March 17, 2017
Bayville plastic surgeon puts a new face on charity
Dr. Edwin Moreano can clearly remember when he returned to Ecuador for his first medical mission trip. He had just finished his surgical training, and was anxious to go back to help people in the country where he was born.
His first patient, a man in his late 60s, had a cleft lip from birth. “This man had never felt the sensation of a kiss in his life,” Moreano said, shaking his head. “Within an hour, he had a normal-looking lip, and all our nurses lined up to give him a kiss.”
Moreano, a plastic surgeon, has traveled to a number of Latin American countries since 1999 to offer his services free of charge to indigenous people. He doesn’t do tummy tucks or facelifts, but instead provides reconstructive facial surgery to people who live in poverty. Every year, he and his family, along with many volunteers, head to South America on what is known as the Moreano World Medical Mission.
Moreano, who came to the U.S. when he was 9, first thought about helping those less fortunate when he began his training in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. “I remember, while visiting my family in Ecuador, seeing kids and adults with deformities that I didn’t see in the U.S.,” he said. “In the United States, babies as early as 10 weeks old can get plastic surgery for common facial deformities like a cleft lip.”
Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly. The surgery required to fix a cleft is straightforward, however, and Moreano was surprised that it was not available to children in countries across South America.
“It was a shock to me how people [with a deformity] were pretty much abandoned,” he recalled. “[They are] ostracized by their families, left alone, and usually don’t marry.”
Over the years, the medical mission trips have grown. Moreano has recruited colleagues and friends to come along. Volunteers, almost all from Long Island, include surgeons, anesthesiologists, and medical and surgical technicians.