AHEAD has been committed to improving health care and delivering opportunities for happiness to people in the gravest need in rural areas of Tanzania and the Gambia. This was the impetuous for initiating the AHEAD Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Program in collaboration with Project Change and the Comprehensive Community Based and Rehabilitation Hospital in Tanzania (CCBRT).
This initiative was the brainchild of AHEAD Board of Director, Dr. Deborah Tuzo, DDS, MPH, who in 2006, decided she wanted to bring more smiles to the children of Tanzania and their families.
A renowned orthodontic surgeon and public health expert, Dr. Tuzo developed a partnership between these three entities to establish this life enhancing program which identifies children and young adults in need a facial reconstructive surgery to correct the disfigurement caused by congenital cleft palates and cleft lips (as well as other structurally disfiguring and dental maladies). AHEAD recognizes that cleft palates and lips are a major problem in Tanzania. Children suffering from this problem face difficult lives; they are malnourished because they can not eat, they are at high risk for infection, and are often rejected, socially ostracized, and unable to find work.
With the surgical expertise of Project Change founder, Dr. Chris Johnson-Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Tuzo, and their team of professionals, and the staff at CCBRT, AHEAD has established a mechanism where the patients, their families and the AHEAD health professionals partner together to make this a seemless and successful surgical journey for all involved. Each patient and their families, identified by AHEAD medical personnel in need of this surgical intervention are sponsored and supported by AHEAD through the entire pre- and post-operative surgical process. Under this banner, these families, all from remote villages, are transported to Dar es Salam. Here they are educated and counseled about the surgery and the potential outcomes. All are housed and fed while the patient undergoes a through evaluation and optimization of medical issues before surgery.
An operative plan is secured, and then the patient undergoes this dramatic and life enhancing surgical intervention; all free of charge. Since its first successful surgery in 2007, the AHEAD Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Program has helped over 30 children in rural Tanzania to smile for the first time in their lives, by repairing their facial defects and helping to give them a lift toward a healthy existence. Dr. Tuzo notes “this partnership is an extraordinary experience, where by working together, we are able to witness firsthand, the dramatic improvements that our work accomplishes in the lives of these patients and their families!”