During the one week mission, the group of doctors perform reconstructive surgery on patients.
Wilton resident Dr. Mark Melendez, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon is preparing for a medical mission to Hanoi, Vietnam.Melendez will travel to Vietnam along with a team of surgeons and nurses as part of the Reconstructive International Cooperative Exchange program to provide free surgical procedures to adults and children. The mission lasts a week from March 7-14. R.I.C.E. was founded in 2005 by Dr. Joseph Rosen, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and an adjunct professor of engineering at Dartmouth College.
During the mission, the program hosts a clinic where they see between 100 to 200 patients and identify 20-30 of those patients that they can fit in for surgical procedures in a one week period. Procedures include surgery of the head/neck, breast and body, such as nasal and ear reconstruction, removal of tumors, cancer surgery, and facial reanimation.
Melendez, who will be participating in the mission for the third year calls the experience extremely rewarding, calling two aspects of the mission particularly so.
“The first is that we are entrusted by patients we have never met before,” Melendez said. “The second is the experience with Vietnamese surgeons where we exchange knowledge about surgical procedures.”
Melendez has previously taken part in medical missions to Ecuador and also volunteers his surgical services at the St. Raphael’s Plastic Surgery Clinic in New Haven, which is run by Yale-New Haven Plastic Surgery Residents.
“Last year we performed a surgery on a young girl who had a tumor that caused paralysis to the left side of her face,” Melendez said talking about his last mission to Vietnam. “We were able to perform facial reanimation and she was able to have expressions on the left side of her face and for a young girl to have that growing up is remarkable.”
Wherever it is, Melendez says his volunteer work is an integral part of his practice and he plans on doing it for the rest of his career.
He resides in Wilton with his wife, Dr. Renee Baranin- Melendez, an emergency room physician at Greenwich Hospital and their son Mark Richard.
Pictured above: Dr. Melendez on the far right, third from left, Dr. Rosen, founder of RICE, and pictured on the far left is Dr. Jonathan Zelken.
Second Photo: Dr. Mark Melendez (left) and Dr. Jonathan Zelken operating during last year’s RICE medical mission to Vietnam.