Wee Leon Lam is set to fly out to the south-east Asian country in May to perform vital reconstructive surgery and share his expertise with local doctors at the Children’s Surgical Centre in Phnom Penh as part of work by new charity The British Foundation for International Reconstructive Surgery and Training (BFirst).
Patients needing his help include children with congenital defects – such as being born without ears – and youngsters who have lost the use of their hands after suffering severe burns where the scar tissue has enveloped their fingers.
Mr Lam, who works at the Sick Kids hospital and St John’s Hospital in Livingston, will also treat people who have suffered terrible injuries in moped accidents, meaning they cannot provide for their families or carry out basic everyday tasks.
These deformities and traumatic injuries can result in social exclusion, poverty and destitution, according to the charity.
Mr Lam, who is also a clinical senior lecturer at Edinburgh University, said: “Although many surgeons in these countries are experienced in dealing with many of their indigenous conditions and injuries, they still lack exposure to or experience with some of the more serious conditions, or the latest surgical techniques in reconstructive surgery which may produce more optimal outcomes.
“As a result, some injuries that would be treated on the NHS here in the UK often go untreated or are treated sub-optimally, meaning that patients have been left seriously disabled, unable to work, and shunned by their communities.
“Children with more complex congenital deformities may not obtain surgical treatment and so can feel excluded from activities with their peers, lacking self-confidence as a result.”
Consultants from the UK, including Mr Lam, are leading the charity’s plans to twin each of the 60 plastic surgery units in the UK with one in the developing world.
It is hoped this will allow British surgeons to gain valuable experience abroad and also bring doctors from the developing world to Britain for further training.
In three trips to Cambodia alone, BFirst surgeons working alongside local doctors treated more than 45 hand surgery cases including burns and trauma, congenital deformities, tumours and snake bites.
Barbara Jemec, chairwoman of BFirst, said: “BFirst’s mission is to release some of the world’s most vulnerable adults and children from the poverty, destitution and marginalisation caused by deformity, disability and disfigurement.
“We are incredibly proud to being on the road to achieving this with the official launch of our charity.”
To make a donation to support BFirst, visit www.mydonate.bt.com/charities/bfirst.