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Yale delegation brings high-tech care to remote corner of Peru

Yale Medicine Magazine, 1999 - Summer


Two Yale plastic surgeons traveled to the Peruvian Amazon in March, where they performed about 80 operations for people in need of corrective surgery. John A. Persing, M.D., chief of the section of plastic surgery, and Joseph Shin, M.D., HS ’97, assistant professor of plastic surgery, went as part of Interplast, an agency that sends doctors around the world to do charitable work. Their trip to Iquitos, Peru, a port on the Amazon accessible only by air or water, was sponsored by the Ronald McDonald House. Interplast was founded in 1965 by Yale alumnus Donald R. Laub, M.D. ’60, HS ’63, now at Stanford University.

The surgeons each spent a week in Iquitos, part of a team of 16 people that included nurses, an obstetrician-gynecologist and a pediatrician. Of the 80 operations Persing and Shin performed, most were for cleft lip and palates. They also operated on burn patients and removed a tumor on the nose of a 90-year-old woman. “We try to serve the needs of the local population,” said Shin, “although the emphasis is on cleft palates and congenital malformations.” This was Shin’s second trip on behalf of Interplast and Persing’s fifth since 1993.

As part of their program they are following up on their patients’ recoveries via information sent by local doctors on the Internet. Two Web sites, http:// and http://, carry the information. Part of the doctors’ mission is to provide training to local physicians, both during their visit and afterwards over the Internet. “The initial goal,” says Persing, “is to provide service for people who would not be able to afford care. The secondary goal is to magnify our effect by teaching local surgeons how to do the work.”

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