Giving New Lives

Children in Kenya can now lead normal lives, free of suffering and discrimination, thanks to Metro Detroit doctor Charles M. Boyd, a leading facial surgeon in the United States, who has just returned from his annual trip to Kenya where he performed seventy-five surgeries over nine days on children, and some adults, to correct disfiguring cleft lips and palates.

In addition to correcting the disfigurement and increasing the child’s confidence, it can also improve speech problems and make it easier for the child to eat, ensuring they get the nourishment they need. The dramatically different cultures in that part of the world mean that, in some villages, a disfigurement like a cleft lip can also be a significant stigma, viewed as bad luck and, therefore, a source of discrimination. A skilled surgeon can correct a cleft lip in just forty-five minutes and a cleft palate in around three hours, changing a child’s life forever. This year’s trip is Dr. Boyd’s twelfth, having begun in 2001 while he was on staff at the University of Michigan. After that first trip, Dr. Boyd realized the impact his skills could make on lives, he quickly became active in the effort, serving for several years on the board of directors of Bethany Kids, an organization devoted on connecting doctors with African children they can help.

Through his many visits, Dr. Boyd has helped children throughout East Africa – predominantly Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda – as well as at a UN refugee camp in northern Kenya on the border with Somalia.

The organisation World Medical Mission helps Dr. Boyd and other doctors by coordinating travel, securing medical licenses and other support. Two or three teams travel every year, performing up to 120 surgeries over nine days. While cleft surgeries are the primary objective, Dr. Boyd has joined doctors in undertaking other types of surgeries for conditions such as neurofibroma of the eyelid (a nerve disorder), cancer surgeries, burns and Noma (an infection that disfigures the face).

Dr. Boyd and the other doctors fund their own trips and provide surgical kits, medication, and antibiotics. Smile Train provides additional support. Dr. Boyd has also contributed to construction of a house for the doctors and volunteers – a team of between 12 and 25 at any one time – to use as a home base while providing care.

Dr. Boyd has seen his surgical skills bring such profound changes to people’s lives that he has made such outcomes a cornerstone of his own brand. These surgeries, results, and rewards touch on all of the four Boyd brand values: beauty, optimism, youth and dignity. They are values Dr. Boyd works by, whether in Kenya or back at the office in Michigan. This philosophy extends through his family, as well — his two eldest daughters have joined him as volunteers in Kenya.

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From Dr. Boyd

“The time I spend in Kenya and the work I do there is some of the most satisfying surgery I do every year. It is when I feel most like I can share my work, gifts and talents with someone who desperately needs it. The reaction of parents who see their child after the surgery — realizing their child can now live a happy, normal life — is an emotional moment every time. These trips always make me more appreciative of what I have back home.”