New Faces for Honduras is a surgical mission trip to San Pedro Sula and has been ongoing for the last 11 years. This group was originally founded by Dr. Frank DiPlacido, who is now deceased, and Dr. Rod Lewin. Dr. Patrick Abbey, who has a private practice in Tampa, Florida, and Dr. TJ Tejera, who has a private practice in Ft. Myers, Florida, have since led the surgical team.
The goal of the trip is to define and promote the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS), and to grow the specialty to at least 10 oral and maxillofacial surgeons in Honduras. It starts with students observing in the operating room, and continuing with training abroad then returning to Honduras. This educational experience is for U.S. OMFS residents to provide care and treatment of patients with problems that previously were not able to be treated in the country of Honduras.
“As an oral maxillofacial surgeon, personally, I had been seeking an avenue to be able to ‘give something back’ that was above the local aspect of ER (Emergency Room) call and charity clinic work. I had gone on this trip to Honduras while I was a surgical resident at Tufts Medical Center and have wanted to go back as an attending surgeon ever since,” says Dr. Kraus, who received his opportunity to go to Honduras again this past January. “I will be going every year, in the future, until we reach our goal of having professionally trained Honduran oral and maxillofacial surgeons to take over our roles there.”
The practice at at North Boston Oral & Facial Surgery in Amesbury closes and the team travels every January for one week to do maxillofacial surgical procedures at the Ruth Paz Pediatric Surgery and Burn Hospital in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Dr. TJ Tejera leads a similar team every June.
“We have the local oral surgeons, which grew from two to four over the past 10 years, operate with us to help expand their scope of practice. Dental students from their local dental school observe, as well, and we have fostered an interest in oral and maxillofacial surgery that has led to three of them doing residencies in South America,” says Dr. Kraus.
Through them, the team has been able to maintain a strong clinical follow up with most of the patients operated on. The surgeons perform OR cases that include simple pathology, mandibular resections, bone graft reconstruction, post traumatic reconstruction and even (with the help of donated prosthetics) total TMJ reconstruction. The preoperative clinic will often see 70-80 patients in a typical week, lined up for exams and evaluation, and will have three operating rooms running. The residents that assist are from three local programs—Tufts Medical, Christiana Care, and Nova Southeastern, and are involved and exposed to a broad range of surgical procedures. It is a demanding schedule, which typically, the residents love the experience of having, Dr. Kraus says.
Along with the residents, there is a full anesthesia team devoted to going to Honduras every year, which is led by Dr. Yin Lim (Christiana). “The group, New Faces for Honduras, has continually pushed Frank and Rod’s original agenda of, not just providing the surgical services for the week that we are providing there, but also of leaving a legacy of change in the training of the local surgeons and the promotion of our specialty, OMFS,” Dr. Kraus says.
Frank’s widow, Noreen, and Rod continue to attend and run the trip each year as administrators.