School of Medicine
Zuhaib Ibrahim, M.D.
Chief Resident, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Personal Narrative: Paul Lietman Global Health Travel Award 2016
Site: Children Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan
I grew up in Lahore, Pakistan and have lived here till my graduation from high school (2002). As a medical student, almost 9 years ago, I volunteered in this very department and saw so many children with birth defects whose lives were transformed by Plastic surgery. This is where I developed my interest and passion for Plastic Surgery. Almost 9 years later, during the last year of my training as a Plastic surgeon, I had the privilege and opportunity to participate in the care of dozens of children with birth defects at the same hospital.
I had so many compelling stories; almost every day was a gratifying experience. We saw children with cleft lip and palate, hand deformities, trauma and burns. While average wait time for non-emergent surgery in this hospital is 4 years (primarily due to limitation of resources and workforce) but the care provided is free of cost and the emergencies for example acute burns were treated immediately. In addition, with the generous support of surgical and anesthesia supplies from Smile Train New York, the department was able to reduce the wait time for cleft lip and palate to less than a week.
My typical week consisted of 2 clinics and 3 operating room days along with 1 research day. We had one consultant, one junior faculty and two resident in addition to myself. The consultant had received training by eminent Plastic Surgeons in the UK. In the clinic, on average, we saw 100 patients per day and we operated on 20-25 patients per week. In the beginning, I was operating under direct supervision of the consultant. By week 2, the consultant was confident enough to let me operate by myself and I would supervise junior residents while he was immediately available next door. It was one of the most valuable experiences I had in my residency so far, especially when I am transitioning to independent practice next year. It also added to the efficiency of hospital and we were able to take care of more patients than usual.
There were so many instances where I truly felt that I had made a difference in someone’s life. One night I was called by the junior faculty to help him with a 6-year-old bay that accidentally put his hand in an agricultural cutter, we were able to re-plant his hand successfully. This would not have been possible without my 3 years of experience in hand transplant team at Hopkins. While I learnt tremendously from their vast experience in the management of cleft lip (the center has performed over 10,000 such procedures), I also introduced or provided additional skills in some innovative surgical techniques. For example, I performed the first pediatric micro-surgical free tissue transfer in the city and also performed the first reconstructive fat grafting procedure for the hospital.
We have continued our collaboration; Dr. Rao (a faculty from Children Hospital, Lahore) is invited to Johns Hopkins to observe pediatric plastic surgery for 4 weeks next year. I would also like to thank Smile Train New York for providing surgical and anesthesia supplies for over 9000 patients in the last 10 years including many of the surgeries I performed there. Last but not the least, this would not have been possible without the Paul Lietman global health travel grant.