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Wits students change lives

- By Wits University

Two children, who suffer from facial paralysis due to a condition called Moebius Syndrome, will undergo reconstructive surgery as a result of a fundraising initiative by Wits medical students.

 In 2014, a group of 17 medical students, part of the Wits Surgical Society, raised R600 000 by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and participating in the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge.

 This week, the fundraising efforts of a group of Wits Medical students, will assist specialists at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital to operate on the two children. The first operation took place yesterday and doctors expect to finish on Thursday, 17 July 2015. Facial paralysis is a severely debilitating condition with profound aesthetic, functional, psychological and developmental effects.

A number of surgical registrars from Wits and other national academic units will receive expert guidance from Professor George Psaras, the Medical Director and Co-Founder of the Smile Foundation, who is recognised as  one of only a handful of surgeons in the world skilled to perform this type of Facial Reanimation Surgery.

Stephanie van Straten, President of the Wits Students Surgical Society, says the funds advance the true call of medicine – changing and saving lives.

"The Smile Foundation has put our funds where it is needed most while investing in the future of medicine simultaneously. As the Wits Students Surgical Society, we  aim to make a sustainable difference to our future as doctors and change lives in the process.”

The Smile Foundation has been partnering with academic hospitals in South Africa for 15 years to assist underprivileged children with facial conditions, alleviating backlogs in the hospitals, encouraging skills transfer, and offering pre, during and post-psychological support and other auxiliary services as well as supporting the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital through the Departments of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

To date, over 1 500 children have benefited from surgeries across the country through the partnership with state academic hospitals.