Apr 22, 2022 1037 Dr. Victor M. Nava

Mending Lives with a Loving Heart

With over 40 years of experience he had accomplished great feats; but interestingly he found true joy elsewhere

When I was 11 years old, a bad leg injury from a motor vehicle accident led me to choose my career. After multiple reconstructive procedures I began to say, “When I grow up I’m going to be a plastic surgeon.” I feel blessed that I was able to fulfill my dream of mending lives.

When I tell people that I’m a plastic surgeon many are curious about my cosmetic surgeries, but they rarely ask about the reconstructive procedures I perform. The chief difference between the two kinds of surgeries is that most cosmetic surgery is a “want” while reconstructive surgery is a “need”. Surgeries in the “need” category are procedures for maxillofacial trauma, skin cancer, burn care, skin grafts and flaps, complex wounds, hand surgery and others.

However, in third world countries like Mexico and the Dominican Republic, many patients desperately need and want reconstructive surgery. Sadly, either because they don’t have money or because there is no reconstructive surgeon available, their needs go unmet.

To help such patients, I went on medical missions to both countries to volunteer my services with a loving heart. I dealt with two cases there that I would probably never have encountered here in the United States.

The first was a woman so poor that she had never owned a pair of shoes. Therefore, the big black mole on the top of her foot was easy pickings (and peckings!) for her chickens. It typically bled, often became infected and always hurt. She begged me, “Por favor Doctor, quiteme este lunar” (Please Doctor, remove this mole). In less than 30 minutes her problem was resolved. A simple but real medical need. She was so appreciative that she hugged me and thanked me profusely.

The second patient was a 16-year-old boy with a very wide cleft lip that left his prominent front teeth always exposed. He told me there was a girl in school he really liked but he was too ashamed and embarrassed to ask her to be his girlfriend. In about 2 1/2 hours I was able to change his life. When he was coming out of anesthesia, he looked in a mirror and saw a huge smile with no teeth showing. At his follow up visit, I had to ask, “Que dijo la muchacha?” (” What did the girl say?”) He responded with an emphatic, “Dijo que Si!!!” (“She said yes!”)

Like the other seventy or so patients on whom I have operated, these two patients were extremely appreciative. But I also found true joy of my own by mending lives with a loving heart—seeing their smiles, their tears of joy and receiving those warm hugs. My experience frequently reminds me of what Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. I thank the Lord for blessing me with skills to mending the lives of those most in need.


Dr. Victor M. Nava

Dr. Victor M. Nava is a retired Plastic Surgeon with over 40 years of experience. Presently he is a Catechism volunteer teacher. He's also a volunteer Male Advocate at a Pro-life clinic. He lives with his wife, three children and four grandchildren in Roseville, California.

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