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Building Community Through Humanitarian Work: Dr. Paul Helpard’s Mission Trip to Bangladesh

By: Dr. Paul Helpard, CEO & Founder of Corus Orthodontists 

Giving back has always been and always will be part of my DNA. It’s a foundational value that Corus was built upon and is proudly carried on and exemplified by so many of our practices across our North American network. At Corus, we’re committed to making a difference in our communities; not just at the local level, but in the pursuit of elevating the specialty on a global scale.  

Earlier this year, I travelled to Sylhet, Bangladesh, on a mission trip with Rotaplast International to volunteer and give back to a community in need. Rotaplast International helps children and families worldwide by working with medical experts and organizations to send medical teams to treat cleft lip and/or palate, burn scarring, and other deformities. This mission included 29 team members from six different countries, which made it the most diverse missions they’ve ever run. 

Join me as I take you through my experience abroad, the stories of patient lives we helped transform, and the meaningful connections forged along the way. 

Serving Where the Need Knows No Bounds 

My entry into humanitarian work started years back when I was invited to join a mission focused on cleft palate surgeries. Since the early 2000s, I’ve been drawn to the challenge of working in unfamiliar environments with limited resources, as well as the profound impact these missions have on the lives of those in need. Despite the tough conditions, the chance to provide life-changing care to those without regular access to healthcare has kept me motivated and inspired. 

Understanding how patients experience healthcare highlights the wider health disparities faced by developing countries. Witnessing patients traveling long distances, often barefoot, just to receive medical assistance from our team was eye-opening. It’s an opportunity to gain perspective on just how sought-after basic healthcare can be.  

“Volunteering abroad is a great exercise in team building, leadership, understanding the valuable skills you possess, and the gift of perspective in observing how others live in this world.”
– Dr. Paul Helpard, CEO & Founder of Corus Orthodontists 


Stories of Transformation 

Among the many patients I met, three stories made a lasting impression on me. A young girl about 4 or 5 years old with a facial cleft with a malformed nose on side, was affectionately nicknamed, “Twinkle.” An extremely animated young girl with an infectious spirit as she sang, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” leading up to her surgery. We were able to operate on her to make a significant difference in her facial appearance which will undoubtedly change the course of her life. 

We saw many young children, but one patient was a 55-year-old woman who had an untreated cleft lip and multiple missing teeth. This woman led a relatively normal life with a husband (who had since passed) and several children much because she wore a niqab which covered her face in public. Alongside the plastic surgeon and a local dentist, we developed her treatment plan for the procedure and ensured she had everything she needed including partial dentures so that she could secure an outstanding surgical outcome long after we left. At age 55, she has been given a whole new lease on life.   

Lastly, an 18-year-old woman came to see us with a poorly repaired cleft lip and palate and severely overcrowded teeth. While speech was difficult, her parents favored having her appearance improved over her ability to speak. She was at an age when she was meeting potential suitors and required her to remove her niqab to reveal her face. With time and resources stacked against us, we were only able to focus on fixing her teeth and surgically revising her lip and nose or surgically lengthening her palate to improve her speech. 

While she wanted to please her parents, I was proud that she vocalized her needs and decided to improve her speech so that others could understand her and respect her.  Working in a women’s hospital, we were surrounded by incredible young female physicians who have accomplished so much which created a very supportive environment for this young patient to feel confident in making her own decision – a very uplifting moment. 


From left to right: Christine Helpard. Punam (from Tibet) and Dr. Paul Helpard, posing for a photoBridging Continents: Making a Global Impact Through Collaboration 

It’s always a personal priority for me to make meaningful connections with the medical professionals onsite and participate in exchanges of knowledge and best practices. By fostering these connections, I maintain ongoing communication and extend assistance abroad, guaranteeing optimal outcomes for patients and offering doctors a dependable global network for future support. 

One such relationship was with a young medical school graduate, Punam from Tibet. We worked side-by-side, and I mentored her as she assisted me in the operating room over the two-week stretch. We forged a very close relationship as she is of similar age to my own daughter, and she was able to gain valuable hands-on experience to help further her skills and career – so much so, she was the envy of her friends!  She is pictured here with me and my wife, Christine who also joined the mission as a medical records technician.   

Dr. Paul Helpard speaking to local dentists at a podium with a sign that says, "Hotel Star Pacific"

Our dental and orthodontic professionals abroad are also hungry for North American knowledge and I’m always happy to share what I can. A local senior dentist had organized an event, and I was asked to host a lecture. The event was promoted throughout Sylhet with those even flying in from the capital city just to attend. About 100 people were in attendance and it was a broad mix of medical professionals with varying degrees of experience and expertise. My talk was catered to focus on the basics of orthodontic care and practical advice and takeaways that they could implement to help their patients.  

Now that I am back home, It is humbling to reflect on these collaboration and knowledge-sharing opportunities and the impact they can have towards improving the orthodontic specialty on a global scale. 


From Values to Action

At Corus, our doctor-partners and their teams give back to their communities each day and in so many ways, and they inspire me and everyone around them. For those contemplating similar humanitarian missions, I encourage you to apply to a volunteer group or rotary club. These experiences are life-changing and bring a profound sense of fulfillment for those who participate. Through organizations like Rotaplast, there’s ample opportunity for collaboration and personal growth, echoing Corus’ dedication to building a better world and making a positive difference in the lives of others. 

Post by: April 24, 2024 | All Posts,Thought Leadership

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