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‘Volunteering refreshes my soul’– the Suffolk doctor changing lives in Africa

PUBLISHED: 13:08 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:08 06 January 2020

West Suffolk Foundation Trust paediatrician Dr Clive Duke with a young patient before their surgery in Ghana in 2017. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK FOUNDATION TRUST

West Suffolk Foundation Trust paediatrician Dr Clive Duke with a young patient before their surgery in Ghana in 2017. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK FOUNDATION TRUST

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Children in Africa suffering from cleft palate have had their lives changed by the efforts of a selfless West Suffolk doctor.

(L:R) West Suffolk Foundation Trust's  Dr Duke, Lindsay Anderson and Dr Saraswatula volunteering in Ghana in 2017 for Operation Smile. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK FOUNDATION TRUST(L:R) West Suffolk Foundation Trust's Dr Duke, Lindsay Anderson and Dr Saraswatula volunteering in Ghana in 2017 for Operation Smile. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK FOUNDATION TRUST

Dr Clive Duke has taken part in 17 missions to Africa with Operation Smile since 2010 when he began working with the charity.

Dr Duke is an anaesthetist and has been working for the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust for 15 years now.

"Volunteering refreshes my soul," he said.

"It's the moment you forget you are volunteering to change lives - because it is changing yours."

The 52-year-old lives near Bury St Edmunds and takes annual leave or study leave in order to take part in the missions to places such as Ghana and Morocco.

Cleft lip and palate is easily treated and is the third most common birth defect globally - but in countries with poor health care untreated cases can lead to one in ten children dying before the age of one.

The missions last for several days and see doctors complete hundreds of procedures as well as teaching after care and training local support workers and clinicians.

Dr Duke said: "There are 312 million surgeries carried out worldwide every year, but people living in the poorest third of the world access just four per cent of that surgery.

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"That four per cent accounts for 50% of all surgical complications.

"The support we receive from the public, as well as from clinicians, allows us to do this work.

"It changes not only lives but whole communities - to see the joy this brings is the best thing in the world."

A staggering 75% of cases worldwide are left untreated and can carry a huge stigma.

Operation Smile is the largest volunteer-based cleft charity and carries out 150 missions each year.

Dr Duke has also completed fund raising locally to aid the charity's work.

He recently presented at the Bannatyne Health Club and Spa in Bury St Edmunds where £1,600 was raised by staff and members.

The doctor himself also makes financial contributions as well volunteering on trips.

He is passionate about how easily the surgeries can 'literally transform lives of our patients'.

The charity is currently supporting a World Health Organisation campaign for safer surgery in the developing world.


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