by Gabriela Cruz

Hi everyone!
For my service learning capstone project, I will be producing a series of posts about Operation Smile as a non-profit organization and my role as a student educator and volunteer for over 3 years now. With these posts, I hope to spread awareness of cleft conditions such as cleft lip or cleft palate. In addition, I hope to educate other students and my community on tackling the larger issue at hand: the lack of access to safe and efficient surgeries around the world. Operation Smile is not really well known here in Cleveland and much less within the HB community, so I hope these posts can begin to start these important conversations and continue to spread Operation Smile’s vision.

Foundation Story:

Operation Smile was founded by Dr. Bill Magee and his wife Kathy Magee. Dr. Bill Magee is a plastic surgeon and Kathy is a nurse and social worker. On a medical mission to the Philippines, The Magees noticed how due to a lack of resources more families came to the mission site that could be treated by the medical team. They promised the families that weren’t able to have cleft lip or cleft palate surgery that they would come back for them later. When they came back to the Philippines, the Magees were prepared: they brought surgical equipment and 18 doctors, nurses and technicians. Eventually, they continued to come back for more and more medical missions and Operation Smile was born.

About Operation Smile

Operation Smile is a children’s medical charity that provides free, safe surgeries for people who have facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate. They operate in over 60 countries. The organization also works to build self sufficiency and sustainable health care infrastructure in those countries. Operation Smile trains doctors in host countries to treat children in their own communities. In addition, Operation Smile donates medical supplies, builds public private partnerships and creates and mentors in country foundations to increase capacity. Operation Smile works to raise public awareness, educate and serve as an advocate for children born with cleft lip and cleft palate and the need for safe, well timed and effective surgery. Operation Smile also funds research to help identify the root causes. There are thousands of volunteers from more than 80 countries and hundreds of student clubs and associations around the world. Operation smile educates and encourages communities and its volunteers to spread awareness and strengthen understanding about cleft conditions.

Additional Facts

Operation Smile is one of the largest surgical organizations in the world
Operation Smile is one of the largest volunteer based medical charities providing free cleft surgeries
Operation Smile is leading research into causes of cleft lip and cleft palate and prevention, treatment and surgical outcomes
Operation Smile is a pioneer in advocating for the importance of safe surgery in resource poor environment where the lack of safe surgery accounts for 11% of all death and disability.
Operation Smile increases overall surgical capacity and cleft treatment in communities by providing health care workers with medical supplies, education and training
Operation Smile demonstrates industry leading clinical management practices through their standards of care which help ensure patients are provided with the best treatment

American Heart Association

Since 2003, Operation Smile has educated more than 25,000 health care professionals in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) skills through training programs.

Resident Leadership Program
208 surgeons enhance their skills in cleft lip and cleft palate treatment.

Student Programs

Founded in 1985, Operation Smile student programs has grown to over 900 clubs worldwide and over 18,000 student volunteers. Student volunteers spread awareness, raise funds, and educate communities on basic health care modules such as dental hygiene or nutrition.


Operation Smile was founded by Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee after a medical mission to the Philippines.

First public broadcast about Operation Smile on Christian Broadcasting Network
Student Programs launch with first “happy club”.

Letter of commendation by Mother Teresa.

First US based non profit organization to re-enter Vietnam following the Vietnam war.

Receive President’s Volunteer Action Award from President George H. W Bush

First Resident Leadership Program in the Philippines.

Operation Smile is featured on dateline “NBC”

First Chapter Conference held in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Global Headquarters established in Norfolk, Virginia.

President Joseph E. Estrada awards Operation Smile Presidential Award.

Partnership between Operation Smile and American Heart Association begins.

Develop University Partnership Program.

For the 25th anniversary of Operation Smile, care centers established in Colombia, Honduras, China and Vietnam.
Hasbro Children’s fund donates toys to Operation Smile.

UNICEF honors Operation Smile at embassy of China

In response to Haiti earthquake, Operation Smile donates medical supplies and brings medical volunteers to sites of devastation

Operation Smile headquarters moves to Virginia Beach.

First International Student Leadership Conference held in Ireland.

Johnson & Johnson partnership with Operation Smile.

Smile House Milan becomes first Operation Smile care center in Europe.

Until We Heal campaign launches for the 35th anniversary of Operation Smile.

Partnership with Lays for national campaign.