Annual Medical Team

Volunteer plastic surgeons perform reconstructive plastic surgical procedures on burned children, at the Pediatric Burn Center of the Viedma Hospital in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Dr. Carlos A. Vargas was born in Bolivia. Two years after graduating from Medical School in La Paz, Bolivia, moved with his family to USA. After retiring from private practice he joined the North Carolina-Cochabamba Partners of the Americas chapter.  He is a Past President and currently chairman of the Health Subcommittee and member of the board for over 10 years.

For the last 8 years, from 2006 to 2013, Dr. Vargas organized annual visits of teams of volunteer plastic surgeons to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to perform reconstructive surgeries on children of indigent families, victims of previous burn injuries.

The preparations start 4 months before the visits, with advice to the medical team members about requirements for travel visas, collecting credentials from each member to be presented to the Medical College of Cochabamba, following the procedure for authorization by the Bolivian Consulate in Washington of the donations of surgical items needed for the surgeries, obtained by Wake forest University, flight and hotel reservations, pre-selection of patients from photographs sent by the Burn Center and almost daily communication with the Cochabamba volunteers to complete the preparations in Cochabamba.

The number of plastic surgeons members of the team, increased from one surgeon in 2006 to six surgeons in 2013.  They are surgeons from the Department of Plastic Surgery of the Medical School at Wake Forest University and other plastic surgeons in private practice in North Carolina.

Dr. Malcolm Marks is the Chairman of the Department of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery of the Medical School at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, N.C.; Dr. Joseph Molnar is Associate Professor and Director of the Burn Unit at the same institution.  Dr. Todd Stoeckel is a graduate from the same program and now in private practice in Cary, N.C. Dr. Benson Timmons is a Plastic surgeon in private practice in Gastonia, N.C.

They work in close collaboration with Dr. Oscar Romero, Director of the Pediatric Burn Center of Hospital Viedma in Cochabamba and the center staff.

Dr. Jimmy Montaño and the volunteers of the Cochabamba Partners make the arrangements for the success of the team visits.

On the first day of the week the visiting surgeons present donations of surgical material to the Center Director. These donations are obtained thanks to the efforts of the staff of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the Medical School at Wake Forest University.

The preselected patients are then presented to the surgeons and a schedule for the week surgeries is prepared. Surgeries are performed from Monday to Friday from 8:a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

In the eight years of the team visits, the surgeons performed a total of 820 surgical procedures.

The reconstructive surgeries performed by the highly specialized surgeons change the lives of the children--victims of previous burn injuries--and the lives of their families who would not be able to afford the cost of the type of surgeries performed by the team surgeons.

The program will continue in the future, secured by enthusiasm of the visiting surgeons, the staff of the Pediatric Burn Center, the local physicians and the volunteers of the Cochabamba Partners that consider the annual team visit to be their stellar annual project. 

Dr. Vargas also helps with the organization of  Annual International Seminars where he also serves as a translator. These are 3 evening seminars attended by local physicians, residents and medical students. The success of these seminars is the result of the close collaboration between the Cochabamba Partners, the Medical School of the San Simon University and the Pediatric Burn Center staff.

The ninth team visit is scheduled for March 24-27, 2014 with 5 plastic surgeons and 4 surgeons specialized in laparoscopic-endoscopic surgery.

Dr. Vargas was asked to calculate the cost of these surgical procedures if they were performed here in America.

In USA, the approximate cost of plastic surgeries is between is $3,000, for the more simple procedures, to $12.000 and more for the more complicated surgeries.

RECONSTRUCTIVE PLASTIC SURGERIES ON CHILDREN

VICTIMS OF PREVIOUS BURN INJURIES

2006: 1 surgeon,    37 surgeries

2007: 2 surgeons,  56 surgeries

2008: 3 surgeons,  97 surgeries

2009: 5 surgeons, 109 surgeries

2010: 5 surgeons. 174 surgeries

2011: 4 surgeons, 132 surgeries

2012: 5 surgeons, 115 surgeries

2013: 6 surgeons, 100 surgeries

Total in eight years: 820 surgical procedures