and cities are foreign to them and they may not have the finances to travel there in the first place. He said, ” A majority of patients are in peripheral parts of the country. To make sure that they get treatment, we must go there ourselves.”
Dr. Rai feels fortunate to be able to provide this service for the Nepalese people and would be happy to see similar programs in other fields of medicine.