The Glory Years: The First 5-Year Trip Report (1968-1973)


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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5 thoughts on “The Glory Years: The First 5-Year Trip Report (1968-1973)

  1. Hi Don, I sure did enjoy reading “The Glory Years” and hadn’t known you first started your Great Work back in ’68. Also I didn’t know that David Werner was an early trainee paramedic, having started Proyecto Piaxtla about the same time (thus feeding some patients to you.) This is all so fascinating! Keep them coming. I hope I don’t miss any.

    I remember your encouraging words to me as I was first starting Amistad International in the early 80’s (when we brought the boy with the neurofibroma (Felipe) up to St. Helena for surgery with your Interplast team of Dr. Zimmerman and Dr. Jobe.) One of the best of the many hats you have worn over the years is your Mentor’s Sombrero. I was one of many recipients of your encouragement and wisdom (and humor!) Keep the history coming…… Karen Kotoske

  2. Don — You’ve been busy, laboring all these months out in your office suite. Good workks, good words. The beat goes on. Jim

  3. Don — This is fabulous! Though I’ve heard the stories, it is wonderful to have them easily accessible in a readable form that can be passed down to posterity. I look forward to the next post.

    As you know I’ve continued on since my residency (Stanford ’84) to do the work you taught me. I try to go on two to four trips a year. I must say it was those initial trips with the “early” Interplast that resonate the strongest within me. You, Ernie, and Dick Jobe were tremendous trip leaders and role models. I have vivid memories of the team members, our gracious hosts, and of course the beautiful patients. To put this delicately …… these early missions were more “seat of the pants,” unpredictable, unstructured, spontaneous, and of course filled with unbridled joy.

    Thank you fro sharing. Keep them coming!

    All the best,


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