Surgeon 'gives back' on annual trip to Vietnam

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A doctor and his medical team will head for Vietnam later this week, making an annual trek to help children with facial deformities half a world away.

Dr. Barry Steinberg, a maxillofacial surgeon at Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center, and his Facing Futures Foundation organize the trip every year to perform life-changing surgeries.

Steinberg said the healing is not only physical, but also social -- so that the children don't become outcast.

"From the basic clef lip to clef palate -- which is routine -- to injuries -- you still see land-mine injuries," Steinberg said. "Some of them -- horrific birth defects. They don't look like humans. Those are the ones we try to take care of first, obviously."

The group also brings of the patients with more challenging conditions to Jacksonville for surgery.

These children and their families go to great lengths -- often traveling many miles on foot -- hoping to be among those chosen for surgery.

Steinberg's procedures give many of these children a reason to smile -- figuratively and literally -- which gives him great personal satisfaction.

"I do this because ... I have to. I'm obligated to do it," Steinberg said. "I've been fortunate enough in my life to the point, to the point, maybe of a little guilt, that I've been so fortunate that I am obligated to give back."

Steinberg and his team leave Wednesday for Vietnam. They will begin seeing patients next weekend.

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