When Smile Train started its operations in India, some hospitals were hesitant to commit to this cause due to limitations such as lack of space and adequate infrastructure. During that time, I used to run a 15-bed clinic and faced the same problem, but I had an enthusiastic team who was ready to take up this challenge. So, when we scaled up by setting up the 100 bed Ashwini Hospital in Cuttack, we partnered with Smile Train India to light up smiles on the faces of children born with clefts in our country. The first nine months of this partnership resulted in supporting 200 cleft surgeries, and since then, we haven’t looked back.
Initially, to spread the word that free cleft treatment is available at Ashwini Hospital, we made sure that we undertook every possible measure - right from making comfortable arrangements for parents and families of cleft patients at our hospital to every member of our staff pasting posters about free cleft surgeries in our locality. The response we received from our community was immense, and we started seeing more and more patients in need of a cleft treatment knocking at our doors. This encouraged us to go above and beyond our duty of supporting comprehensive cleft care, and our hospital started providing essential items such as school supplies and stationery to young children with clefts who sought treatment at our hospital.
Over the years, we also saw steady growth in the number of young surgeons who came to seek training under the guidance of our expert staff. My team took them under their wing and allowed these surgeons to operate under their care. By this time, Smile Train had set up the India Medical Advisory Council (IMAC), which played an invaluable role in setting up guidelines and best practices for cleft surgeries, apart from a robust accreditation programme for the surgeons undergoing training at Ashwini Hospital. Smile Train India also deployed a team of Program Managers to assist our team in every way possible. Soon, Smile Train India’s work started getting the recognition it deserved, and the rest is history.
This National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month marks the completion of 6000 successful cleft surgeries at Ashwini Hospital, and I am proud to say that this is the result of a symbiotic and efficient partnership between our dedicated staff and Smile Train’s hardworking team. In all the years of our mutually rewarding association, the values we cherish have always been centered around safety, quality and discipline. By ensuring that cleft patients are fit for surgery, conducting surgeries in the morning to implement adequate post-op monitoring by our surgical staff and following stringent safety & hygiene guidelines, we have made sure that we haven’t had a single adverse case so far; even during these times, when a pandemic is raging across the globe.
We are aware that these are unprecedented times, but it is a fact that we cannot refuse cleft treatment to those who need it. That is why we continue to screen, monitor and make sound judgement calls based on the expertise of our staff and Smile Train’s guidelines to keep going strong. I firmly believe that 6000 new smiles are just the beginning of many, many more milestones that we can achieve in the years to come!
As narrated by Dr. Subrat Jena, Plastic Surgeon and Chairman and Founder of Ashwini Hospitals, Cuttack, Odisha - a Smile Train partner hospital since 2007.