Monthly Archives: May 2017

RealSelf Fellowship Assists Project Medishare’s Haiti Efforts

For 15 years, Dr. Seth Thaller and his team with Project Medishare have taken humanitarian medical trips to Port Au Prince, Haiti, every quarter. Some trips have been postponed due to social, political, or environmental factors, but whenever the barriers clear, the Miami-based doctor and his team are back helping the community.

Dr. Thaller’s team has treated hundreds of patients on these trips. Most need surgery for cleft lips, cleft palates, or significant burn injuries, patients with issues so severe that they struggle to adapt to regular society. Patients just like the 38-year-old woman Dr. Thaller treated on his most recent visit to Haiti. The woman suffered from a cleft lip. She complained of breathing issues and had trouble eating. She talked about the shame she felt from her facial appearance and how often she noticed people staring. A mother of two, the woman dealt with the issue her entire life.

Now, the woman never has to be ashamed again.

The woman was one of 22 patients Dr. Thaller’s team operated on during a recent trip to Port Au Prince. Although the trip was a familiar one for Dr. Thaller, there was a change this trip. This time Dr. Thaller traveled as a member of the inaugural class of the RealSelf Fellowship. The RealSelf Fellowship awards funding for medical professionals donating their time and expertise to deliver care and training in underserved communities around the world. Project Medishare is entirely self-funded and relies on programs like the RealSelf Fellowship to make these trips possible.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There is desperate need for improved medical care. Not only for reconstructive surgical care, but for even routine, basic healthcare. Patients travel from all over the country just for the chance to receive care from visiting doctors. The trips are not only vital to the patients who undergo operations, but also for training and improving the standard of care.

“We have definite plans to continue our enduring promise to our Haitian neighbors,” Dr. Thaller said in an interview with RealSelf.

The procedures Dr. Thaller and his team performed don’t just fix issues, they change lives. The conditions can be debilitating and fixing them can be a platform to return to society whether it’s a child returning to or starting school, or an adult getting back into the workforce.

To make a sustainable impact, the effort needs to go beyond performing a couple dozen surgeries once a quarter. That’s why education is such a focus of the trips. Dr. Thaller said his staff works with the local care providers to assist in pre- and post-operative care. They also work with local surgery residents.

“They were able to closely observe our surgeries, and we could teach them directly,” Dr. Thaller said.

“You will always get more from these trips then you are giving,” he said.

Learn more about the RealSelf Fellowship and how to apply here.

RealSelf Hosts Asian Diversity Meetup

“I grew up not realizing I was Asian.”

This was a surprisingly common answer to the first question at our latest Meetup panel discussion at RealSelf, “The Misconception of ‘Asian’: Faces of a Generalization.” Organized by IncludeSeattle, it was the second event in the group’s “Removing Stereotypes” series.

As the Seattle community is home to many Asian Americans and people from all parts of Asia, we were happy to host this conversation.

Laughter, honest stories, and respectful discussion were the hallmark of the event. Attendees shared their stories in a town-hall discussion that ranged from the recurring question, “Where are you from?” to the pros and cons of living in a “melting pot.”

Being Asian in America is filled with challenges, from shattering stereotypes to finding your way in a company. The panelists shared stories from their upbringing, education, and now lessons they’ve learned in the working world.

Although Asian stereotypes are often positive, these mind-sets still cause problems. “Being Asian, and especially Asian female, you’re expected to respect authority, even to be submissive,” said Cecille Nguyen, a wealth strategist at Pacific Capital Resource Group. “There’s a corporate term for it: ‘Coachable.’ ”

Panel guests included professionals from the Seattle business community: Anousinh Siharath, senior recruiter at Nintendo America; Nguyen; Jess Estrada of freshjess.com; Ron Villahermosa, president of MediaDojo Inc.; and Sapan Parekh of Bellevue College. And RealSelf’s own Maureen Ezekwugo, VP of our Doctor Community.

IncludeSeattle organizes workshops and does consulting to help individuals and organizations grow more inclusive environments.

RealSelf is proud to participate in community events, the next one we are helping sponsor is the Tech Jobs Tour stop in Seattle on May 24, hosted by Lesbians Who Tech.

Want to work for one of Seattle’s best companies? We’re hiring! Apply to join our team today.

RealSelf Fellow Repairs Communities One Surgery at a Time

Dr. Andrew Wexler is no stranger to humanitarian medical trips just like this one. He has decades of experience and has performed hundreds of surgeries on people in need.

But it’s not often he encounters a patient with a case as challenging as Lydia’s.

Dr. Wexler met Lydia on his recent trip to Zimbabwe, as a RealSelf Fellow traveling with ReSurge International. It isn’t uncommon for him to meet teens like this 17-year-old. Many need surgery for cleft lips, cleft palates, or burn injuries. Lydia was in desperate need for something more. She needed significant facial surgery after suffering devastating injuries when she was run over by an ox cart.

Lydia suffered a panfacial fracture, which includes fractures in the upper, middle, and lower parts of her face. She needed significant and complex surgery.

Fortunately, Dr. Wexler and his team were there and able to help. His decades of experience proved pivotal as he was able to incorporate older technology and techniques to the surgery, even building a dental model, a skill not all facial plastic surgeons, even experienced ones, have.

“It was just a remarkable stroke of luck and fate for this girl that, 1) a team was there, and 2) that myself, a member of that team, just happened to be the right person at the right time for her injuries,” Dr. Wexler told RealSelf. 

Dr. Wexler and his team operated on Lydia for eight hours. The results are dramatic.

Photo courtesy: Dr. Andrew Wexler

Remarkably, Lydia was released from the hospital just a few days after her surgery.

In addition to Lydia, Dr. Wexler treated five other patients and spent a significant part of his trip training local medical professionals, focusing on using the equipment available in the local facilities. It forced Dr. Wexler and his team to adapt to what was available, but also to help train local providers on the equipment they use every day.

Dr. Wexler traveled to Zimbabwe as one of the Fellows in the inaugural group of the RealSelf Fellowship. The RealSelf Fellowship awards funding to medical professionals like Dr. Wexler who donate time and expertise to deliver care and training to underserved communities worldwide.

Photo courtesy: Dr. Andrew Wexler

Traveling and teaching is somewhat of a life’s work for Dr. Wexler. In 25 years worth of humanitarian medical trips, he’s visited more than a dozen countries and performed hundreds of operations.

“When you fix a child with a deformity you not only fix the child, but you fix a family,” Dr. Wexler said.

As part of every trip, Dr. Wexler says the educational component is key to leaving a true impact. “It is a little like throwing a rock into the water and watching the concentric circles move out from the center,” he said.

“My goal is to stand on the banks of the water and throw as many stones as I can with the distant hope that with each change of a child, a family, a community, in some little way I can make a difference in the world.”

Learn more about the RealSelf Fellowship and how to apply here.