By Kendra Davenport, Chief Development Officer, Operation Smile
We hosted our first Government Health Forum in Washington, D.C. on Friday, November 8, 2019, convening traditional and nontraditional partners and stakeholders to prompt greater collaboration and to identify critical intersections of interest among diverse, but powerful, existing and prospective partners. Since our inception in 1982, Operation Smile has pioneered global health solutions that have brought safe, effective surgery to hundreds of thousands of people in more than 40 countries. Nearly four decades later, we continue to innovate, establishing and sustaining partnerships with critical corporate supporters to give people in need a shot at a healthier, happier life through surgery.
The Government Health Forum was yet another example of our commitment to serving as a catalyst for much needed collaboration among government and private sector entities, who have enabled Operation Smile to achieve so much this far.
This year alone, we will lead close to 200 missions in more than 30 countries, providing high-quality, free surgery and other medical interventions for more than 16,000 patients, performed by top medical professionals from all around the world.
We know we can, and must, do more. That’s why we hosted this forum, to ignite a conversation about collaboration and cooperation that will ultimately result in the formation of more strategic alliances. The forum brought together some of our most supportive corporate partners like Chevron, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, Stryker, Wipfli and AbbVie and united groups like the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations and the Association for Accessible Medicines and also convened government representatives from congressional and international offices including Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie of Ethiopia.
At Operation Smile, we take nothing for granted and we are steadfast in our appreciation to all those whose support helps us provide life-changing surgeries without cost to patients or their families. We strive to foster long-term partnerships because we recognize we cannot work alone.
As competition for philanthropic dollars grows, we recognize our donors and corporate supporters have choices and we are grateful so many give our work their seal of approval by continuing to provide essential support. We are committed to ensuring that mutual benefits are achieved and hold ourselves to exactingly high standards of dependability, professionalism and trust.
The turnout at the first Government Health Forum was a testament to the regard in which we are held by those whose donations sustain our work. But more importantly, it was a clear sign that those who attended are motivated and enthused about engaging in conversations about unique new ways we can work together to refine processes, improve services, increase access to safe surgery and bring more donated goods and services to countries where small improvements can be transformative.
We remain grateful to everyone who supports us and to those who participated in the Forum. We underscore our appreciation because with you, we are certain we can help more people live healthier lives.
The closing conversation facilitated by Kathy Pickus, Vice President of Global Sustainability for Griffith Foods, demonstrated how passionate participants were about innovating together, eradicating silos and leveraging collective expertise and resources. Together, we believe we can make safe surgery more accessible globally, improve and strengthen developing health systems continue to change lives for the better, one smile at a time.
We are intent on catalyzing the energy, resources and manpower of as many corporations, industry associations, lawmakers, government agencies and like-minded individuals as possible, to maintain the momentum created at our first Government Health Forum.