Metro-based group improving lives in faraway lands

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LEAWOOD, Kan. -- Your doctor, nurse and other health professionals may not spend their vacations in a way you would ever imagine.  They're still caring for patients, only these patients are in Uganda or other faraway lands.  

A 34-year-old woman has a cleft lip, a deformity that's corrected in babies in the U.S.  But not in Uganda.  

"She would never have had this treated.  She was basically an outcast in her village.    And she needed to have it done.  She deserved it," said Dr. Jeff Dillow.

Dr. Dillow was there to do it. He's the same Dr. Dillow you'll normally find at his plastic surgery office in Leawood. But two weeks a year, he's in Uganda through the Medical Missions Foundation. The Lenexa-based group will have missions in six poor countries this year. The group takes along medical supplies but leaves behind sophisticated technology.

"And you just make do with what you have," said the plastic surgeon.

Dr. Dillow has gone to Uganda for five years. His whole family went last year. The work gets into the hearts of around 200 medical professionals and other volunteers from Kansas City each year.  Many pay their entire way.

Dr. Doug Hagen, who's gone for 14 years, says the memories and connections beat those of regular vacations.

" I talked to my daughter in London this morning.  She just moved to London.  She had coffee last week with one of our translators form Romania from 2006.   And that's how those connections continue," said Dr. Hagen, an anesthesiologist.

Dr. Dillow says there are no huge expressions of gratitude from Ugandans, stoic people who've endured so much torture and hardship. 

"They will simply sometimes just do a little eye nod and say thank you, and I know that deep down they're still understanding that we helped them and they're very grateful," he said.

Somewhere in Uganda, a woman now has a normal lip. And the doctor will be back. 

The Medical Missions Foundation provides scholarships to help some volunteers make the trips. The foundation's big fundraiser, "Art for the Children,"  is February 7th. For more on the foundation and the fundraiser, click here