25 Missions, 25 Countries: Tom Huntsman, MD, On Life-Changing Mission Work

Bassett Medical Center

May 9, 2017

Since 1993 and nearly every year since, Tom Huntsman, MD, division chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Bassett Medical Center, has traveled around theTom Huntsman holding tiny patient cleft lipRESIZED.jpg globe performing life-changing surgeries and procedures on impoverished children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have access to care. Through the Resurge (formerly known as Interplast) and Medical Missions for Children organizations, he has undertaken 25 mission trips to as many countries, from Vietnam to Russia to Mozambique, often in very remote areas, to serve others who are less fortunate. Huntsman is very passionate about this work and he is also humbled by it.

Huntsman took a few minutes for a Q&A:

Q: What inspires you to do mission work?
A: The same reason I went into medicine—a desire to help people. There is the element of obligation to help those who can’t help themselves. This works allows me to experience cases that I’ve only seen in medical textbooks and to work alongside fabulous, impressive people all over the world who are also motivated to help others. Mission work allows me to teach and show surgeons and others how to do procedures that they’ve only read about. There is also the novelty of the experience and being able to travel to parts of the world rarely seen.

Q:  What types of surgeries do you most often perform?
A:  My work usually falls in one of three categories: trauma or congenital disorders, such as cleft lip/cleft palate; burn sequelae, such as contractures, from untreated burns; other trauma and tumors.

Q:  What has been your most memorable patient interaction?tom in Philippines cutting boy\'s bandageRESIZED.jpg
A: There was a young girl I met in the Philippines. She had a very complicated and severe facial cleft, which had left her with only one eye. But she was a study of all positive things. She was very outgoing and was first in her class in school in school.  And rather than hiding, she exemplified how one can deal with the world, and when she smiled, she smiled from her soul, which showed her inner beauty. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.

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