Doctor Michael Bezuhly has been a plastic surgeon in the IWK Health Centre’s Department of Surgery since 2012. Bezuhly was first introduced to the IWK during his plastic surgery residency training when he studied under Dr. Kenneth Wilson, former IWK Chief of Surgery. It was Wilson that encouraged Bezuhly to pursue further fellowship training in cleft care and craniofacial surgery. This training led Bezuhly back to his home city of Toronto, to study at SickKids, before making the move to Paris, France to learn pediatric craniofacial surgery from its country of origin.
This wouldn’t be the last time that Bezuhly’s work would take him far away. Since 2009, he has also been involved with Operation Smile Canada, a medical charity that provides free surgeries to children and young adults with cleft lip and palate or other facial differences. With five missions under his belt, Bezuhly says that it brings a brand new perspective to the purpose of his work and research.
“When you work with kids and families in an underdeveloped country for the first time, you realize how much we take for granted here,” says Bezuhly. “If it weren’t for organizations like Operation Smile, you realize that not only wouldn’t these patients be getting great cleft care, they wouldn’t be getting care at all.”
During a typical 10 day trip, the medical team operates on an average of 100 patients. “Over the course of a single mission, I operate on nearly as many kids as I would in one year here at the IWK.”
“The missions are a two-way street. You go there to provide high-level care to kids who otherwise wouldn’t get it, but then you also gain new perspectives from local and other international volunteer surgeons, anesthetists, pediatricians and nurses. We all learn from one another and, in the process, provide the best care possible.”
Bezuhly has now progressed involvement with Operation Smile into doing research on outcomes in older cleft palate patients who may not have had their cleft repaired as children. “Being able to do the research we’re doing is really neat because it could impact how Operation Smile and other organizations provide cleft care around the world.”
Being able to bring that research, knowledge, and collaboration back into the IWK is what Bezuhly says makes this place special. “There are very few places where you can see a patient with a very specific clinical problem in the hospital one minute and then walk across the street and try to find a solution to that problem in the research lab the next. While we may be smaller than other centres I’ve trained at, that smaller size can actually facilitate discovery and innovation.”
“At the end of the day, the opportunity to work with the people here is what I enjoy the most, the medical students, the residents, the administrative staff, the anesthetists, and the nurses in clinic and OR. There’s the sense that the kids always come first, and people will always go the extra mile to make sure the case gets done and the kids get the best care possible.”
“Sometimes we can get caught up complaining about the resources that we don’t have, but the big resource that we do have is great people, and that really is the strength of this place.”