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Smile doctors hold fundraiser

By Jeff Hansel

jhansel@postbulletin.com

A local physician plans a fundraiser this weekend for the Minneapolis-based humanitarian organization called Smile Network International.

The organization arranges international mission trips for reconstructive surgery of childhood facial deformities.

Dr. Srdan Babovic, an Olmsted Medical Center plastic surgeon, said he became motivated to take action after he; his nurse, Donna Hochberger; and his wife, Mayo Clinic geneticist Dr. Dusica Babovic, went to Peru with Smile Network earlier this year.

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The organization offers free reconstructive surgery for children whose families are unable to afford medical care. The team of Rochester health providers who went to Peru earlier this year evaluated 200 children and performed 126 surgeries in five days to correct birth defects such as cleft palate.

The children in Peru who were served live in remote areas, he said.

"We actually operate on people from the jungle. About two-thirds of the people will travel 24 hours through the jungle (and) on the bus to see us," Babovic said. When they arrive, families often have lost track of what day it is and will eat any food offered, because they were unable to bring enough or did not have enough for the journey.

The $500 per child average cost of surgery, inexpensive by U.S. standards, is beyond the means of families served, Babovic said.

For volunteers, "it's very fulfilling."

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