January 28, 2005
Alumna Offers Plastic Surgery
for the Needy Worldwide
When Dr. Kristin Stueber
'65 graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine
in 1969, she chose the field of plastic surgery in part because
of its breadth -- "It's not limited to one part of the body or
one age group," she explained. Stueber is director of Baystate
Plastic Surgery in Springfield, Massachusetts, and her practice
involves reconstructive as well as cosmetic surgery. In 1986,
she broadened the scope of her work by joining forces with Interplast,
a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer plastic surgery
services to disfigured children in developing countries all over
Interplast sends teams
of plastic surgeons, pediatricians, anesthesiologists, and nurses
from the United States and Canada to work with medical professionals
in developing nations to provide free reconstructive surgery to
children with birth defects, burns, and other devastating injuries.
Interplast workers also provide education to host country medical
professionals to promote medical self-sufficiency.
Most recently, Stueber
traveled to Puno, Peru, where she worked with a medical team correcting
cleft lips, cleft palates, and other disfiguring problems. Dr.
Stueber participated in more than 60 surgeries over the two-week
span, all of which were performed in a small Peruvian hospital.
"I find these trips to be interesting on a clinical level because
I am able to take part in the care of children with problems we
only rarely see in the U.S.," Stueber said. "Many of the patients
are only presenting to us at an age well beyond when they would
have been treated here in the U.S."
Working in a "less
sophisticated medical environment" is also challenging, said Stueber.
"You meet a bunch of people at the airport, and you're expected
to be a finely tuned machine. And with the limited tools and technology,
you must think on your feet and be flexible and adaptable with
the resources available to you," she said.
According to Stueber,
local medical professionals made every effort to attend educational
workshops and seminars provided by Interplast team members, so
they could improve upon the medical care currently available.
work around the world has been curtailed by terrorist activities,
which make travel too dangerous. "Politics is an issue," Stueber
said. Nepal -- Stueber's favorite of all the places she's been
-- has been put off limits because of Maoist activities there,
and a trip to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 was canceled when
the U.S. invaded that country.
Stueber hopes to go
to China and Mongolia in the future. While returning to places
where she knows the people and their problems has certain advantages,
she enjoys going where she's never been before. "This is a wonderful
opportunity to go and take care of people who would not get care
otherwise, to educate other medical professionals, and to immerse
ourselves in other cultures," Stueber said. "This was my first
trip to Peru, but I have been to Vietnam twice and Nepal more
than eight times. Each trip to me is rewarding as a physician,
but more so as a caring human being."