A young child has her hand measured for a hand splint while sitting in her mother’s lap.

The Interplast team returned to Bhutan to continue supporting the development and training of staff at Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) and provide specialised care to their patients.

In preparation for establishing Bhutan’s first plastic surgery unit, Interplast have been supporting a number of Bhutanese clinicians to travel across borders for specialised training in plastic and reconstructive surgery and accompanying care. These clinicians are now back in Bhutan, ready to continue the work to make treatment locally available!

This March, we worked with Dr. Sonam Jamtsho, Bhutan’s first ever plastic and reconstructive surgeon, who is back in his home country after spending the past year finalising his training in Australia. We also welcomed the return of six trainees who spent a month in Nepal, learning the necessary skills required to support the establishment of the first plastic surgery unit.

A successful surgical program

Off the back of all this preparation, the team immediately got to work consulting with patients who had been desperately waiting for treatment.

Interplast volunteer surgeons, Dr Michael Mccleave and Dr Mark Moore, worked closely with Bhutanese counterparts to assess and schedule patients. Local anaesthetic and nursing staff attended these clinics and worked with Interplast volunteer nurses, Vanessa Dittmar and Josephine Luke, to prepare equipment for an efficient start to surgery.

We also supported a busy hand therapy clinic, with Interplast’s visiting hand therapists, Megan Fitzgerald and Suzanne Caragianis, working alongside local therapists to address upper limb rehabilitation needs.

Two therapists help splint the hand of a young child as she sits in her mother’s lap.

Interplast volunteer hand therapist Suzanne Caragianis in the hand therapy clinic, constructing a hand splint for a young patient.

The surgical and allied health team, including trainee surgeons, registrars, medical officers, nurses and therapists were extremely engaged and committed to the program. Thanks to their dedication, across the two weeks:

  • 72 patients had a surgery consult
  • 38 received life-changing operations
  • 95 patients were supported with rehabilitation treatments!

Meet Ngawang

One of the patients who received surgery during this program, was 10-year-old Ngawang.

A young girl sits up in a hospital bed, smiling.

Ngawang before her surgery this year.

In 2021 Ngawang was in her bathroom at home, trying to heat water with the rod heater. When she dropped the device, it fell onto her chest and arm. Her father had to break down the latched door, and found she was badly burned and unconscious.

Over the next three years, she was in and out of hospital, but still couldn’t access the complex reconstruction that she needed. Ngawang’s injury took a toll on her mental health, as well as her physical. Previously outgoing and a diligent student, her parents noticed her become withdrawn and struggle with her schoolwork.

Ngawang’s family had been ready to take out a significant financial loan to seek treatment overseas. Thankfully, they received notice that Interplast and the team at JDWNRH may be able to help.
When assessed by the Interplast team, Ngawang was found to have significant injury to her chest and arm, which was preventing her from growing and functioning as well as she could.

The team scheduled her for surgery and made the decision to use PolyNovo’s NovoSorb® BTM to help her heal. This is a man-made material can be used to temporarily close a wound and help the body generate new tissue. This was the first time BTM had been used in Bhutan, thanks to a generous donation from PolyNovo, and it was an excellent teaching opportunity for the local surgical team.

Two surgeons are supported by a team of at least 5 other people to operate on an unseen patient.

Dr Sonam Jamtsho and Dr Michael McCleave work together to treat the burns on Ngawang’s hand.

After her surgery, Ngawang was referred to Interplast’s visiting hand therapists and the local rehabilitation team to be measured for compression garments and splinting for her hand.

A young girl sits with her left hand bandaged and supported with a splint.

Ngawang after surgery with her hand splinted.

Ngawang’s mother is very happy with her treatment and hopes to see her regain full use of her hand. They hope to see their daughter develop to her full potential.


Interplast would like to thank the friends and family of Dr. Tim Proudman, and those that donated in his memory. Tim was instrumental in the success of Interplast’s programs in Bhutan, and helped build the foundations for local, sustainable plastic and reconstructive services in the future.

We also wish to thank the Rotary Clubs of Kenwick (now Canning River) and Encounter Bay, and Rotary Clubs of District 9810 for their contributions towards this program.

Finally, Interplast thanks our partner PolyNovo, for their ongoing product support of NovoSorb® BTM used in on this program.

Through collaboration, the people of Bhutan were able to access life-saving care.