Completing more than 5,000 cleft surgeries, Poona Hospital, with the international non-profit organisation Smile Train hosted a celebration event on December 1. For the occasion, Smile Train’s CEO Susannah Schaefer and Vice President and Regional Director for South Asia, Mamta Carroll, were present in the city.
In a pre-event interaction, they spoke about various subjects related to the problem of cleft lips and palate faced by children in India. Tracing back to 2000 when US-based Smile Train ventured into India, Susannah said, “While we in China treated our first patient in 1999, we thought of coming to India, because we knew that there were plastic surgeons here who were treating cleft. Our goal was to build a sustainable programme that involved training.”
The foundation educates volunteer surgeons and partners with local surgeons and hospitals, in turn funding them completely to provide free surgery to cleft patients. “What’s notable about is that cleft is treatable, but it is not a medical problem. It is an economical problem. Not everyone is able to afford surgery,” she said, adding, “our model is 24/7 unlike mission groups that used to come from outside for a few days.”
Smile Train has been in Pune since 2007 in partnership with Poona Hospital. Mamta said, “We are not only sponsoring cleft surgery but a special cleft care centre, where orthodontics and speech will also be taken care of.”