A Doctor First: A Cleft Surgeon on the Front Lines of COVID-19

April 13, 2020 | Smile Train

Smile Train surgeon in PPE

Dr. Daniely Farias is a Smile Train partner plastic surgeon in Campo Grande, Brazil who is now on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 in her community. She shared with us how this pandemic has transformed her work, her community, and her understanding of herself as a doctor.

“One of the hospitals where I work, Unimed Campo Grande Cooperative, made many changes to receive patients with coronavirus, including opening another intensive care unit and acquiring more respirators and additional personal protective equipment (PPE).

All cleft treatments have been postponed for a few weeks now and will not resume until at least the end of April. FUNCRAF, where we carry out outpatient and follow-up care, is similarly paused, and I’m not sure when we will resume care. This leaves me with a tight heart, but I understand that it is necessary and temporary — many children with clefts live with people in high-risk groups, and it would be terrible if they were infected.

Smile Train medical team

Despite all of this change, despite the postponement of cleft and plastic surgeries, despite the closing of the out-patient office, I am honored to collaborate with my peers to treat this disease that is terrifying the whole world. Though I am a plastic surgeon, I am a doctor first, and at my graduation I swore to take care of all patients — and that is what I am doing. I believe that all doctors have a moral obligation to be here, on the frontlines against coronavirus.

My work with Smile Train has taught me to have patience, to take care of one smile at a time — and so I have lived these days, celebrating every little daily victory. With all my usual activities suspended, I come to the emergency room every day to join forces with my colleagues and give whatever it takes. I have not visited my elderly parents or my friends, in order to protect them. I have also changed my routine when I arrive home — I now have a checklist of things I must do in order to not contaminate my husband.

All of this is new, but I understand that it is temporary. I know that everything will be well, and we will draw lessons from this difficult time. This moment of social isolation and changing our routines must be used to help us rethink our priorities and our daily habits, and we must come out of this situation as better human beings.

I am joining everyone else around the world praying that this difficult moment may pass soon.”


When surgeries resume, heroes like Dr. Daniely will need your support more than ever to continue caring for vulnerable patients with clefts.  Donate to Smile Train now.