The legacy of GIVE: Pay it forward
Dr. Shahid Aziz’s Smile Bangladesh team marked its 25th visit to Bangladesh in March, 2019. The 10-day journey has become a fixture on Dr. Aziz’s calendar and a coveted opportunity for OMS residents eager to learn cleft lip and palate repair techniques from a master.
The travel is grueling and the surgery schedule packed, but humanitarian healthcare has been embedded in Dr. Aziz’s worldview for most of his adult life. The son of a doctor/clinical researcher, Dr. Aziz learned from his father the importance of giving back to the world and credits AAOMS Life Fellow Dr. Steven Roser’s example for his success as a leader of international humanitarian healthcare teams.
Dr. Aziz first visited his father’s homeland of Bangladesh in 2006, where he served on a floating hospital that visited the country’s poorest and most remote communities.
“There’s a great need for cleft surgery in Bangladesh,” Dr. Aziz said. “Our team of two surgeons performed 40 cleft surgeries in three days.”
The team christened its project Smile Bangladesh and resolved to return each year, gradually expanding the mission to include education of local surgeons. Dr. Aziz and fellow OMS Dr. Jose Marchena are the core of a team that also includes OMSs, plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists and two or three residents per trip.
“We’ve always included residents,” Dr. Aziz said. “Aside from the training, we hope this experience inspires the next generation to give back, even if it’s volunteering once a month at their local clinic.”
Dr. Bruno Kuloba, a graduate of Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry serving as an OMS in the U.S. Navy, received a $2,500 Global Initiative for Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) stipend from the OMS Foundation to serve with Smile Bangladesh in March 2019. Already a seasoned volunteer with Jamaica Awareness Association of California, Dr. Kuloba understood the value of a skilled set of hands paired with a generous heart.
“We could read the gratitude in the parents’ faces post-op – with the stigma of the cleft deformity gone, their child’s life was forever changed,” Dr. Kuloba said.
Dr. Kuloba credits GIVE with helping to crystallize his ambitions.
“This experience touched my heart and broadened my horizons,” he said. “I’m thankful for the clinical training I received, and I’m already looking for more. From there, it was a logical decision to become a Foundation donor. I want to help make opportunities like this available to others.”