Children deserve access to the very best care available. At Operation Smile that’s what we believe, that’s where we start.
Not every country or community around the world is the same. That’s why we work with local medical professionals, governments, hospitals and other NGOs to create various models of surgical care. Together, we determine which solutions work best in order to reach as many children as possible wherever we work. And we’re going to keep doing this and refining our approach as we move forward. All with the goal to give the most effective surgical care to patients worldwide. Because at the end of the day, it starts with the patient. It starts with the child.
Cleft surgery in local and international medical missions
It takes as little as 45 minutes to perform a safe, effective reconstructive surgery that can change a child’s life forever. Our patients receive a thorough medical screening to ensure they are healthy enough for surgery, as well as critical follow-up care.
Since Operation Smile was founded, we’ve provided thousands of free, effective, safe surgeries to children and adults in 42 countries.
Training and education
Our global medical leadership teams design and deliver hands-on education programmes to train thousands of local medical professionals, so they can provide treatment within their own communities and share their expertise.
“Training and education isn’t just something we do — It’s at the heart of everything we do. It happens on every engagement through the exchange of ideas among our medical specialists from diverse backgrounds with varied levels of expertise. Together we have the same goal: improve how surgical care is delivered while empowering local communities.”
– Dr. Ruben Ayala, Operation Smile Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs, United States
Operation Smile is known for the free reconstructive surgeries we provide for patients with facial conditions, especially cleft lip and cleft palate. But cleft care goes beyond surgery. It involves many additional components from finding the patients and making sure they survive the first months of their lives thereby ensuring their fitness for surgery, to ensuring they arrive safely at the mission site and are guided through the frightening experience of having surgery. Finally it involves providing the follow up care that ensures a beautifully healed smile. Our teams around the world make patient safety and experience a top priority through this patient-centred care.
Babies born with cleft struggle to feed correctly and usually become underweight, often with life-threatening malnutrition. Because of this, surgery is not safe for these babies, which is a huge blow to already desperate parents. These babies are underweight because of their cleft conditions, and unable to receive surgery. But without surgery they will be unable to feed properly. Hence they are caught in a vicious cycle with no escape.
Our teams provide nutrition supplements for malnourished children and organise various workshops on nutrition, healthy food, culinary demonstration, breastfeeding, and cup feeding, all in partnership with local organisations. In this way we break the cycle and provide a way for parents to ensure their babies are healthy enough for surgery.
Research on the causes of cleft
Operation Smile is currently conducting medical research to determine the causes and find cures for cleft conditions. This project, known as the International Family Study is led by Operation Smile academic partners at the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The research uses genetic analysis, maternal and paternal questionnaires on environmental exposures and lifestyle habits. More than 15,000 individual saliva samples from a vast array of ethnicities and more than 7,000 families have been collected.
We believe this study allows us the opportunity to promote scientific research in heavily understudied populations, allowing them representation in the emerging field of genetic research to ultimately promote scientific discovery and methods for global health improvement.
Increasing surgical capacity
The health infrastructure in many countries is not currently equipped to meet the overwhelming surgical need, and in many cases the countries are facing a critical shortage of trained health care professionals.
In countries like Ethiopia or Madagascar, Operation Smile is addressing the immediate surgical needs through increased surgical programming and collaboration with local hospitals, government and non-governmental organisations.