Go-Giver: Dr. Dean Glassman

Go-Giver: Dr. Dean Glassman

By Julie KernsGarmendia

SomeSan Marco residents already know that their neighbor, 52-year-old plasticsurgeon Dr. Dean Glassman, has been a medical missionary for years. However,not many people know the extent of his charitable work as a pediatricreconstructive surgeon on volunteer trips to Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines,Grenada or Brazil — and in Jacksonville with Solace for the Children, a groupproviding medical treatment for children from Afghanistan.

Glassman’swife Lisa accompanied him on early trips to Grenada, and now daughterGabriella, 20, has followed in his footsteps. Gabriella joined her father onhis two most recent trips in 2009 and 2011 to Brazil.

Glassman’sfirst volunteer experience was as a young resident plastic surgeon in 1986. Heagreed to go to the Philippines and operate on children with cleft palates.Later his friend Doug Campbell, founder of Jacksonville-based Children’s HealthOrganization Relief & Educational Services (CHORES), invited him to operatein Grenada. There he did some cleft palate surgeries and general surgery:repaired old burns, birth defects, congenital abnormalities and some correctiveeyelid surgeries. In 2003, one of Glassman’s patients volunteered him formedical mission work in Brazil.

“Istarted operating on children from Brazil when one of my patients volunteeredme, and eventually I ended up meeting John Mark Bellington, founder of TheMoses Project in Porto Velho, Brazil,” Glassman said. “The first child camehere to Jacksonville, an 11-year-old with cleft lip who I operated on atWolfson. The next year in 2004, she returned, and I operated on her palate.”

Hesaid his first trip to Brazil was in 2007 and he has returned every two yearssince then. Several local doctors, including Timothy Groover, Bruce Maddernalso have joined him.

PortoVelho, capital of the Brazilian state of Rondonia, with a population ofapproximately 460,000, is on the banks of the Madeira River in the upper AmazonBasin, about 100 miles from Bolivia. Most patients are native Amazon Indiansfrom many tribes and cultures, although in Porto Velho and at Camp MosesPortuguese is the most common language, according to the Glassmans.

Inthe U.S., children born with cleft palates undergo surgery between six monthsand one year of age, and lip surgeries are performed during the first year. Inpoor countries, even those with hospitals, there is rarely a surgeon trained inspecialized cleft surgeries. Although the Jacksonville physicians typically seechildren in Brazil, adult patients also have been treated. Glassman recalledone patient who was 37.

“it is much more difficult tooperate on adults, but that patient was all smiles after his successfulsurgery,” he said.

Glassman said his patients thererarely complain about their condition.

“Theyare simply grateful. In some cases they must travel to the states for surgery,but we can handle many operations there. Some procedures are re-doing surgeriesdone elsewhere,” he said. “They usually spend one night in the hospital andthen move to The Moses Project Camp outside of town where they recover.”

MissionaryJohn Mark Bellington started The Moses Project in 1996 after a medical missiontrip where along with the usual cuts, coughs and worms, a distraught motherbrought her 3-year-old son named Moses who suffered from a rare condition -rectal atresia. The protrusion of his herniated intestines from his body set inmotion a plan for immediate, life-saving medical evacuation to the U.S. fortreatment, and The Moses Project was born. The project raises funds for medicalexpenses, assembles the medical teams, and completes legal paperwork. They alsomanage follow-up care for the patients; children from the poorest communities,where lack of running water and dirt floors are the norm.

“AtThe Moses Project Camp the patients are prepped for their surgeries and alsoreceive after-care. There is a final check-up before we leave, stitches areremoved and instructions left for any follow-up care by plastic or generalsurgeons,” Dr. Glassman said. “It’s always hard to leave. My daughterGabriella, now pre-med at the University of Florida, has a heart of gold andshe bonded with all the children we saw. On the last trip we also visited anorphanage and I had to drag her out of there. She didn’t want to leave.”

Gabriellais following in her father’s footsteps in more ways than one. On the missiontrips she volunteered as surgical assistant and helped wherever needed. Afterher first trip she started a club at Bolles to raise funds for The MosesProject and that has been just one of her many volunteer activities.

“Ihave been a volunteer at Shands Hospital-University of Florida assisting thenurses in recovery, and now I am a volunteer at Shands Children’s Hospitalhelping the pediatric immuno-compromised patients,” she said. I do have a softspot for surgery after watching what my dad has been able to do for so many. Ialso do alot of charity work through my sorority, Kappa Delta, which supportsthe Gainesville Child Advocacy Center and the local Girl Scout troop.”

Gabriellais also a volunteer at Sidney Lanier School in Gainesville; a school forchildren with disabilities. There she helps them to complete physicalexercises, participate in creative and social activities, including sports.

“Iwant to keep going back to volunteer in Brazil and I am looking for a missiontrip for this summer. Outside of school, I don’t have much free time, but I didplay volleyball in high school and still try to play intramurals, indoor andsand volleyball for fun,” she said.

TheGlassman family, Dean, Lisa, daughters Sienna and Gabriella and sons Julian andJacob have lived in San Marco 15 years, since moving closer to Baptist MedicalCenter and the water. Dea, who originally studied architecture, makes time fora regular sculpture class, working out and basketball. Despite his busyschedule and Gabriella’s college workload, both say they are already planningtheir return trip to The Moses Project in Brazil. The disfigured children ofthe Amazon have captured their hearts.

““Ibegan this volunteer work because I just wanted to help and do whatever Icould, and I hope to continue going back as long as I can,” Dr. Glassman said.

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