Who We Are
Our commitment to comprehensive and patient-centered care doesn’t only ensure the best possible outcomes. It’s the right thing to do. It’s a value that’s at the heart of every credentialed medical volunteer we select, regardless of where they call home. We are open-minded and accepting of cultural diversity, understanding that flexibility and humility are the keys to problem solving in challenging and fast-paced environments. We value the opportunity to learn from and share skills with some of the world’s most talented, dedicated and innovative medical professionals. While volunteerism has the power to change our lives and create lifelong friendships, we choose to come together to transform the lives of people affected by cleft conditions who lack access to essential and safe surgical care.
“I am volunteering because I have a deep interest in helping others. The work Operation Smile is doing in Ethiopia means so much. Many people live as society’s outcasts because of the problems they have – they do not realize these are problems that can be fixed. To volunteer is very rewarding… Volunteering with people from other parts of the world also allows me to build my experience and knowledge.”
Operation Smile medical programs are almost entirely volunteer-based, so we rely on medical professionals who can take charge of their roles with confidence, conviction and world-class skill. These traits have made Operation Smile a global leader in performing safe cleft surgery in resource-limited environments for more than three decades. Guided by our Medical Global Standards, medical volunteers must be able to work as a team to balance the highest possible quality of care with the efficiency to serve as many patients as our time and resources will allow. This demands stamina – physically, mentally and emotionally – as long hours and a fast pace are expected of our volunteers. Our work also requires travel to locations across the globe, which presents its own set of demands and challenges.
Medical Programs at a Glance
- Operation Smile’s Medical Programs deliver comprehensive care services to patients with cleft conditions. These include surgical and non-surgical interventions offered at hospitals, clinics, cleft care centers or in community settings. These can be short term (ranging from one day to two weeks) or involve long-term placement of medical professionals to support service delivery, technical exchanges and capacity building activities. Additional opportunities for involvement in Medical Programs include areas that support the building components of health systems involved in the delivery of safe surgical and anesthesia care.
- In addition to our typical medical programs, Operation Smile is dedicated to education and training initiatives for our local volunteer bases and health care workers.
- International volunteers will primarily be recruited to support local programs and, therefore, the criteria and specific skills needed by volunteers will vary by program and country.
- Please note, that volunteer opportunities will be extremely limited as there may only be one or two international volunteer needs per medical program.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to be a key factor that plays into how we plan and carry out our programs.
- Flights and lodging costs are covered by Operation Smile.
Resident Leadership Program
Operation Smile’s Resident Leadership Program has been an important part of our organization and a signature program for our education team dating back to 2009.
As Operation Smile continues to grow to meet the needs of our patients and their communities, as well as the health workers who serve them, we continually evaluate programs within the education portfolio as we evolve our strategy. To better serve our patients while also growing sustainable surgical ecosystems, we have paused the Resident Leadership Program at this time. We offer our deepest gratitude to the past sponsors of the program, the Regan family through the Harbourton Foundation and Stryker, which enabled Operation Smile to build the skills of over 1,000 surgeons, pediatricians and anesthesiologists from 57 countries.
Operation Smile remains committed to the training and education of health care workers around the world, and our programs will continue to provide opportunities to elevate the skills of these providers.
Where We Work
Operation Smile works with local health care providers, governments, hospitals to deliver the most effective and safe surgical care to patients. We have foundations and offices all over the globe. Please contact Global Headquarters and we will connect you with the appropriate volunteer opportunities.
Operation Smile established a presence in Australia in 1999
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Bolivia was held in 1999
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Brazil was held in 1997
Operation Smile established a presence in Canada in 2011
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Chian was held in 1991
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Columbia was held in 1988
Operation Smile's first surgical program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was held in 2009
Operation Smile's first surgical program in the Dominican Republic was held in 2009
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Ecuador was held in 1995
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Egypt was held in 2006
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Ethiopia was held in 2005
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Ghana was held in 2011
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Guatemala was held in 2011
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Honduras was held in 1997
Operation Smile's first surgical program in India was held in 2002
Operation Smile established a presence in Italy in 2000
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Jordan was held in 2000
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Kenya was held in 1987
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Madagascar was held in 2007
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Malawi was held in 2012
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Mexico was held in 2006
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Morocco was held in 1998
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Mozambique was held in 2014
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Panama was held in 1991
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Paraguay was held in 2005
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Peru was held in 1999
Operation Smile's first surgical program in the Philippines was held in 1982
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Rwanda was held in 2010
Operation Smile's first surgical program in South Africa was held in 2006
Operation Smile established a presence in Sweden in 2010
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Thailand was held in 1997
Operation Smile established a presence in the United Kingdom in 2001
Dr. Bill Magee and Kathy Magee founded Operation Smile in 1982 in Norfolk, Virginia
Operation Smile's first surgical program in Vietnam was held in 1989
Operation Smile is a globally inclusive organization, and we recognize that countries have varying job titles and educational requirements. Operation Smile’s medical specialty roles below encompass these differences if they are in compliance with our Medical Global Standards. Volunteers from the following medical specialties make up our medical program teams. Please review the specialty qualifications and submit a volunteer interest form below.
