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Local physicians and volunteers make medical mission trip to Africa

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November 02, 2014 - 11:08 AM

KELOWNA - Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and access to health care is vastly different than in places like Canada.

Closing the gap is what inspires a group of local Rotarians and medical volunteers, including Dr. Stan Valnicek of Kelowna, to make medical mission trips to third world countries. Since 2004 Rotaplast Canada has aided in delivering over 1,000 free surgeries, restoring hope to many who were ostracized and shunned for cleft lip and palates anomalies.

Valnicek has been a part of the organization since inception and specializes in cleft palate surgeries and burn repairs. He has volunteered his time with seven missions and will be the medical director and lead plastic surgeon on the November 2014 medical trip to Ethiopia.

“To be able to bring these surgeries and expertise and this kind of care, it’s a great thing to be a part of. The patients are incredible, and incredibly grateful. We see lives transformed and restored—that is what keeps me going back,” says Valnicek.

Rotaplast Canada, based in Kelowna, has evolved from providing strictly cleft palate surgeries and burn contracture repairs, to now responding directly to local needs. The missions include full surgical teams who are able to address other needs such as gynecology, as well as provide medical training on the ground in the countries where they volunteer.  The team has worked in countries including Ethiopia, India, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

“We are excited about the new direction Rotaplast Canada is taking in the area of education,” says Valnicek. “Training local health care providers in the regions that we work is what will make our volunteer efforts sustainable and most beneficial to patients and communities.”

It takes approximately 20 medical and non-medical volunteers for each mission. Included on the 2014 mission team is young plastic surgery resident, Dr. Sheena Sikora from the UBC Faculty of Medicine. “These are very specialized surgeries that most patients cannot otherwise receive in Ethiopia. I am thrilled to be a part of this mission,” says Sikora.

Rotaplast Canada operates on the generosity of individual and corporate donors, as well as Rotary clubs in the Okanagan and Vancouver Island. This mission is also made possible from the support of a grant received from Rotary International, the worldwide arm of Rotary who believes strongly in Rotaplast Canada’s goals of sustainability.

To follow the work of this medical trip, the group will be posting updates on their blog at www.rotaplastcanada.com.

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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