Plastic Surgeon ‘Restores Smiles’ To Children Around The World

From the Beverly Hills Courier
By: Steve Simmons

Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Babak Azizzadeh was among the honorees at Operation of Hope’s Night of Smiles event at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Dr. Azizzadeh partnered with the organization to treat a boy from Zimbabwe. Named Beloved, the boy’s face – including his lip, chin and mouth – were disfigured when a land mine he thought was a transistor radio, blew up in his face.

At 6 years old, the boy underwent what Dr. Azizzadeh described as “World War II” type reconstruction that left him unable to eat well, drooling and with facial paralysis. After a year of planning, Operation of Hope brought Beloved to the United States. Dr. Azizzadeh and Dr. Keith Blackwell performed a 12-hour reconstruction at UCLA medical center that “improved his appearance and living function,” Dr. Azizzadeh stated.

“The operation was a great success,” Dr. Azizzadeh said, and Beloved’s story was featured in People. Now living with a family in Orange County and attending sixth grade, Beloved attended Saturday’s event where Dr. Azizzadeh had high praise for Operation of Hope. “They did all the work. All I did was walk into surgery.”

Operation of Hope is only one of many humanitarian organizations to benefit from Azizzadeh’s services. He is the West Coast surgical coordinator for Medical Mission for Children and works with the Global Smile Foundation, traveling to Third-World countries treating children with cleft lip, treating children with cleft lip, cleft palate and craniofacial deformities. Two or three times a year he takes teams of 20 to 35 volunteers – nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists – who set up operating rooms and clinics.

After graduating from BHHS in 1998, Dr. Azizzadeh attended UCLA and then studied facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at Harvard.

“I was doing my residency and I was married; all I did was work and come home,” Dr. Azizzadeh recalls. “But I went on my first trip with Medical Missions for Children to Guatemala. The second I walked in and saw these kids with cleft lips, I said, ‘this is why I went into medicine, these children – like Beloved don’t have anybody else, we are their last resort.”

His volunteer work, Dr. Azizzadeh says, balances his Beverly Hills facial reconstruction and plastic surgery practice, which is mostly cosmetic surgery. “I enjoy both. The combination makes for a great balance and brings great satisfaction.”

His own foundation, the Facial Paralysis and Bell’s Palsy Foundation works to bring education and outreach. One in 600 people are affected by facial paralysis, Dr. Azizzadeh says, the congenital condition is caused by stretching of the nerves as the baby comes out of the womb. It can also be caused by certain tumors. Bell’s Palsy is caused by a virus, related to herpes.

“There is a great need to educate about these conditions that can greatly affect people’s daily lives.”