Profiles in Giving
Dr. Roderick Lewin, D57
The first thing a visitor notices in the waiting room of the SDME Hospital Craniofacial Unit in Dharwad, India, are all the children waiting for treatment who were born with cleft lip or palate. Their deformities make it hard for them to speak. Some babies are malnourished because it is difficult for them to be fed.
"Many have come a long way from remote rural areas for this chance at a normal life," says Dr. Marcin "Marty" Jarmoc, D07, DG11. As a resident in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine last year, he participated in an exchange program at the SDM College of Dental Sciences & Hospital with the support of a travel fund established by a generous Tufts donor.
"On any given day there are 20 or 30 kids in the unit awaiting surgery or post-operative treatment," recalls Jarmoc, now an assistant clinical professor at the School of Dental Medicine. "Our role was to assist with the surgeries, and we would do two or three of these a day.
"The difference that was made in the children’s appearance, as well as in their quality of life, was tremendous," he says. "The parents’ faces would light up when you brought the babies from the recovery room."
A travel fund endowed in 2002 by Dr. Roderick Lewin, D57, has enabled Tufts residents in oral and maxillofacial surgery like Dr. Jarmoc to assist at the Indian hospital, gaining valuable surgical and diagnostic training. Dr. Lewin’s generosity "lit the candle" that inspired the exchange program, says Dr. Maria Papageorge, D82, DG86, DG89, A12P, professor and chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery. "Students are transformed by the experience," she says.
The SDM Hospital is the only one in India that provides care for patients with cleft lip and palate as well as large tumors and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Upwards of 1,200 patients are treated every year in the hospital’s 50-bed craniofacial unit.
"The pace of the work and the advanced stages to which patients’ diseases have progressed—the result of lack of money or access to care—are issues a dentist would not experience in the United States," Jarmoc says.
He adds there are other differences, too: "Because the power goes out as often as once an hour, you have to rely on the window in the operating room for light while the back-up generator is kicking in."
Many of the cleft palate surgeries are paid for by Smile Train, an international charity that funds such operations for children in more than 80 countries around the world.