Plastic Surgery Section Chief Dr. Aaron Mason treats cleft lip deformities in the Dominican Republic

Jan. 17, 2023

For more than two decades, Dr. Aaron Mason, Section Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Arizona, has been sharing his pediatric and surgical expertise with communities in need around the world.

This past year, he traveled to Barahona, Dominican Republic, to help patients with cleft lip deformities and additional health concerns including chronic wounds, lipomas, symptomatic keloids, lower extremity limb at risk, and vascular malformations of the cheek and lip.

He worked alongside 11 other colleagues including surgeons, anesthesiologists, certified nurse anesthetists, and nurses - all a part of the nonprofit that organizes the annual mission trips, West Virginia Interplast. From Oct. 14 through Oct. 22, the group saw around 35 patients for evaluation and treatment.

Cleft lip services aren't available to the general population of Barahona, Dr. Mason said. Around one in 700 babies are born with a cleft palate globally, and if left untreated, it can leave the child facing problems with feeding, growth development, ear infections, hearing, and most significantly, speech development.

2022 was the first year the group visited Barahona, a moderately sized city on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic that is known for its sugar production and mining. Dr. Mason said one of the goals of the trip was to establish Barahona as a new mission trip site and begin building relationships there. Previously, the group had volunteered in countries ranging from Haiti to Vietnam, which was Dr. Mason’s first location back in 1999 when he was studying at West Virginia University.

’They are a distinct reminder of the resources that we so take for granted in the United States,' Dr. Mason said. ’they are also a reminder that the human element transcends all borders; I get far more from the local populations than anything I give. They are truly appreciative and generous in amazing ways.'