**Medical Specialty Recruitment Updates**:
Please note, we have temporarily closed applications from the following countries for specific volunteer positions:
- United States: Medical Records (non-medical), CRNA, Pre/Post Nurses (Pre/Post nurse applicants who are fluent or conversational in a language other than/in addition to English are still being considered – French and Spanish speakers highly needed), Dental
- Canada: Medical Records (non-medical), CRNA, Pre/Post Nurses (Pre/Post nurse applicants who are fluent or conversational in a language other than/in addition to English are still being considered – French and Spanish speakers highly needed), Dental
- Sweden: Medical Records (non-medical), CRNA, All Nurses, Dental
- United Kingdom: Medical Records (non-medical), CRNA, Pre/Post Nurses (Pre/Post nurse applicants who are fluent or conversational in a language other than/in addition to English are still being considered – French and Spanish speakers highly needed), Dental
- If you currently live in a country where we do not have a foundation office, please follow U.S. guidelines for applications.
Anesthesiologist / Pediatric Anesthesiologist / Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist / Anesthesia Clinical Officer
The administration of anesthesia is a critical aspect of performing safe surgery – without it, none of our work would be possible. Our anesthesia providers deliver the highest level of care to a broad age range of patients from infancy to adulthood in varied environments across the globe. They work in harmony with the surgical and nursing teams to deliver anesthetic care and pain management.
Biomedical technicians ensure that we can bring state-of-the-art medical equipment to even the most rural and remote hospitals. Their responsibilities include guaranteeing the integrity of hospital infrastructure and systems. They assess, monitor and repair equipment supplied by both local foundations and Global Headquarters. Our biomedical technicians are essential in ensuring the safety of our patients and volunteers on the medical program.
Our cleft surgeons are highly experienced in comprehensive cleft surgical care. They are charged with performing a diverse array of cleft lip and cleft palate procedures on an aggressive timeline and continually balance providing the best possible patient outcomes and serving as many patients as possible.
Our dentists focus on oral health, providing care to surgical and non-surgical patients. This may include extractions, creation of obturators and other strategies that improve intra-oral function, speech and aesthetics of our patients. Throughout the program, they also provide preventative and home care instructions to patients and their families.
Pre/Post-Operative / Surgical Circulating Nurse / Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)
Our nurses provide patients with their professional skills and personal touch. They embody the compassionate and caring spirit of Operation Smile’s medical volunteer community. Their knowledge of pediatric principles and their diverse abilities ensure that every patient receives the exceptional care they deserve, every step of the way.
The majority of the patients we serve are children, so we rely on the knowledge and insight of pediatricians to interpret the entire health picture of each of our patients. The pediatrician’s input is critical to our pre-operative comprehensive health evaluations, which determine if children are healthy enough to receive surgery. They continue to care for patients after surgery and ensure families are prepared to take their child home.
Post Anesthesia Care Unit Physicians
Recovering from anesthesia is a critical period for our patients. The placement of PI/PACU physicians in the recovery room allows us to provide a safe environment for patients undergoing surgery. Recognition of potential complications and responding with life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills are essential to providing the best level of post-operative monitoring and care.
Our psychosocial provider volunteers are trained professionals that guide the patient and family through the surgical experience. They utilize their knowledge of child development to ease patient fears and anxieties by explaining and demonstrating every aspect of care. They facilitate therapeutic play and activities, working with parents, and act as the child’s and family’s advocate in the potentially confusing world of the hospital.
Speech Language Pathology
Our speech language pathologists have a wide range and depth of educational and clinical experiences in cleft and other craniofacial disorders. They partner with the medical team to provide insight into which types of procedures or non-surgical options ensure the best speech outcome for every individual patient. They additionally work with patients and families on nutrition and general speech and language education.
If you do not fall into one of the above medical volunteer categories, are still a resident, or are looking for other opportunities to support the organization, please see below ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES section for more information.
Global Surgery Fellowship
This is a flexible two year program that provides young medical professionals long- term opportunities to expand and enhance their global health knowledge and expertise through exposure to research, advocacy and on-ground programmatic global surgery initiatives in the low-and middle-income countries where we work.
U.S. Care Network
In pursuance of our goal to provide safe, accessible care worldwide, we are asking medical professionals to join our U.S. Care Network (USCN), a referral service available to families in the United States. U.S. Care Network members work within their communities in the United States to promote access to safe and affordable care. As a USCN member, you help break down obstacles to optimal health care by providing pro bono services to individuals in our U.S. Care patient registry.