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UC Davis surgeons change lives

"" PHOTO — Travis Tollefson and one of his favorite patients.
Travis Tollefson and one of his favorite patients.
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Physicians from UC Davis Health System not only enhance the quality of life for the Sacramento region, but also for communities around the world. Indigent families in the small Ecuadorian village of Riobamba have benefited from the expertise of UC Davis surgeons, who last year visited the small hospital there to perform free reconstructive surgeries on children and teens with craniofacial malformations.

The surgeons traveled to Riobamba with Operación Esperanza, a non-profit surgical team established by Washington state surgeon Joe Clawson that visits Ecuador for two weeks each year to provide plastic and reconstructive surgeries to families who otherwise would not have access to qualified physicians. Since 1990, the organization has performed more than 1,300 surgeries in Ecuador.

Travis Tollefson, UC Davis assistant professor of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, was one of five volunteer surgeons from U.S. hospitals who last year performed more than 100 surgeries in just nine days. Most operations repaired cleft lips and cleft palates, which affect an alarming number of children in Central and South America — by some estimates one in 300.

Operación Esperanza's team includes nurses, anesthesiologists, speech therapists and other medical and dental personnel who not only provide medical care but also train the small hospital's nurses and staff in safety, medical and administrative procedures. All volunteers roll up their sleeves to assist in every aspect of the two-week program. It's not uncommon for a surgeon to mop the floor or for a recovery room nurse to lend a hand in the operating room.

PHOTO — UC Davis physician Travis Tollefson, front left, participated with a team of physicians in another humanitarian effort, Smile China 2005. ""

UC Davis physician Travis Tollefson, front left, participated with a team of physicians in another humanitarian effort, Smile China 2005.
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What sets Operación Esperanza apart from many surgical mission teams is its commitment to follow-up care for its patients, even if they do not need further treatment. "I chose to work with Operación Esperanza because of the unique consistency of the group returning to the same hospital every year so that patient follow up and continuity of care is maximized for these children," said Tollefson, who completed his fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at UC Davis in 2004.

He believes that Operación Esperanza is a tremendous opportunity for UC Davis residents and fellows in otolaryngology/head and neck surgery to train in reconstruction of the ear, cleft lip and palate, and other craniofacial anomalies. Many have continued to staff Operación Esperanza after establishing their own practices. To date, 24 surgeons and/or residents from UC Davis have traveled to Ecuador with the organization.

Tollefson has made the program a priority for his career. "I simply believe that the opportunity just to connect with these families is a gift that alleviates fatigue at the end of a long OR day, offers a genuine sense of accomplishment, and provides an essential shift in perspective as one considers the difficulties we face in our daily lives compared to those much less fortunate," he said.

For more information about Operación Esperanza, contact Tollefson or Craig Senders, director of the cleft and craniofacial program, at (916) 734-2801 or visit www.operacionesperanza.org

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Eugene Ogrod, M.D., J.D.,
UC Davis Medical Center,
'74 President

Michael Lucien, M.D., M.P.H., '92 Vice President

Michael Carl, M.D., '92

Jamie Cobb, M.D., '93

Cecilia Esi, MSIV

Jerald Gerst, M.D., M.P.H., '73

Joseph Hartzog, M.D.,
UC Davis Medical Center, '76

Nancy Ree Joye, M.D.,
UC Davis Medical Center, '78

Steven Kelly-Reif, M.D.,
UC Davis Medical Center, '85

J. Natasha Laubly, M.D.,
UC Davis Medical Center, ’94

Terence Lin, M.D., PGY2

Jamie McManus, M.D., '82

Patricia McNeill, M.D., Ph.D., '84

Carmen Mendez, MSIV

Robert B. Miller, M.D., '82

Denise Satterfield, M.D., '87

Diana Shiba, MSIV

Mark Song, M.D.,'76

Timothy Takagi, M.D.,'86

Gerald Upcraft, M.D.,'86


Amerish Bera, M.D.
Assistant Dean, Admissions and Outreach

Patrick Browning, M.D., ’89

Tanya Lieber
Assistant Director,
Health Services Advancement

Bill McGowan
Associate Director and Chief Financial Officer, Financial Services Administration

Thomas Nesbitt, M.D., M.P.H., '79 Associate Dean, Outreach, GME, and CME

Claire Pomery, M.D., M.B.A. Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine

Ben A. Rich, JD, Ph.D.
Bioethics, UC Davis Medical Center

Michael Wilkes, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice Dean, Medical Education

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