PERSONAL DISCOVERIES ON A MEDICAL MISSION TRIP TO GUATEMALA
Dr. Richard Montilla started volunteering on medical mission trips for the treatment of cleft lips and palates, severe burn scar deformities, and other acquired or congenital defects when he was in high school. His father, a retired plastic surgeon in the Philippines, became involved in such trips through his local Rotary Club and often brought his son to share in the philanthropic experience. Dr. Montilla has continued this tradition by bringing his own three children along on mission trips to Guatemala, Zambia, and the Philippines.
Last month, Dr. Montilla completed his 40th mission trip when he traveled to Guatemala with Surgicorps International. His Daughter, Aly Montilla, accompanied him. This was Aly’s first mission trip and she volunteered her time by taking photographs for Surgicorps, working in the local orphanage, helping with administrative work, and scrubbing in to watch surgical procedures.
“I was struck by how close the Surgicorps doctors were, you could tell they had been working together on multiple mission trips,” said Aly who is currently studying at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She entered college determined to pursue pre-med studies, but personal discoveries in Guatemala changed her mind.
“My dad and the fellow doctors I saw in Guatemala are completely passionate about what they do. You can visibly see their dedication through the hundreds of hours they give and the quality of care they provide all of their patients,” said Aly. “I know I want to do something with medicine, but I don’t think I have the same level of passion for surgery and patient care as my dad does.”
This level of self-discovery is impressive for such a young lady, and her parent agree. “I love sharing my volunteer experience with my children, the travel and exposure to different cultures is incredibly rewarding, but I ultimately hope it helps them to discover and share their own passions,” said Dr. Montilla.
“Being a doctor like my dad requires decades of schooling and a passion to perform multiple hours of surgery. I’ve decided that’s not me, but it was fascinating and rewarding to witness,” said Aly.
Currently, Aly is passionate about photography and she used her skill to document in photos life altering procedures in Guatemala. “One of the most touching cases I photographed was of a four-month-old girl who had a cleft palate,” said Aly who, during her time in the orphanage noticed many children had similar congenital defects. “It was touching to think that this little girl wouldn’t suffer from the stigma often associated with a cleft lip. That her life would be potentially better because of the work my dad did. I am happy I was able to document that.”
Aly returned to school the first week of September, a week before her father departed for yet another surgical mission trip in Zambia. We wish them both much luck in following the passions that touch their hearts and the lives of others!
To read more about Dr. Montilla’s mission work and to see Aly’s photography from Guatemala, please follow Montilla Plastic Surgery on Facebook.