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A Pioneer in Health Care: Q&A with Clinical Coordinator Malika Madiri

Clinical coordinator Malika Madiri during Operation Smile's November 2019 medical mission to Agadir, Morocco. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

Our promise of improving health and dignity during the COVID-19 pandemic endures. We're helping front-line health workers stay safe, nourished and empowered to better serve their patients by providing life-saving supplies and equipment, as well as remote training to bolster their response. We’re also providing nutritional assistance, hygiene kits and virtual health services to support people and their health needs so they can thrive. If you can, when you can, help us keep our promise to care for children and create hope for tomorrow.

Driven to deliver safe surgery, Malika Madiri uses her role as clinical coordinator to oversee, motivate and lead the volunteers who provide quality care through every stage of a medical mission.

Growing up with a sister and three brothers whose hereditary diseases led to many visits to the local hospital, Malika discovered her desire to enter into the medical field.

Last year, Malika used that passion and determination to bring brighter futures and smiles to children living with cleft conditions in Morocco during Operation Smile’s first medical mission comprised entirely of female volunteers: Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation. 

Women comprising 60 percent of the volunteers on Operation Smile’s international medical missions proves that the organization's work simply wouldn’t be possible without people like Malika, who are world-class medical professionals in their fields. 

“During my 70-plus missions, I’ve noticed that many of our volunteers are women who’ve left their homes and children for more than 10 days. It’s not easy for them,” Malika said. “This mission, for me, is a performance bonus and a recognition of their sacrifice.”

Serving as a volunteer nurse for Operation Smile Morocco’s first mission in 1998, Malika continues to use her talent and generosity as the organization’s clinical coordinator, the head nurse in charge of leading the team of nurses before and during missions.

And with 2021 being the International Year of Health and Care Workers, stories like Malika's are the ones we hope will inspire the next generation of health care professionals and celebrate the people who are instrumental in changing the lives of patients and their families around the world.

We sat down with Malika to hear more about her clinical coordinator role as well as her thoughts on the significance that the women's mission had for young people everywhere.

Clinical coordinator Malika Madiri of Morocco, right, speaks to a patient and their family member during screening day at an April 2019 medical mission in Antsirabe, Madagascar. Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli.

Q: What did being a part of Operation Smile’s Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation mission mean to you personally?

A: “International Women’s Day had a special flavor. During a mission to Ouarzazate in 2015, which coincided with March 8, Fouzia Mahmoudi (Operation Smile Morocco Co-Founder and Vice President) thought about all the women. We had a nice surprise and received flowers and silver pendants.

“This mission is a tribute to all the women who have been involved with Operation Smile missions since 1982.”

Q: How did you feel being surrounded by so many leading women in their fields during this female-led mission?

A: “I’m very proud to work with them as the team leader in this special mission. We are very familiar with each other and have already worked together, which makes our task easier and leads to very good communication.”

Q: As a clinical coordinator, what are your main responsibilities during a medical mission?

A: “Our tasks start before any medical mission begins. We get in touch with the nursing team by sending them a presentation email. Then we prepare the cargo. During the mission, we coordinate with all of the services: surgical wards, recovery rooms, post-operative. Then we organize pre-surgery and pre-consultation meetings and draw up the surgical planning for the entire week with the help of the leading surgical teams, anesthesia teams and the pediatric intensivists.”

Q: In your role as clinical coordinator, what are the most important aspects of pre-screening?

A: “The role of the clinical coordinator during the consultations is to assign tasks across all of the patients. The most important thing is the patient's medical record. The patient's medical record must be complete and must be signed. It’s also mandatory to obtain a parent’s consent. Without this consent, there will be no surgery. Next, we check the patient's file. Has the patient been through every step: photo, vital signs, surgeon, anesthesiologist, dentist, lab, speech. The file has to be filled completely and signed. Otherwise, there will be no surgery. The surgeon's signature before the surgery is also very important. Next, we have to sort them by their age to ease the setting up of the surgical planning for the entire week.

“We also need to take into account the patient's distance, the degree of kinship, for example, two sisters, two brothers, should be scheduled for surgery on the same day or, at best, on the first days of surgery.”

Q: How many patients typically arrived at Operation Smile Morocco medical missions seeking help for their cleft conditions prior to the pandemic?

A: “During the consultations, the largest number of patients we’ve seen is 430 patients. After the discussion between the team leaders, we take the patients who are in a stable condition and who don't have any health complications. Our goal is safe surgery, that's our objective. So, we can reach up to 200 patients each mission.”

Q: What emotions do you feel when patients leave the mission without receiving care due to health problems discovered during their comprehensive health evaluations?

A: “It’s heartbreaking. But we always try to take care of patients who come from long distances. We tell them where we’re going to be next time.”

Q: Did you hope that the Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation mission would empower young women and girls to join the medical field when they grow up?

A: “Changing the lives of a patient and their family, giving back the beautiful smile to a patient, for me, is the best reward we can receive. It’s also a source of motivation for young people.”

Help us to continue keeping our promise to patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Your support today means we can help patients through these uncertain times and provide them with the care and surgery they deserve when it's safe to resume our work.

Photo: Margherita Mirabella.


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.