Surgical Resident Training on Extreme Cleft Repair in Morocco by Stan Keeler
Alliance for Smiles is an organization that is truly powered by the compassion, talent, and commitment of its fantastic volunteers. In 2018, a team of volunteer surgeons and nurses, funded in large part by a Rotary Vocational Training Team Global Grant from District 7720 in North Carolina, embarked on a medical mission to Marrakech, Morocco. In addition to providing free surgery for children impacted by both cleft and poverty, they also trained local surgical residents and nursing students to best prepare and empower the next generation of medical professionals to treat cleft cases sustainably and self-sufficiently.
Read on to learn more about their experience and impact in a feature written by Rotarian and AfS volunteer, Stan Keeler. Thank you Stan, for sharing this fantastic piece with us, and thank you all for being a part of a community that makes this sort of far-reaching change possible.
“You know by definition what a VTT Global Grant is if you have been around Rotary for any length of time. It all sounds wonderful that a Vocational Training Team would travel to some foreign destination and share knowledge of a skill set that would set in motion a positive change for the visited community. Let me tell you – it does CHANGE THE WORLD!
In our case, our D7720 VTT Grant in 2018, working with Alliance for Smiles, Inc. (AfS) based out of San Francisco, was to take a team of surgeons and nurses to Marrakech, Morocco and train surgical residents and nursing students on the skills needed to repair and care for the more extreme cleft lip and palate cases. Our goals were to train 10 residents, 10 nurses and accomplish 30 surgeries over the two weeks stay. Normal non-training mission trips perform 80 – 100 surgery cases while still getting some training in during the process of having local surgeons and nurses working alongside our teams. This trip was the first that had such a large and well-defined focus on training.
We exceeded our goals both in number of surgery cases, 38, and number of residents,16, and nurses,18, trained. Not only was the team repairing smiles for 38 patients who could never have afforded these surgeries, but it accomplished the major goal of training the next generation of surgeons and nurses that will be dealing with these cases. The effect went far beyond expectations in that several of the surgical residents were from outside Morocco. The effect of spreading the knowledge further across the African continent is so exciting. Since the graduation of these residents at the university hospital in Marrakech, two have started their own foundation work alongside their personal practices in their home countries.
This is the far-reaching effect of a VTT Global Grant alongside all the other outstanding beneficial effects. Just to mention a few: cultural exchange, personal development for both trainee and trainers, and especially tolerance for differences through mutual caring of children in need. The team as well as the trainees and the patients were all positively affected by this one Global Grant.
My District 7720 has since done another VTT Global Grant with AfS as the partner to Aswan, Egypt in November of 2019. This was a remarkable experience for the District Governor who followed me and was the originator of that grant. We in D7720 hope to continue to support the work of AfS through Global Grants, both VTT and standard, as the need for cleft repairs will be never- ending until we end poverty and lack of healthcare around the world. ” – Stan Keeler