There’s nothing more universal that a smile. Smiling is a language not bound by geography or borders. It’s an unspoken sign of understanding and contentment. But for children born with cleft deformities, smiling means much more. Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that affect the normal formation of a baby’s mouth and lips. It often results from a mother’s malnutrition during pregnancy and can drastically affect a child’s quality of life, even into their adult years. Dr. Sameer Jejurikar knows the cost.
This month, volunteers doctors with Smile Bangladesh are gearing up to give children with cleft deformities in Bangladesh something to smile about. They will provide surgeries for people with cleft lip and palate deformities in the country free of charge. Smile Bangladesh was started by a group of doctors specializing in humanitarian medicine. Trips include doctors from around the country trained to provide comprehensive care during this procedure. Dallas-based surgeon Dr. Sameer Jejurikar is one of the volunteers joining the organization’s trip this month. He’ll join other surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists making a difference in Bangladesh with their work.
Smile Bangladesh’s Past
Smile Bangladesh is a New Jersey based non-profit that’s focused on treatment for cleft deformities around the world. The organization has already made over 20 volunteer missions to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka since it began in 2010. The need for this service in Bangladesh is immense. An estimated 300,000 children and adults in Bangladesh have unrepaired facial deformities. Many people with these deformities lack access to comprehensive health care for surgeries and routine doctor’s visits. Those living with rural areas also may not be informed about medicine available to address their health issues. Children with cleft lift deformities have a much higher chance of dying before their first birthday.
Even for people who are aware of their options, the biggest hurdle for people with cleft deformities may be finding a well-trained surgeon. That’s why knowledgeable volunteers are such a crucial part of the organization’s work to properly execute surgeries and make an impact.
Dr. Sameer Jejurikar of Dallas
Dr. Sameer Jejurikar is one of the professionals trained to undertake the procedure in Bangladesh. With years of experience as a plastic surgeon, he’s working with Smile Bangladesh to address this problem.
Dr. Jejurikar is a well known as a cosmetic surgeon in the United States where he runs his own practice at the Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute. He specializes in plastic and aesthetic surgeon at The University of Michigan and has worked extensively at hospitals in the Dallas area, including Baylor Medical Center, Dallas Day Surgery Center, Forrest Park Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Dr. Jejurkar frequently speaks at national and international forums on safety in his field concerning the Brazilian Butt Lift, something he brings with him on volunteer missions abroad. He’s received numerous awards for his work in Dallas, including the Patients’ Choice Compassionate Doctor Certificate.
Incidents of left lip and palate deformities tend to be much higher in the developing world where sufferers often come from the poorest margins of society. Bangladesh is a small but densely populated country in Southeast Asia of around 163 million people. There are only an estimated 30 surgeons in the country who are able to perform the procedure. This puts great pressure on those who are trained in the procedure to fill an impossibly high demand. Cleft lip and palate surgeries are inexpensive by Western standards and only takes around one hour. But the results can be life changing for someone who has lived their whole life with this deformity.
That’s something Dr. Jejurikar has seen first hand through his volunteer work. He’s made numerous missions with Smile Bangladesh in the past and performed surgeries for cleft deformities in Guatemala and Columbia. Dr. Jejurikar and the rest of the Smile Bangladesh team will travel to Khulna on March 10. They will provide prescreening, postoperative care and surgical intervention in both urban and rural parts of the country. The organization sends missions 2-3 times per year and has performed over 1,000 cleft operations to date.
With the help of volunteers, Smile Bangladesh is making a difference one surgery at a time. They’re tackling the issue of cleft deformity and using their medical expertise to help those most in need. For people who have lived for years with cleft deformities, that’s really a reason to smile.