Meet plastic surgeon, Dr. Rocio Trujillo
Dr Rocio Trujillo of Ecuador has been volunteering with Operation Smile for more than 13 years and has changed children's lives on over 60 medical missions. Dedicated volunteers like Dr Trujillo help children all around the world with Operation Smile and contribute to strengthening the medical infrastructure of their home countries. Read on for a question and answer-style interview with Dr Trujillo.
What inspired you to volunteer with Operation Smile?
I started volunteering with Operation Smile soon after I opened my practice in my home country of Ecuador. In the beginning, I wanted to gain experience as well as acquire professional growth, and Operation Smile seemed like the best fit. I always felt a strong responsibility as a doctor and to find ways to give back and help not only communities or people with limited resources but society in general. I feel that if I have the ability or gift to help someone, why not? Shortly after beginning my work with Operation Smile, I realised the professional experience I was gaining was secondary to what I was learning from my patients. Their strength, courage and willingness to overcome the odds and went through life as best they could is truly amazing and worthy of admiration and respect.
Why do you do what you do? / Why do you feel the responsibility to take care of these children?
I do what I do, most importantly, because I love it, and it's my passion. It is part of who I am. I wouldn’t be who I am, nor would I feel personally and professionally fulfilled if I weren't in the field that I am in. I feel the responsibility to assist anyone needing help. It just so happens that because of my profession I perform surgeries, but I believe that the act of helping someone less fortunate than oneself goes beyond a professional responsibility. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of a University education, and I am privileged enough to be able to do something I love for a living. As a result, I feel as if it is only right that I do my part in making the future brighter for someone else. Most of these children face circumstances on a daily basis that most of us could not imagine in our lifetime. If I can give them a bit of happiness, I am more than grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Is there a particular moment or patient from a medical mission that will stay with you forever?
Yes! I will never forget my first medical mission in India. I was completely speechless when I saw the amount of people in need — children of all different ages and level of need waiting. It was like a sea of people and with all the odds against them, they were still grateful to be there. They were so happy that they were going to finally receive the help they needed that they didn’t complain about the wait. To all of them, that waiting period was filled with happiness and joy because deep down inside they knew that help was here, that they would finally have the care that they deserved.
If Operation Smile didn’t exist in your country/places you have worked, what would those patients do?
The majority would have to go through public health options, and the very few who would be lucky enough to be chosen could face problems and complications with improper surgeries being performed, lack of follow-ups to surgery and receive no integration with language therapy, for example.
How has volunteering with Operation Smile impacted you professionally and personally?
Operation Smile has provided me with invaluable professional and personal experiences. Sometimes I feel as if I am the one receiving a gift rather than the one giving it. It has shown me how we as humans, are so fragile yet are so capable of overcoming the odds with which we are faced. All we have to do is be strong, courageous and believe. If we can do all this, we can overcome anything! These children have taught me the meaning of being strong no matter what life throws at you.