Glendale Cosmetic Surgeon Uses Skills For Humanitarian Purposes

by Jeffrey Javier – Sept. 3, 2008 07:00 AM The Arizona Republic

As a cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Paul Angelchik does everything from tummy tucks to face lifts. As a humanitarian, the Glendale-based doctor saves lives and gives hope to poor people in developing countries.

Angelchik has treated cleft lip and palate birth defects in about 180 children and adults through Rotaplast International, a non-profit organization that provides free reconstructive surgery worldwide.

Children who are born with cleft lip or cleft palate are often ostracized from society and susceptible to respiratory problems, as well as hearing, speech and dental loss.

In October, Angelchik is leaving for his seventh mission with Rotaplast, this time to Chengde, China. He will join a team of medical professionals who will be working in a region about 100 miles from Beijing.

“The main thing is providing a service to somebody who otherwise isn’t going to get that treatment because it’s not available,” Angelchik said. “In a lot of these countries there’s not enough money to go around.”

Doctors who participate in these missions typically treat 30 patients in five to six days, Angelchik said.

His first experience providing free cleft lip and palate surgery was in 1993, with a medical team from the University of Virginia in India. He joined Rotaplast in 1999 and has traveled to countries such as Argentina, Peru and Guatemala.

Angelchik said one of the most memorable experiences participating in missions is seeing how older people with deformities regain a sense of confidence after they are treated. He recalled a patient who had no social life because of his cleft lip.

“After his surgery he disappeared and wasn’t available for follow-up, and he came back at the end of the week,” Angelchik recalled. “We asked him, ‘Where were you?’ And he had never been on a date, so after he got his lip fixed he went on a date.”

Angelchik said participating in the Rotaplast missions allows him to help people and be a doctor.

“In our society, insurance companies and the government have made it increasingly bureaucratic to deliver health care here,” Angelchik said. “These trips are an opportunity to be a physician where it’s a little less complicated, and the people are really appreciative to have you there.”

Dr. Alan Andacht, a Phoenix-based anesthesiologist, is also participating in the two-week mission.