The name "plastic surgery" originated from the Greek word "plastios," which means, to mold or give form. This is the essence of plastic surgery. The most well-known area of plastic surgery is "cosmetic surgery" which takes normal appearance and improves it. However, a lesser-known part of the field is "reconstructive surgery," which takes the abnormal and attempts to make it normal.
A significant portion of the work of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Loma Linda University focuses on the reconstruction of disfiguring birth defects, particularly deformities of the head, such as cleft lip and palate. In developing countries, these reconstructive surgeries often are not available. Therefore, through its program, Operation Good Samaritan, the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery has a commitment to providing free surgery for individuals, who, through no fault of their own, were born with terrible disfigurements or experienced disfigurement in childhood. In many instances, these patients would be destined to endure their abnormal appearance for their lifetime if volunteer surgeries were not available.