Plastic Surgery in Papua New Guinea

In December of 2014, I went with Operation of Hope to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, to have fun and do a little cleft lip and cleft palate surgery. After 6 days of operating, and 36 plastic surgery cases, I was still enthused and pumped to do more- but we had to leave!

Operation of Hope is going back soon, without me, to Papua New Guinea. I wish I could go- so instead of new photos and patients, I wanted to look back at one of my most memorable patients.

Photo of Jane Doe with Roy Kim, MD, Papua New Guinea, Operation of Hope
Photo of Jane Doe with Roy Kim, MD, Papua New Guinea, Operation of Hope

Jane Doe- The First Time We Met

For privacy’s sake, I will call this girl “Jane Doe”. She traveled with her father to Port Moresby, and has had a cleft lip her whole life. She’s a teenager now, but doesn’t go to school much, because her classmates make fun of her. Her father believes that by fixing her cleft lip, she will gain more confidence in her appearance, and be more willing to attend school consistently.

When I met her, “Jane” was really shy, would not look me in the eye, and would talk with her hand in front of her mouth. She was really uncomfortable taking this photo with me, because the photographer had to keep on asking her to remove her hand in front of her mouth.

I promised her and her father that the cleft lip surgery was actually fairly straight forward, and that the biggest surgical concern I had was doing it on a larger and older patient.

Typically, cleft lip surgery is done on infants and babies. There are many books and treatises on how to repair them, but the measurements are typically on patients less than 12 months old. So, on a teenager, I use the same principles, but I have to measure and re-measure constantly to ensure the best result possible.

This is why I love medical missions- it really forces me to think, remember plastic surgery principles, and be creative. Of course, it’s always nice to be able to make a positive change in the lives of kids!

After Photo of Jane Doe with Roy Kim, MD, Papua New Guinea, Operation of Hope
After Photo of Jane Doe with Roy Kim, MD, Papua New Guinea, Operation of Hope

After Cleft Lip Surgery

After cleft lip surgery and at the farewell party, there was a major change in “Jane Doe”. It’s not just her cleft lip repair, which looks great. It’s the fact that she was now talking to the other kids, and her dad –


Only 3 days post-surgery, and she was no longer hiding her face. She’s still shy and reserved, and I’m not certain if her personality will radically change. I am sure that “Jane Doe” will smile more, laugh more, and be more confident in her life.

Some of the best “thank you’s” I get are subtle and can’t be seen. In this photo, you can clearly see me, her father, and “Jane Doe”.

What you can’t see is that “Jane” grabbed my hand for this photo, and wouldn’t let go for a long time. It was her way of thanking me. I almost started to cry- but since I’m a manly plastic surgeon, I stuffed it into my soul and just ignored it.

Well, I’m writing this article now, and I must admit- my eyes are well lubricated.

If you’d like to donate to Operation of Hope, and continue to help with their mission to help children around the world, please donate here –


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