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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 25 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.

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

More recently, Ruben has focused on the review of surgical outcomes and the evolution of standards of surgical care for patients with cleft lip and cleft palate. He served as part of 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.

Ruben currently serves as Operation Smile’s Chief of Policy and Advocacy. He is also the current 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, the World Health Organization’s Global Initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care, and the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council. Ruben 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.