In 2002, Professor Jeng joined his first medical mission organized by Operation Smile (OS) to Vietnam. OS is an international charity that provides free surgery for patients with cleft lips and/or cleft palates (CL/P), and other craniofacial deformities. After he joined E-DA in 2011, he introduced the Miles Smiles Vietnam Project. We began with preliminary discussions with OS Vietnam (OSV) and sent a pilot mission team in 2013. Since then, we participated in medical missions to Vietnam biannually when possible.
Often medical missions perform surgery and leave. The project contained 3 components: education-based microsurgery mission, lectures, and CL/P surgery mission. Our goal was to build local surgeons’ skills in microsurgery, reduce patients with CL/P in Vietnam, and provide our team with hands-on experience on the global health field. We partnered with OSV and local partners to execute the project. The project was designed to expand the professional skills of local surgeons through the “train-the-trainer” approach. We provided high quality education which includes hands-on training and lectures, for local surgeons to excel and self-sustain in microsurgeries, reducing the inequality in healthcare service delivery to the community, and substantially increase the number of young surgeons who have relevant skills. Moreover, many patients with CL/P have low socioeconomic status and are unable to pay for the surgery. We committed to provide the financial support for the delivery of surgery and other costs that arise. Our team has seen firsthand how one surgery can change a patient’s life (and their families) from physical challenges, and social stigma attached to their condition. The feedback we receive from our local partners is always filled with positive comments. We hope to grow our project further as we are now expanding to include Taiwan’s medical and language students looking to improve their health communication skills.