BCD gives Venezuelan patient a new eye

March 6, 2008

(DALLAS) — Gloria Guerrero, a 31-year-old cancer survivor from Venezuela, arrived at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas this week to begin the final procedure that will give her a new look.

Guerrero, who developed a retinal blastoma at age 7, lost her left eye. The high doses of radiation she received to fight the cancer then caused the bone structure on the left side of her face to fail to develop at the same rate.

Dr. Marianella Gonzales, assistant professor in oral surgery at HSC-BCD, met Guerrero while working at the Santa Rosa Maxillofacial Surgery Center in Caracas, Venezuela. She performed surgery to correct the symmetry of Guerrero’s face.

However, because that country has no anaplastologists (specialists who restore malformed or absent parts of the human body through artificial means), Guerrero is still missing an eye.

“Gloria comes from a very poor family and had no way to pay for this type of procedure,” Dr. Gonzales said. “She is such an intelligent and motivated person, and I felt she could go far. But, not having what we consider a normal looking face, she has been somewhat afraid to move forward.”

When Dr. Gonzales joined the faculty at HSC-BCD in April 2007, she met Suzanne Verma, anaplastologist at the dental school’s Center for Maxillofacial Prosthodontics. The two talked about Guerrero’s case.

Dr. Gonzales used her personal funds to return to Caracas and surgically place titanium implants in the bone that would support an orbital prosthesis. She then paid for Guerrero to come to the United States to complete her treatment. Her first visit occurred in November 2007.

During that follow-up visit, Verma assessed the defect and implant placement site for the prosthesis. Guerrero now is in town so Verma can create her orbital prosthesis.

Founded in 1905, Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas is a college of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. HSC-BCD is a nationally recognized center for oral health sciences education, research, specialized patient care and continuing dental education.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its seven colleges located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— LaDawn Brock