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Dr. Ruben Ayala

Chief of Policy and Advocacy

Operation Smile Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ruben Ayala speaks at an event in Vietnam in 2019.

Dr. Ruben Ayala, M.D., MSC, is a public health physician from Panama with more than 30 years of experience in advocacy and humanitarian assistance. During his career with Operation Smile, he has planned, executed and overseen surgical programs in more than 40 countries.  

Dr. Ayala also oversaw the establishment of Operation Smile foundations in low- and middle-income countries that offer year-round health services to patients and families affected by cleft conditions. Throughout the years, Dr. Ayala has fostered collaboration between governments, nongovernmental organizations, industries, communities, universities and other members of civil society.  

He served as Operation Smile’s Chief Medical Officer, focusing on the review of surgical outcomes and the evolution of standards of surgical care for patients with cleft lip and cleft palate. He joined the official delegation of the government of Vietnam to the World Health Assembly in 2015 and 2017, helping align the country’s support for global surgery and anesthesia.

Dr. Ayala currently serves as Operation Smile’s Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer. He is also board member and Immediate Past-President of the Permanent Council of the Global Alliance for Surgical, Obstetric, Trauma and Anesthesia Care, represents Operation Smile at the Global Initiative for Children’s Surgery and the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council. He leads Operation Smile’s global health policy efforts promoting access to safe, timely and effective surgical care to underserved communities around the world.


It takes as little as $240 and as few as 45 minutes to provide life-changing surgery and a bright, beautiful new smile to a waiting child.