Operation Smile Celebrates 35th Anniversary and Launches Global Until We Heal Campaign to Increase Access to Safe Surgery

Press Release
Posted 3/2/2017

Today, Operation Smile celebrates its 35th anniversary with the global launch of its UNTIL WE HEAL campaign, an effort to increase access to safe surgical care for people suffering from cleft conditions. Operation Smile’s Co-Founder and CEO Dr. William Magee Jr. made the announcement in the Philippines, where he and wife Kathy Magee began the organization in 1982. 

First and foremost, Operation Smile is a global organization that takes care of children with facial deformities. We could not have done this for the past 35 years without the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers and partners. It is what has enabled us to transition from a mission-driven organization to a provider of sustained comprehensive care. With UNTIL WE HEAL, we are committing to work even harder to ensure that every child in need has access to exceptional surgical care.
- Dr. William Magee Jr., Operation Smile Co-Founder and CEO

Operation Smile’s global campaign, first inspired by students, aims to mobilize new partners in government and civil society, to join in creating long-term solutions to increase access to safe surgery and eradicate cleft. The campaign will invite citizens around the world to sign the UNTIL WE HEAL pledge to demonstrate to global leaders the overwhelming support for access to safe surgery. Operation Smile Philippines is the first country to sign the pledge with support from Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, who was announced as their newest Smile Ambassador. More than 35 countries are expected to join the effort by engaging their ministries of health and by collecting thousands of signatures from supporters throughout the year. 

In our advocacy for universal healthcare, we must call into focus the need for safe surgery, particularly for those with cleft lips and palates. We’re hopeful that with Operation Smile’s partnership with the Office of the Vice President through our flagship public-private program Angat Buhay, we can heal children and change lives, one safe surgery at a time.
- Maria Leonor Robredo, Vice President of the Philippines

Implementing Solutions and Activating Partners to Improve Global Health

According to the Lancet Commission, lack of access to safe surgery is a global health crisis that affects billions of people in the developing world. For Operation Smile, every child born with cleft deserves access to safe, timely and effective surgical care. However, there are many barriers to access care, such as lack of awareness of surgical options, inability to travel to a surgical center, and the significant need for more trained health care workers. As a result, many children with untreated cleft conditions are unable to eat or speak properly, attend school, make friends or grow up to secure a job – in the worst cases, a cleft can be life-threatening. Operation Smile dedicates significant resources to identify and overcome these barriers to care.

As part of the anniversary campaign, Operation Smile is working with partners to build and roll out a digital patient registry platform to connect people living with untreated cleft conditions to local care at its surgical sites. Strategic partnerships and patient-management programs are being established with local organizations like the Boys Scouts of the Philippines, who will travel to remote locations to register potential patients using a new mobile app. Around the world, the objective is to empower local citizens, nonprofits, faith and community-based organizations and local businesses to be patient advocates, who will identify untreated cleft patients and refer them to receive care.

Another key strategy for the organization and a call to action for the UNTIL WE HEAL campaign is building local surgical capacity by increasing the number and quality of health care workers through education and training programs. The year will culminate with large-scale, simultaneous medical missions and training programs in 35 countries, impacting more than 5,000 patients and health care workers from November 1 to November 17.


Operation Smile won’t stop until we heal every child with cleft. We will continue to bring attention to the global lack of access to safe surgery with help from our many partners and volunteers, especially our student leaders, who started this campaign and inspired a global movement.
- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile President and Co-Founder

To learn more, sign the pledge, or find out how to get involved, visit www.UntilWeHeal.org

Operation Smile

Operation Smile is an international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. It is one of the oldest and largest volunteer-based organizations dedicated to improving the health and lives of children worldwide through access to surgical care. Since 1982, Operation Smile has developed expertise in mobilizing volunteer medical teams to conduct surgical missions in resource-poor environments while adhering to the highest standards of care and safety. Operation Smile helps to fill the gap in providing access to safe, well-timed surgeries by partnering with hospitals, governments and ministries of health, training local medical personnel, and donating much-needed supplies and equipment to surgical sites around the world. Founded and based in Virginia, U.S., Operation Smile has extended its global reach to more than 60 countries through its network of credentialed surgeons, pediatricians, doctors, nurses, and student volunteers. For more information, visit www.operationsmile.org.