Dr. Joyce Chen, Interplast Webster Fellow.
After completing my pediatric plastic and craniofacial surgery fellowship and spending a day and a half at the Interplast office for orientation, I was whisked off to Taipei, Taiwan. Once in Taipei, I participated in a mini-fellowship, where I spent two weeks learning and assisting some of the top micro-surgeons and craniofacial surgeons in the world. It was an amazing experience at Chang Gung Hospital with the main campus hospital having more than 100 operating rooms, and the technical prowess of their surgeons to be admired and emulated. With my own Taiwanese heritage, I was especially proud of their progress and accomplishments over the past two decades.
During my first two months with Interplast, I trekked to four continents, and not only experienced rich cultural diversity and saw beautiful terrain in these places, but witnessed firsthand the universality of the family core of mother, father and child. Family members hovered nearby, readily available to comfort their loved ones after surgery. Moreover, the health care workers I interacted with were compassionate, altruistic souls, who were motivated by a common desire to help their fellow people. I was humbled and inspired working alongside them.
I eventually joined a 14-member Interplast team to Bamako, Mali, where despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, I met some of the happiest people. We operated for two weeks on patients predominantly with burn contractures caused by fires used for cooking and lighting. Despite the stifling heat, my first team trip was remarkable, with extraordinary people who met one another as strangers with a common desire to help the underserved and ended the two weeks as confidantes. As with any memorable experience, it is the people who make it such. I’ve met some amazing volunteers who besides being avid travelers, athletes and humanitarians, enjoy the camaraderie and experience so much that they have been on 20, 30, even 60 medical trips.