Operation Smile

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Operation Smile is a private, not-for-profit volunteer medical services organization providing reconstructive surgery and related health care to indigent children and young adults in developing countries and the United States. It provides free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries for children in the countries in which it works, along with training for health-care professionals to improve local capacity in partner countries. Singer Jessica Simpson helps to raise awareness of the group's efforts.[2], as well fledgling director Arden Wohl, has also been involved with fund raising activities.

The organization spent $13 million on fundraising and administration last year (see their financial statement, page seven http://operationsmile.org/docs/finance_2006.pdf).


Operation Smile, founded at Eastern Virginia Medical School, coordinates more than 25 medical mission sites in 24 countries annually. In 2005, medical volunteers provided free surgeries for 8,359 children through international and local, in-country medical missions. Operation Smile’s partner countries include Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gaza Strip/West Bank, Honduras, India, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Chapters & Foundations

Operation Smile has Global Resource Chapters that raise funds and awareness to support its programs. Mission teams are hosted by International Foundations that are responsible for all in-country mission logistics and that also raise funds and awareness throughout the year.

U.S. Care Network

Operation Smile also provides a network of resources to assist families in the U.S. with children born with facial deformities. This network is accessed through the Operation Smile Web site and includes a listing of Referral Web Sites plus a Physicians Resource List with the names of doctors available to review a case.


Operation Smile provides a framework for its partner countries to come together to share knowledge, technology and skills through the use of programs customized to each country’s specific medical infrastructure. University Partnerships offer Operation Smile medical volunteers training in advanced techniques and provide opportunities including fellowships, emeritus professorships and visiting professorship programs. Education Exchange programs are also offered through partnerships with leading medical teaching institutions. The annual Operation Smile Physicians’ Training Program (PTP) brings surgeons from around the world to the United States for training in specialized surgical skills.

Student Programs

More than 450 Operation Smile Student Associations in the United States and around the world build awareness, raise funds and educate students about the values of commitment, leadership and volunteerism.

The International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) is a big aspect of Operation Smile Student Programs. The 2006 ISLC was held at Weber State University in Utah, and the 2005 ISLC was held at William & Mary in Virginia. The 2007 ISLC was held at the University of Limerick in Ireland.


  • In 25 years, Operation Smile's volunteers have provided free reconstructive surgery to over 100,000 children and young adults in 30 countries and thousands of healthcare professionals have been trained globally.
  • To mark it's 25th anniversary in November of 2007, Operation Smile completed the World Journey of Hope (WJH), a global mission taking place simultaniously over a period of two weeks in 25 countries. During WJH, Opsmile completed cleft lip or palate surgery on 4200 children with 1700 volunteers from 43 countries. In addition, the WJH collected DNA samples from 4200 children -- the largest sampling ever made and now housed at Yale University. The previous largest sampling included the DNA of 200 children.


November, 1999: Deaths of certain patients brought criticism on the medical practices of Operation Smile. At the time, Operation Smile was accused of valuing publicity and the number of surgeries over the welfare and safety of patients. [1] In response, Operation Smile immediately conducted an internal review, and four months later publicly admitted certain organizational flaws and promised to place greater emphasis on issues related to quality assurance and the standard of medicine to be practiced in the field.[2] By 2002, the organization had also established medical credential standards, helped improve medical monitoring of patients, and implemented tight quality and financial controls.[3]


William P. Magee Jr., D.D.S., M.D. founded Operation Smile in 1982 with his wife, Kathleen S. Magee, B.S.N., M.Ed., M.S.W.. Dr. Magee's salary was dropped from circa $250,000 a year to circa $145,000 a year recently. Dr. Magee serves as the organization's Chief Executive Officer. Ms. Magee serves as the president on a full-time, volunteer basis and is a lifetime member of the Board of Directors.


  1. Abelson, Reed and Rosenthal, Elizabeth, "Charges of Shoddy Practices Taint Gifts of Plastic Surgery", New York Times, 25 November 1999
  2. Abelson, Reed, "Charity Promises Sweeping Changes After Review", New York Times, 12 April 2000
  3. Simpson, Elizabeth, "Founder of International Medical Charity Gets Used to Role as CEO", Virginian-Pilot, 30 December 2002

See also

External links

Cleft lip and palate Microchapters


Patient Information




Epidemiology and Demographics

Risk Factors

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis


History and Symptoms

Physical Examination



Psychosocial Issues

Primary Prevention

Cost-Effectiveness of Therapy

Future or Investigational Therapies

Case Studies

Case #1

Operation Smile On the Web

Most recent articles

cited articles

Review articles

CME Programs

Powerpoint slides


American Roentgen Ray Society Images of Operation Smile

All Images
Echo & Ultrasound
CT Images

Ongoing Trials at Clinical Trials.gov

US National Guidelines Clearinghouse

NICE Guidance

FDA on Operation Smile

CDC on Operation Smile

Operation Smile in the news

Blogs on Operation Smile

Directions to Hospitals Treating Cleft lip and palate

Risk calculators and risk factors for Operation Smile

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