Interplast is the spirit of doing things for other people. It is humanitarian, international, surgical, multidisciplinary, and sustainable. At its core, it is not just a legal entity. The nature of interplast is that the work is done without charge, and that it is not just about the developed nations, but all nations involved for the benefit of those without access to medical care. Interplast provides for succession by teaching surgical science and techniques to both provider and recipient countries, and by teaching the value of service to one’s fellow human. The Interplast model is all-volunteer and inclusive of all willing hands, including those of students and residents. Interplast in its purer form changes lives one single person at a time without religious or political influence, and the its spirit smiles when participants in turn teach others this type of spirit.
Dr. Robert A. Chase put his imprimatur on these fundamentals, and a continuum was ignited. Chase and I headed the first academic department to develop and implement interdisciplinary teams to developing countries, focusing on a single diagnosis. The first trip to Mexicali was funded by $500 and a good dose of psychic income accompanied by a real peak experience. A metamorphosis happened. Now there are thousands of participants, over 170,000 operations on patients without access to care, 20 autonomous Interplast entities, 1500 trips, and a total of 58 academic departments, foundations or organizations that have caught this “virus.” In order to bring you the way it started, the next pages contain facsimiles of excerpts from the original five-year report on the Latin American Rehabilitation Program of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery division of the Department of Surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The report encompasses the time period during which Interplast was born as a legal entity and crystallizes the principles that propelled the organization forward. It has remained unaltered since its submission to many, including the original donors back in 1973.
The excerpted pages below provide a record of some of the patients and the life-changing operations they received.
The photographs below are beautiful scenes of children brought to the United States for surgery as part of the foster family program described in the trip report. The smiles on their faces after surgery and the smiles on the faces of their foster parents show that there is joy involved in this kind of work. The patients were rehabilitated, and we received tremendous emotional capital as a result.
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