Facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon David Shaye, an MPH student at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, spends three months every year as a volunteer surgeon and instructor in Rwanda. Shaye, who practices at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and teaches at Harvard Medical School, wrote about his experiences in a WBUR CommonHealth blog posted July 6, 2016.

Shaye described the challenges of working on patients such as Agnes, a teenager injured in a vehicular accident, with few instruments and a camping headlight. “It forces ingenuity—morphing universal surgical principles with ‘make-do’ improvisation,” he wrote.

The stakes are high for patients. He wrote, “Facial trauma is one such problem that, if repaired in a timely fashion, can reintegrate someone back into his or her daily life in a short time. Without treatment, however, people can be left with lifelong disability, deformity or even death.”

Working with surgical residents to build the field of facial trauma repair in Rwanda—which currently has just one surgeon trained in the specialty—has been the “highest ‘paying’ work I have ever done,” he wrote.

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