FULTON COUNTY, Ga. – In Coban, Guatemala, Dr. Mike Majmundar, stood in a breezeless surgical room. The one fluorescent light hung above as he listened to the story of a 22-year-old woman who lived in a shack on the outskirts of her father’s farm.
Her cleft lip had made her a social pariah since birth.
“Her father brought her in and said, ‘I just want to give her the chance to get married,’” Majmundar said. “It took about an hour-and-a-half, and then we basically changed her life. It was a very, very satisfying surgery. Now she can assimilate in society.”
Majmundar worked through Flying Doctors of America, a medical missions program. Their tagline is “helping the poorest of the poor,” and Flying Doctors sends out teams to about anywhere in the world. Majmundar plans to return to Guatemala at the end of May. This time, his team will go to Antigua and Tikal.
Northside Facial Cosmetic Surgery, Majmundar’s private practice, has three campuses in Atlanta, Roswell and Cumming. The practice focuses on facial reconstruction.
Majmundar began medical school training in Albuquerque, N.M., because he wanted to work with Native Americans. Due to poor diets and lack of medical care, cleft lips and palates are more common in Native American communities, said Majmundar.
Folic acid deficiency causes cleft lips and palates. In the U.S., there is pre-natal care and vitamins with folic acid in them. In addition, most breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid. Most cleft lip and palate surgeries take about an hour, said Majmundar.
“I originally went into plastic surgery because I wanted to work with cleft lips and palates,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s not a huge cleft lip population here. But I still wanted to do it and provide my services to people who have those deformities. One way I found to do that is to go overseas. It’s not uncommon to see cleft lips and palates in poorer and rural areas.”
While in Guatemala last year, Majmundar and his team performed 24 surgeries in five days. The sobering fact is that they had to turn down about three times as many surgeries as they did. One 3-month-old with a cleft lip came on Majmundar’s last day in Coban.
The family had driven six hours for possible surgery. Unfortunately, after the blood work, it was determined the little girl had a bleeding disorder that prevented surgery.
“The parents were devastated,” Majmundar said. “I still carry her picture in my phone just as a reminder that there are so many people who need help.”
He plans to start a foundation for cleft lip and palate awareness and how to combat it. The foundation would provide folic acid to women at childbearing ages in rural and poor areas.
“The best way to increase awareness is to create a private organization,” Majmundar said. “It’s been a vision of mine, and I’m hoping it will be in place by this time next year.”
Visit www.northsideplasticsurgery.com for more information on Majmundar’s practice.
Visit www.fdoamerica.org for more information about Flying Doctors and the trip to Guatemala.
This article was published in the Johns Creek Herald April 18, 2013 edition