Our commitment to comprehensive, patient-centred care doesn’t only ensure the best possible outcomes; it’s the right thing to do. It’s a value that’s at the heart of every credentialed medical volunteer we select, regardless of which of the more than 80 countries they call home. It’s who we are. We are open-minded and accepting of cultural diversity, understanding that flexibility and humility are the keys to problem solving in challenging, fast-paced environments. We value the opportunity to learn from and share skills with some of the world’s most talented, dedicated and innovative medical professionals. We understand that while our volunteerism has the power to change our lives and bring us together as lifelong friends, we come together to change the lives of people affected by cleft who lack access to essential, safe surgical care.

Featured Video: “I Am Operation Smile: Abreham Haddis”

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Biomed / PC Assistant Abreham Haddis. The Operation Smile rotation's first day of surgery at Jimma University Hospital in Jimma, Ethiopia on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015.  (Operation Smile Photo - Jasmin Shah)

“I am volunteering because I have a deep interest in helping others. The work Operation Smile is doing in Ethiopia means so much. Many people live as society’s outcasts because of the problems they have – they do not realise these are problems that can be fixed. To volunteer is very rewarding… Volunteering with people from other parts of the world also allows me to build my experience and knowledge.”

Abreham Haddis, Biomedical Technician, Ethiopia


Operation Smile medical programs are almost entirely volunteer-based, so we rely on medical professionals who can take charge of their roles with confidence, conviction and world-class skill. These traits have made Operation Smile a global leader in performing safe cleft surgery in resource-limited environments for more than three decades. Guided by our Global Standards of Care, medical volunteers must be able to work as a team to balance the highest possible quality of care with the efficiency to serve as many patients as our time and resources will allow. This demands stamina – physically, mentally and emotionally – as long hours and a fast pace are expected of our volunteers. Our work also requires travel to locations across the globe, which presents its own set of demands and challenges.

Medical missions at a glance

  • Medical missions are usually 10-12 days long.
  • After you apply and are approved, you will need to sign up to the Volunteer Portal to express can indicate interest in medical missions and keep your records up to date.
  • The recruitment of international volunteers usually takes place two to four months prior to a medical mission.
  • Volunteers are expected to cover a team fee of £300
  • Flight and accommodation costs are covered by Operation Smile.
  • See Medical Volunteer FAQ for more information.

Download Medical Volunteer FAQ


Volunteers from the following medical specialties make up our medical program teams. Please review the credentialing qualifications and apply to volunteer.

Operation Smile mission, 13-18 May 2012, Irkutsk, Russia. Dr Valentina Ostanina (left) administers anesthetic to Patient 015, Elizaveta Lavrova, 1 year old, UCL Female. (Operation Smile Photo - Peter Stuckings)
Anaesthesia: Anaesthetist/Paediatric Anaesthetist/Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetist

The administration of anaesthesia is a critical aspect of performing safe surgery – without it, none of our work would be possible. Our anaesthesia providers deliver the highest level of care to a broad age range of patients from infancy to adulthood in varied environments across the globe. They work in harmony with the surgical and nursing teams to deliver anaesthetic care and pain management.

Download Credentialing Requirements

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Plastic Surgeon Ankur Pandya performs a surgery as Reagan Fellow Asil Jallad looks on during the May 2009 Operation Smile Mission in Guwahati, India. (Diana Mulvihill - Operation Smile)
Cleft Surgeons

Our cleft surgeons are highly experienced in comprehensive cleft surgical care. They are charged with performing a diverse array of cleft lip and cleft palate procedures on an aggressive timeline and continually balance providing the best possible patient outcomes and serving as many patients as possible.

Download Credentialing Requirements

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Pre/Post Nurse Emily Silcox, United Kingdom. Operation Smile’s 2019 mission to Kazumu Central Hospital, Lilongwe. Malawi. 4th - 13th April.   (Operation Smile Photo - Zute Lightfoot)
Nursing: Pre/Post-Operative, Operating Room, Recovery Room

Our nurses provide patients with their professional skills and personal touch. They embody the compassionate and caring spirit of Operation Smile’s medical volunteer community. Their knowledge of paediatric principles and their diverse abilities ensure that every patient receives the exceptional care they deserve, every step of the way.

