Chester Surgeon Makes'em Smile on Mission to India - Weinstein Plastic Surgery Center

Chester Surgeon Makes’em Smile on Mission to India


Daily Record

This article was published today in the Daily Record and can be viewed in its original format on the Daily Record website.

Written by Cara Townsend, Staff Writer

MORRISTOWN — Every year more than 35,000 Indian children are born with clefts — a gap in the upper lip or palate — that dramatically affect their quality of life.

Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft charity, reports that without corrective surgery, children are ostracized from their communities and often cannot attend school, hold a regular job or marry.

Though clefts present some of the more serious cases, thousands of Indian children also suffer from a host of congenital abnormalities caused by genetic problems, environmental issues or lack of proper nutrition during pregnancy.

For 18 years surgeon Larry Weinstein of Chester has traveled to India once a year for a week to fix bilateral and unilateral clefts, open eyelids, mend deformed ears and smooth scars and burns.

In January, the former Morristown Medical Center chief of plastic surgery traveled to Pune, the second largest metropolis in the state of Mahrashtra after Mumbai, where he worked with medical professionals at Sancheti Hospital.

“When we got to the hospital we thought there would be 50 to 100 patients waiting for us,” Weinstein said. “There were 500 people. We were astounded.”

The prevalence of clefts is due to many factors, Weinstein has learned.

The Indian medical system does not make the prevention and treatment of clefts a priority, he says. And surgeons fear correcting larger clefts due to lack of experience.

Iron deficiency, anemia and infections put women at a higher risk of having a child with a facial defect.

Close bloodlines from the restrictive caste system also contribute, Weinstein says.

The number of children born in the U.S. each year with a cleft palate is about 4,400, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Corrective surgery can be life-transforming.

“For a young lady in Indian society, this can mean the difference between getting married and living in destitution,” Weinstein said. “For a young man, it could mean the ability to get a job. If you correct it young enough, it sets the child on a different path.”

Weinstein and his team conducted 220 surgeries over four days.

“It was an amazing thing. Our patients were very reverent,” he said. “Adults and children alike were so thankful.”

Weinstein was joined by Dr. Barry Citron of Livingston, Courtney Enman, a registered nurse from Long Valley and Morristown native and registered nurse Amanda Hayes.

Hayes, a graduate of the Academy of St. Elizabeth and Seton Hall University, says she put her nursing training to good use in India. “I had never been out of the country before but I have wanted to join Dr. Weinstein for years,” she said. “It was life-changing.”

Hayes says she learned a lot about operating room procedures, techniques and processes. “The hospitals there are drastically different. The

doctors are not always afforded the latest equipment or resources. I realized how fortunate I am,” she said.

Hayes helped treat up to 80 people each day.

“We worked with newborns to elderly,” she said. “I also saw an enormous amount of scars and burns on faces. I was blown away. We just don’t see that here.”

Though taxing, the experience was rewarding, Hayes said. “It was a wonderful experience helping people,” she said. “I feel called to go back there every year. I feel I have been so blessed in my life and I want to give back.”

Weinstein’s work is inspired by the late Sharad Kumar Dicksheet, a Nobel Prize nominee, friend and fellow plastic surgeon known for his efforts to repair cleft lips and palates and other facial deformities. He passed away in November at the age of 80.

Dr. Dicksheet was a real humanitarian hero, Weinstein said. Though an accident left him confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, he performed thousands of free surgeries in India throughout the course of his life.

“Though he could not join this year’s medical trip, his memory will live on in the work we do each year in India,” Weinstein said.

Request A Consultation

  • * Required field

Request a Consultation Specials & Promotions Patient Financing Patient Testimonials Newsletter Signup Form Charity Work
Weinstein Plastic Surgery
Top Doctor 2019 Award | Presented by NJ Top Docs


Member of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery American Society of Plastic Surgeons Fellow of the American College of Surgeons How to find the best doctors

Office Hours

Monday: 9am-6:30pm
Thursday: 9am-5:30pm
To make an appointment 9-5 everyday.

Please email us for an appointment 24/7 or call our office and leave a message for our staff that will be returned the next business day.

Phone: 908-879-2222

Holiday Hours
Closed: Labor Day
Closed: Memorial Day