Every year for the past ten years, double-board certified facial plastic surgeon, David Lieberman, MD, has traveled with The HUGS Foundation, Inc. to Guatemala and Vietnam to perform critical facial surgeries on children born with facial deformities. These surgeries come at no cost to patients who otherwise would not have access to this type of care.
Due to the global pandemic and travel restrictions, 2020 was the first year Dr. Lieberman was not able to travel with HUGS, so instead, he is hosting the west coast virtual gala, A Celebration of Smiles, on Feb. 5, 2021 from 4 – 4:30 p.m. on Instagram Live (@forthefacebayarea). He along Sachin Parikh, MD and L&P Aesthetics, hope to raise enough funds to make up for the lapse in surgical care for underserved communities. Barring any unforeseen circumstance both surgeons will travel to Guatemala in September to perform approximately 80 surgeries.
In a normal year, the HUGS Foundation will fund 5-6 medical missions to communities in Guatemala, Ecuador and Vietnam. The teams consist of world class facial plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses from around the U.S. who perform a total of about 250 pro-bono facial surgeries on children born with a cleft palate or microtia (without an external ear). In addition, these teams provide follow-up care for the children they operated on the year prior.
“The facial procedures we perform completely alter the life trajectories of these kids,” Dr. Lieberman said. “Even though we end up operating over 12 hours a day for a week, the work we do in Guatemala is an incredibly energizing experience that fills my battery for the whole year.”
HUGS executive director, Kim Palumbo, added, “The pandemic has sidelined our ability to travel, and we have lots of catching up to do! Simply put, there are many children waiting to get the surgeries they need to remain healthy. Those born with cleft lips are malnourished because they cannot eat and suck properly. So, we need to conduct additional missions later this year to meet the needs.”
This year fundraising efforts are critical. “A Celebration Of Smiles” held on Feb. 5th from 4 – 4:30 PST – will be hosted in Rochester, NY, where HUGS is based, and in Palo Alto, where Drs. Lieberman & Parikh are providing west coast representation for the foundation.
“As an organization, HUGS has been sending supplies to Guatemala to help the babies with cleft lips and palates (such as special feeding bottles),” said Palumbo. “But nothing can replace the surgeries that allow these kids to grow up normal and healthy so it is critical that we perform more surgeries this year.”
HUGS is now accepting private and corporate donations of any kind on their website, and invites anyone interested in the work of the foundation to tune into the Instagram Live Virtual Gala on Feb. 5th from 4 – 4:30 p.m. at @ForTheFaceBayArea