Download Credentialing Requirements

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Dr. Arun Saraswatula, a pediatrician from the UK, right, examines patient number 039, Xiao Long Wu, male, 8 months, UCL, 18 hours of travel, during an Operation Smile Mission at the People's Hospital of Wenshan City, Yunnan Province, China. From August 22 to August 29, 2018. (Operation Smile Photo by Erin Lubin)

The majority of the patients we serve are children, so we rely on the knowledge and insight of paediatricians to interpret the entire health picture of each of our patients. The paediatrician’s input is critical to our pre-operative comprehensive health evaluations, which determine if children are healthy enough to receive surgery. They continue to care for patients after surgery and ensure families are prepared to take their child home.

Download Credentialing Requirements

046, Mukelo Diamini, 9 months old, Male, BCL, before with Pediatric Intensivist Alexandra Torbog.Rob Ferreira Hospital. Operation Smile South Africa’s 2015 mission to Mbombela. South Africa. (Operation Smile Photo - Zute Lightfoot)
Post Anaesthesia Care Unit Physicians

Recovering from anaesthesia is a critical period for our patients. The placement of PI/PACU physicians in the recovery room allows us to provide a safe environment for patients undergoing surgery. Recognition of potential complications and responding with life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills are essential to providing the best level of post-operative monitoring and care.

Download Credentialing Requirements

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Patient number 037, Tao Zhong Ying, 6 years and 6 months old, UCL, plays with Jessica Bain, a volunteer translator from corporate sponsor, Marriott. Mother's name is Mei and father's name is Yan Fan, they live in Hiu Chuang, 5 hours travel time. Operation Smile Mission at the People's Hospital of Wenshan City, Yunnan Province, China. From August 22 to August 29, 2018. 
(Operation Smile Photo by Erin Lubin)
Psychosocial Care Providers (Child Life)

Our child life volunteers are licensed professionals that provide psycho-social care and guide the patient and family through the surgical experience. They utilise their knowledge of child development to ease patient fears and anxieties by explaining and demonstrating every aspect of care. They facilitate therapeutic play and activities, working with parents, and act as the child’s and family’s advocate in the potentially confusing world of the hospital.

Download Credentialing Requirements

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Speech Therapist Nurse Milena Cleves of Columbia screening a patient at the Hospital de la Villa during the Operation Smile Bolivia Mission. Santa Cruz, Bolivia, March-April_2004. Operation Smile Photo - Marc Ascher
Speech Language Pathology

Our speech language pathologists have a wide range and depth of educational and clinical experiences in cleft and other craniofacial disorders. They partner with the medical team to provide insight into which types of procedures or non-surgical options ensure the best speech outcome for every individual patient. They additionally work with patients and families on nutrition and general speech and language education.

Download Credentialing Requirements


Anesthesia difficult airway workshop by Dr. Isabelle Simoneau, King Palabyab and Nicole Shilkofski. NEXT Asia July 13-15 at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City, Manila, Philippines. NEXT Asia offers training through medically-focused skills workshops with emphasis on tracks in plastic surgery, anesthesia, nursing, speech and dental specialties. The more than 400 attendees from 27 countries will include Operation Smile medical volunteers and speakers from six Asian countries including the Philippines, as well as international delegates from Operation Smile’s Regan Resident Leadership Program, who represent the next generation of medical professionals. (Operation Smile Photo)
Medical Residents Leadership Programme

The Resident Leadership Programme, generously sponsored by the Regan family, provides valuable opportunities for current medical residents to learn and grow in a volunteer setting.

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Phil McDonald
Get Involved

There are many ways to assist Operation Smile in its mission to heal smiles around the world. Our community volunteers give time and valuable resource through local fundraising, participating in local and national volunteer organisations and more.

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