Dr. Mok Theavy, a plastic surgeon, was instrumental in getting Operation Smile Cambodia off the ground in 2002. Since 2002, Operation Smile Cambodia has changed the lives of 2,546 children suffering from facial deformities.
Operation Smile Cambodia Celebrates 10 Years of Creating Smiles
Operation Smile Cambodia held its first international medical mission in 2002 in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Dr. Mok Theavy, plastic surgeon, spearheaded the efforts on the local end. Since then, he has been the single greatest force driving Operation Smile Cambodia forward.
Over the past 10 years, Operation Smile Cambodia has provided new smiles to over 2,546 patients, providing 2,821 surgeries and completing medical missions in over seven different sites across the country.
Becoming Sustainable and Self-Sufficient
A majority of Operation Smile Cambodia’s medical missions are local, completely run by Cambodian medical volunteers. As the organization continues to mature and develop in new ways, much has changed over the past ten years. However, one thing that remains the same is Dr. Theavy’s ambition, dedication and unwavering commitment to the children of Cambodia.
Dr. Theavy said his commitment to Operation Smile Cambodia has provided him with the most incredible experiences and afforded him the ability to work with and exchange ideas with other surgeons from all over the world.
When looking back over the past ten years, Dr. Theavy just smiles and says, “Because of Operation Smile, I have friends in countries all over the world. Friends that have not only taught me technical aspects of surgery, but who have shared experiences with me that connects us on a deeper level. It is very nice to feel included in such a far reaching, global organization.”
Training Local Doctors
Another motivating factor behind Dr. Theavy’s involvement in Operation Smile is what a medical mission experience means to the local health care providers of Cambodia. At every medical mission, Dr. Theavy now has a group of dedicated third and fourth year medical students volunteering; their role on these international missions is in invaluable. They serve as translators, patient coordinators, scrub techs and post-operative caregivers.
Having local medical students partner with and work alongside a team of international doctors and nurses provides serious learning experiences. It serves as a strong foundation for the next generation to further develop the standard of medical care within Cambodia and is something Dr. Theavy takes an immense amount of pride in.
These opportunities were not nearly as available or as widespread within the country lines of Cambodia when he was once a medical student years ago. His focus on the future and understanding of the sustainability of healthcare within his own country affords him this perspective of valuing and empowering young individuals.
Lastly, Dr. Theavy says that above all else, he does this for the less fortunate people of Cambodia, for the children and families who simply do not have the resources to seek these medical resources. He feels an incredible amount of ownership and responsibility to help.
When he looks around at the different people involved with Operation Smile Cambodia, he sees a network of varying individuals who have helped the organization come this far. He sees local business and sponsors, a diversified board and a growing local medical volunteer base.
Dr. Theavy understands just how important it is to enlist the efforts of people with varying backgrounds because through this, he is able to connect and empower local Cambodians for the sake of expanding access to healthcare to children all over Cambodia.
The Next Ten Years
As for the future of Operation Smile Cambodia, Dr. Theavy is excited just how far the next ten years can take the foundation. His next major ambition: Dr. Theavy and the Board has taken on building an Operation Smile Comprehensive Care Center that will not only provides free surgeries for the children and families in need, but a center that fosters the exchange of ideas and mentorship to the next generation of Cambodian plastic surgeons and anesthesiologists.
If the next ten years are anything like the last ten, Operation Smile Cambodia will witness more care being provided to more Cambodian children by more local volunteers than ever before.
Read more stories from the Feb 20–25, 2012 medical mission in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Feb. >>
Tags: From the Field, Asia, Cambodia