a history of changing futures
In the 1960s, one man believed plastic surgery could transform the world. One patient at a time…
That man, Dr Donald R Laub of Stanford University, pioneered the idea that reconstructive plastic surgery could rehabilitate, reintegrate and transform lives. In 1969, his vision led to the creation of Interplast (USA), now Resurge International. Thousands of medical volunteers extended a helping hand by travelling overseas and assisting those in need. Mr Leo Rozner, an Australian plastic surgeon, was one of those volunteers.
Returning to Melbourne from South America, Mr Rozner’s promotion of the Interplast experience to the Rotary Club of Cheltenham intrigued Dr Gerald Duff, a general practitioner and Rotarian who instigated discussion regarding transplanting the Interplast concept in Australia with Rotary District 980 (now 9800). Back and forth, the conversational tennis match between Doug Mills and Keith Walter of 980, Interplast in the United States of America and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, through Professor Donald Marshall, the then Chairman of the Plastic and Reconstructive Division, eventuated in the birth of Interplast Australia in 1983. Dubbed a joint project between Rotary District 980 and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Interplast Australia was established to provide voluntary medical teams to carry out plastic and reconstructive surgery in developing countries.
Interplast Australia’s very first program was conducted in Samoa in 1983 and was fully funded by Rotarians. The second program to Fiji, also funded by Rotarians, garnered interest from the Australian Government, who recognised the importance of such foreign aid, and allocated partial funding for Interplast Australia programs through the Pacific Islands. With further assistance from Rotarians in clubs and districts throughout Australia and New Zealand, along with growing corporate support and generous public donations, Interplast Australia’s focus area branched out to service a variety of regions including China, the Cook Islands, Pakistan, the Marshall Islands and Tanzania.
Along with the expansion of our programs, Interplast Australia’s primary intentions also began to evolve. Volunteers began to perform more surgeries than just cleft lip and palate. This adaptation, in response to the needs and requests of the communities we visited, also overlapped with an increased focus on providing training and mentoring.
In 2007, Interplast Australia changed its name to Interplast Australia & New Zealand in order to recognise the collaboration with our New Zealand supporters, volunteers and contributors. The introduction of an appropriately symbolic tagline, ‘Repairing bodies. Rebuilding lives,’ cemented our focus on transforming lives and capacity building.
From its humble beginnings as one man’s idea, Interplast is now a thriving not-for-profit organisation with a solid reputation for excellence in the care and training we provide, and in the relationships we build with our partners.
In 2016, we mark 33 years of activity, encompassing 40506 patient consultations and 23440 surgeries during over 750 programs across 25 countries in the Asia Pacific region.
Looking to the future, our hope is to help our partner countries build health systems that meet their communities’ needs so well, there is no longer any need for Interplast.
Until that time, we will continue to seek support from donors, fundraisers and volunteers to change futures through surgery and training across the Asia Pacific region.