In 1966 co-founder Tom Miller and renowned plastic surgeon Arthur J. Barsky, a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, established the Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Vietnam to treat war-injured children. A medical team led by Israeli plastic and reconstructive surgeon Isaak Kaplan, opened the Center in an empty apartment house in Saigon while Dr. Barsky and Miller supervised the construction of a state of the art plastic and reconstructive surgery center on the grounds of the Cho Ray Hospital in Saigon. It was then the largest such facility in the world.
The new facility opened in 1969 and treated thousands of children transported from throughout the war zones. Frequently mothers from the countryside with badly deformed children would ask for help, telling doctors such deformities never occurred before “the planes sprayed the mist”. The “mist” was Agent Orange the effects of which are still passed on genetically generations later. In 1972 Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Pierre Gaisseau filmed a documentary on the hospital which was shown nationally in Canada and the United States. In 1974 Miller, along with Senator Joe Biden, received the “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” award from the United States Jaycees for their respective contributions.
Over 50 years later, thanks to assistance from the governments of Japan and Australia, the greatly expanded Center flourishes as a national center for dental and facial surgery. In 2019 the Center invited Tom Miller, Dr. Barsky’s son, Joseph, and foreign doctors who had volunteered during the war to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Center. Green Cities Fund continues its relationship with the Center by identifying and helping patients with special needs. The program is administered by retired chief nurse, Huynh Thi Lien Huong, who devoted her entire professional career to the Center. One example: providing ongoing medical care for an 18 month old little girl, Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, who lost an arm, a leg and her mother in a traffic accident. Green Cities Fund has also initiated a professional exchange and a fellowship program, known as the Barsky Fellowship, with Stanford University Medical School. Volunteer plastic surgeons trained at Stanford played a critical role in the operation of the Center during the war and continue to play an important educational role today.