Treating Cleft Palates in the Dominican Republic
As chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, David Song, MD, devotes a large part of his practice to breast reconstruction after cancer. That work is particularly rewarding, he says, because he feels he is able to give back to women some of the humanity and femininity that cancer takes away.
Dr. Song's altruistic dedication to the field of plastic surgery reaches beyond the University of Chicago campus. As a member of the board of an organization called Medical Aid for Children of Latin America, Dr. Song uses his own vacation time and pays his own way to spend one week each year in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. There, he and other members of his team perform about 200 procedures to repair cleft lips and palates, as well as other craniofacial abnormalities for children and indigent adults.
"It is truly a privilege to have the opportunity to make such an enormous impact on a person's life in such a small amount of time," Dr. Song says. "In many ways, this is what the field of plastic surgery is all about."
Dr. Song recalls one particular patient--a man in his mid-50s with a cleft lip, who had been ostracized by his community because they thought his deformity meant he was possessed. Peace Corps volunteers found him and brought him to Dr. Song and his team, who performed the repair. A couple years later, during a different mission, the man returned to visit Dr. Song, accompanied by a wife and a child.
As director of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Residency Program here at the medical center, each year Dr. Song also brings the chief resident with him on the mission. "It is my way of instilling a sense of compassion before sending him or her out into the world," he says.