Families in Dominican Republic eagerly await annual visit from KC doctors to treat facial deformities

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A medical team from Kansas City just returned from the Dominican Republic. Medical Aid for Children of Latin America has been performing plastic surgery on children since 1985.

FOX4's Kathy Quinn spoke with the medical professionals who gave their unique perspective on the work they do. Kathy has a personal connection to this program, having worked with the initiative herself in the past, and her brother, Dr. John Michael Quinn, continues to serve.

With a majority of the people in the Dominican Republic living in poverty, they can't afford surgery. More than 30 years ago, Dr. Thomas Geraghty started Medical Aid for Children of Latin America (MACLA) to bring hope.

These are the innocent faces, each with a story to tell -- stories of superstition, rejection by society because they were born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate.

"They wait for us. They know the dates we're coming. If we don't come down in that first week of February, they're all panicking."

MACLA has been here, Padre Billini Hospital in Santo Domingo, every year since 1985.

"They'll come to us from everywhere on this island and we'll help them at all times. It's a wonderful thing," Dr. Quinn said.

They come by the hundreds because Dr. John Michael Quinn and his medical team, including family, bring hope. Dr. Quinn has passed on this passion to his own son, John Quinn Jr.

"It's problems that are impeding their life, whether they can't flex their arm all the way or turn their head all the way or they've got a physical deformities on their face," John Quinn Jr. said.

He has treated hundreds of patients, but some still stand out in his mind, like Luis.

"Every year they come by to say hi, and his mother's there, give us little treats they're doing great. So that's one of my favorite things, is to see the kids," Dr. Quinn Sr. said.

Dr. Quinn is very proud that 96 cents of every dollar goes toward patients, so the group's reputation has spread all over the U.S.

People come from all over to volunteer and pay their own way, just like Dr. Quinn.

"This is a Kansas City group people. I have lived here all my life. I love that KC has a great charitable attitude," Dr. Quinn said.

It's an attitude that has helped train Dominican doctors who now hold mini-clinics around the island. But they don't forget that one week in February when MACLA returns, and neither does Dr. Quinn.

"I feel that I get more out of this visit than our patients will understand," he explained.

And the Dominican people feel hopeful that one week every February MACLA will return.

"I think everybody has down deep that need to know they've made a difference for somebody, and that's why I like to do it. I feel like I made a difference in some of my patient's lives here, I hope," Dr. Quinn said. "But to go down there where they had no choice, you know, they have no option, that if we don't do it, nobody will."

Quinn believes that for everything he gives to these people, he receives far more.

"We get so much more from these people than they'll ever get from us."