"I've always seen myself as a doctor first and a plastic surgeon second," says Dr. Reza Nabavian, Los Angeles plastic surgeon and Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at USC-Keck School of Medicine.
In the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Dr. Nabavian coordinated the medical and surgical relief operations of Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), a star studded charity whose leadership includes Olivia Wilde, Charlize Theron, Paul Haggis, Clint Eastwood, Ben Stiller, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Diane Lane, James Franco, Susan Sarandon and Gerard Butler. Currently, he serves as the Co-Chair of the Executive Committee of APJ's Board of Directors, where he helps execute the philanthropic goals of APJ. Those include general relief operations and the building and operating of schools in Haitian slums. Within his efforts, Dr. Nabavian has traveled to Haiti over a dozen times since the earthquake to lend a medical hand. "I go there to perform surgeries, support the hospitals and rehab centers and to help kids with complex injuries. I am also helping to build the first free secondary school for the children of the slums of Port-au-Prince." he says.
Saving Limbs, Saving Lives
Dr. Nabavian's expertise in plastic surgery offers unique value to the medical needs in the wake of the earthquake. That is, victims crushed under rubble from the earthquake were often the subject of limb amputations. "They were amputating limbs to save lives and prevent the spread of infection," Dr Nabavian explains. "But many of these amputations were unnecessary if only reconstructive surgery were available."
In response to the deficit of modern medical care, Dr. Nabavian has performed many volunteer limb-salvage and reconstructive surgeries in Haiti. He likewise played a central role in developing the Rehabilitation Center at St. Damien's Pediatric Hospital in Port-au-Prince, where young victims of the earthquake receive artificial limbs and much needed therapy.
In addition to saving limbs, Dr. Nabavian has helped start a cholera center, a blood bank for the hospital ("there was no good blood bank in Haiti") and general relief medical tents.
Building Schools for the Masses
"APJ's main project is to deliver free education in Haiti because education is the key to a sustainable recovery of this devastated nation. Many kids have no access to any form of education and very few children have access to a secondary education. We created a free middle and high school for kids in the slums, incorporating a comprehensive eductional program." The curriculum includes music, art, film, community service, computers, leadership and vocational training. "APJ could take up 200% of my time, if I could give it. There's just so much need down there."
"There is a higher level of personal fulfillment when you realize that your skills and knowledge can make such a huge impact on people that have so much need. My work in Haiti has opened my eyes and motivated to dedicate a large portion of my time to philanthropic work."