About the Project
For unknown reasons Laos and Vietnam have a high incidence of children born with a cleft lip, jaw and palate disorder. This is a most unfortunate disorder that prevents these people of normal speech; breathing and eating and not to forget the facial deformity that often condemns them to be social outcasts. Except for this deformity cleft lip and cleft palate patients are completely normal. Sufficient knowledge to operate these patients is missing in Laos.
As a guest of the Vietnamese Dental Association and the Academy of Dentistry International Dr. J.R.D.Backer met in 1994 with Prof. Lam Ngoc An, Director of the Maxillofacial Institute in Ho Chi Minh City. Half a year later Dr. Backer introduced the ‘sharing of knowledge’ idea to the KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) in the form of an entry in the KLM world wide competition and won a mayor price giving him the opportunity to visit Vietnam again with a small team of Dutch surgical specialists to start a working relationship with the Institute. This prize gave the group also the financial means to introduce a group of Vietnamese surgeons, young specialists, nursing staff and operation assistants to the Netherlands and establish a formal working relationship between the Medical Faculty of Ho Chi Minh City and the University of Amsterdam. The “Bridge the Gap Foundation” was born.
After ten years of work there are clear signs that, except for the most complicated cases, Vietnam has enough skills to solve its own problems and therefore we wanted to expand our much needed help to Laos and visited Vientiane, the capital.
The instruction and training of Lao surgeons in the operation technique of cleft palate operations is the first and most important goal of the Foundation. The Foundation also assists the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Health Sciences of Lao PDR in Vientiane in the organization of a children department, a preventive care department and scientific outlines of monitor surveys. It is still quite fashionable for surgical teams to go to a country and operate children and then leave: the so called “hit and run” schemes. The Foundation however aims at the introduction of a multi disciplinary care system for these patients (surgical operations, preventive dental care, restorative dental care, orthodontic treatment and speech training) like we have it in this part of the world and diligently works with our Vietnamese and Lao colleagues to succeed in this ideal. In the year 2007 the Foundation made a contract and protocol with the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Health Sciences of Lao PDR in Vientiane to secure these treatments to children.
The Foundation also assists in providing new and modern medical and dental equipment to the hospital and the Faculty of Dentistry. To instruct our Lao colleagues we need patients and there are plenty of them in Laos. During our training sessions in Lao PDR we work in Vientiane and also visit far away provinces (taking with us surgeons, assistants and all the medical equipment that we may need) to operate those children that can not possibly come to Vientiane. Over the last ten (10) years we operated more than 800 patients and trained some young very well qualified Lao surgeons in this technique.
The Dutch team consists of 2-3 plastic surgeons, 2-3 maxillofacial surgeons, one anesthetist and 2 dentists and they spend every year (during their vacation) two weeks of training in Lao PDR. We hope to sign a new agreement with the University hospital Mahosot, with the approval of the Lao Government to start working together after 2016. The funding of this project is entirely done by the members of the group by means of lectures and fundraising projects supported by private foundations, service clubs, private donations and help of medical companies. The Foundation has a simple organization, a clear view of its aims and has no political, religious, racial or whatever motives.
It is the professional interest in the exchange of knowledge with our Lao colleagues and the cooperation for the benefit of the underprivileged Lao people that drives us.
Dr. J.H. Schotte secretary
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