DENTIST Sumeya Ibrahim travelled to Pakistan with the OPSA team on its Spring 2017 mission as part of the charity's multi-disciplinary approach to cleft repair.

Working with dentists and speech therapists at the Cleft Hospital is key to the multi-disciplinary approach to providing holistic treatment to the children.

Without the benefit of surgery from an early age, many of the older children have speech problems or teeth placed at awkward angles in their mouths because the palate shelves did not fuse together properly in the womb.

In older people with cleft conditions, their teeth and speech problems just add to the ostracisation and stigma they experience and dentists like Sumeya, 25, are integral to their recovery.

"You really can make a substantial change to someone's life through dentistry," said Sumeya, a senior house officer at Derby Royal. "People don't realise the impact it can have.

"A smile is a massive part of who someone is. I've found that if you can just bring that smile to someone's face, it can change their lives.

"And it's just nice to give something back."

Coming to the Cleft Hospital in Gujrat has added poignancy for Sumeya. Her uncle is Professor Gatrad who made a substantial donation to create a maternity and children's hospital in memory of his mother and Sumeya's grandmother Jubaida Gatrad 

Her uncle, a benefactor of the Midland international Aid Trust (MIAT), also plays a major part in the running of the Cleft Hospital, donating equipment from hospital beds to the overhead lights in the operating theatre.

"I was very close to my great grandmother and she only died around five years ago when I was still at university," she said. "It means a lot to me to come here and see the hospital dedicated in her honour and all the work my uncle has done."

Sumeya said the art of skilled dentistry appeals to her creative side and she was determined to pursue a career in the sepcialism.

"I was always interested in medicine," she said. "My dad has his own chain of opticias and both my brothers went into opthalmology.

"My family tried to persuade me to go down the same route but my interests lay in dentistry.

"I like the sciences of the human body but dentistry has that added bit of creativity. I've always been creative so that side of it really appeals to me.

Sumeya hopes her time at the cleft camp, where she was exposed to a range of conditions she would have been less likely to encounter in England, will benefit her learning and her skills.

She said: "I've always liked helping people and, when I was at university, I went to Vietnam and Cambodia to do dentistry. It changed my perspective on life, really.

"There, it was all about tooth decay. We didn't see any of the medical conditions we see In Pakistan. Some of the conditions there I'd never see anything like them in England.

"Coming to Pakistan means I get exposure to dentistry and surgery that I may never have seen if I'd stayed in England and you can play a part in changing someone's life for the better."