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Medical Volunteers

Medical Volunteers

Join our global community of volunteers who strive for excellence for all patients – for every child and every family.

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 four 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 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, educational and 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.
  • Operation Smile is dedicated to providing education and training initiatives throughout all of our clinical programs in partnership with local volunteers and health care professionals to support building local capacity.  
  • Volunteers are recruited to participate internationally and in their home-country, local program sites. The criteria and specific skills needed by volunteers will vary by program and country.
  • Flight and lodging costs are covered by Operation Smile.

Volunteer Specialties

Volunteers from the following medical specialties make up our medical program teams. Operation Smile is a globally inclusive organization, and we recognize that countries have varying job titles and educational requirements. The primary medical specialty roles below encompass these differences and are in compliance with our Medical Global Standards. Please review the specialty qualifications summaries to determine if one of these roles is right for you. To express interest and find out more, please email us.

Dr Valentina Ostanina (left) administers anesthetic to Patient


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.

 PC Assistant Abreham Haddis. The Operation Smile rotation's first day of surgery at Jimma University Hospital in Jimma, Ethiopia on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015.

Biomedical Technicians

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.

Plastic Surgeon Petra Peterson from Sweden with Plastic Surgeon - Observer's Romain Raherison from Madagascar on the first day of surgery.


Our surgical volunteers are highly experienced in comprehensive surgical care in cleft and non-cleft procedures. They are charged with performing a diverse array of surgeries on an aggressive timeline and provide the best possible patient outcomes and serving as many patients as possible.

Pediatric dentist Dane Hoang during the Operation Smile dental mission at the Hue Odonto-Stomatology Hospital in Hue, Vietnam


Our oral health volunteers provide 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.

Nurses Maggie and Megan in PacU at the Diocesan Caritas Clinic Barinas, Venezuela


Pre/Post-Operative / Surgical Circulating Nurse / Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU/PICU/NICU) / Operating Room

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.

Pediatrician Zhang Zhengming, Operation Smile mission, Wenshan, Yunnan province, China


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.

Mukelo Diamini, 9 months old, Male, BCL, before with Pediatric Intensivist Alexandra Torbog.Rob Ferreira Hospital. Operation Smile South Africa

Post Anesthesia Care Unit Physicians

Recovering from anesthesia is a critical period for our patients. The placement of 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. We will consider pediatric anesthesiologists and pediatricians for this role if all qualifications are met.

 Child Life/Psychosocial Care Provider Jenifer Fieten of the USA.

Psychosocial Providers

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 often confusing world of the hospital.

Therapist Nurse Milena Cleves of Columbia screening a patient at the Hospital de la Villa during the Operation Smile Bolivia Mission.

Speech Language Therapy

Our speech language therapists have a wide range and depth of educational and clinical experiences in cleft and other craniofacial anomalies. 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 patient. Additionally, they work with patients and families on nutrition and general speech and language education.

Do you meet the qualifications and are interested in learning more about joining our team of volunteers? Email us!

Make Your Gift


Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft condition. Your gift today will help transform lives and increase access to essential surgical care.