Tom Walker, a Specialist Registrar in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the RUH in Bath, has just returned from a charity surgical mission to help children in the Philippines.
Dr Walker was part of an international team of surgeons, paediatricians, nurses, dentists and anaesthetists on the Operation HOPE trip, where, on average, they perform 120 life-changing procedures each year.
Operation HOPE is an international project that provides free cleft lip and palate repairs to children in the Philippines.
A cleft lip and palate is a complex facial defect that can cause feeding, speech, hearing and dental problems and, in some cases, difficulties breathing.
It is the most common facial birth defect in the UK, affecting around one in every 700 babies.
Tom said: “In the UK around 1000 children with clefts are born each year, with most babies beginning treatment in the first six months.
“However in developing countries, where there are over 120,000 cases each year, they are not managed in a timely manner – many children will go untreated as old as five or six years, often causing additional complications and long-lasting damage.
“There just isn’t enough viable or affordable access to treatment.
“We all feel that children everywhere should have access to timely treatment and that if we have the expertise and capacity we should use it to make a difference.
“We all pay for our own flights, accommodation and expenses – every penny raised for the charity goes on treatment for the children.”
Dr Walker was accompanied on the trip by Nick Barnard, a medical student at the University of Bristol, currently on placement at the RUH.
Operation HOPE is led jointly by The Face Charity, based in the UK, and The Philippine American Group of Educators and Surgeons (P.A.G.E.S).
To find out more about The Face Charity and Operation HOPE, visit www.thefacecharity.org.