It started with a question from his mentor, Dr. Ernest Cronin. In 2016, Dr. Cronin asked Dr. Eric Payne if he could help with taking over the care of his patients when he retired and become a member of the Cronin & Brauer Cleft lip and Palate Clinic. “Dr. Cronin also recommended I help with Operation San Jose since I was helping to train the Methodist Plastic Surgery Residents,” Payne said.
In 2004, Payne graduated with a medical degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine. After graduation he went on to additional training in general surgery at Texas Tech University Health Science Center in El Paso, Texas. “After five years of training, I began a plastic surgery residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston,” Payne said. He then pursued further training in a craniofacial fellowship at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas. After he completed his training, Payne opened a private practice in Houston.
For his first Operation San Jose trip, Payne traveled to Zacapu, Mexico in March 2018. “There were several patients that stood out in my memory, especially the older children who needed cleft lip revision surgery,” Payne said. A 20-year-old young man was involved in a motorcycle accident years earlier that caused a severe scar to his upper lip. “It was previously repaired, but the scar was disfiguring,” Payne said. “He wanted to be able to ask a girl out on a date and maybe even kiss a girl in the future. He was so happy with the outcome of his lip, and it brought tears to several nurses and surgeons to see the joy he had after surgery.”
Another young patient was so happy with his new lip that he arrived to his final postoperative evaluation dressed as Captain America.
This fall, Payne will rejoin Operation San Jose as they travel to Chihuahua, Mexico in partnership with CHRISTUS Muguerza Hospital. With the trip placed on hiatus due to the pandemic, Payne is looking forward to rejoining his fellow physicians in Mexico. “It will be good to work alongside Dr. Lypka and Dr. Magill again on the trip and all the team members. We do a lot of work to bring life changing surgery to patients who cannot afford surgery. That is very rewarding work.”