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Women in Medicine Initiative

Women in Medicine Initiative

Through the Women in Medicine Initiative, Operation Smile will provide educational pathways for women to be global leaders in health care.

More than 5 million patients are in need of cleft care in the countries where we work, and 5 billion people lack access to safe surgery globally. By educating and empowering women in health care and medicine, Operation Smile can increase access to care and help build global health infrastructure.

Through mentorship and leadership at the local, regional and international levels, we can increase access to career development and leadership opportunities, creating a lasting impact in health care and increasing access to care for children with cleft and other surgical conditions. 

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During a 2022 Women in Medicine surgical program, Operation Smile volunteer surgeon Dr. Wone Banda of Malawi performs surgery.

In low- and middle-income countries around the world, the Women in Medicine Initiative works to:

EDUCATE women on advanced medical practices;
EMPOWER women to become leaders in global medicine;
EXPAND opportunities for female health care workers; and
ELEVATE cleft surgery and comprehensive care.

As part of Operation Smile's Next Decade, the Women in Medicine Initiative aims to achieve the above goals by continuing to expand the following offerings:

  1. Women-Led Surgical Outreach Programs
  2. Medical Scholarships for Women in Medicine
  3. Leadership Conferences
  4. Research Grants
"We want to highlight and celebrate the involvement of female surgeons and health care workers globally."

Where We Work

With the launch of Women in Medicine in 2020, Operation Smile has brought all-women programs to patients around the world.

The Women in Medicine Initiative has an impact not only on the women who participate, but also the patients they treat and their families.

During the first Women in Medicine program in 2020, 96% of parents said they are more confident to seek out medical care by women after their child received care from an all-women health care team. And, all parents (100%), regardless of their child’s gender, agreed that the experience made them believe in the capabilities of family members that are women. This includes 75% of parents who strongly agreed the program helped them believe their children or family members who are women can pursue careers in medicine.

When 1 billion women in low- to middle-income countries are not formally employed due to barriers in education, lack of mentorship or social stigma, showcasing, mentoring and empowering women in medicine is critical.

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Francoise Mukagaju

Meet Rwanda's First Female Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Francoise Mukagaju is Rwanda's first female plastic surgeon and completed her training through Operation Smile's partnership with the University of Rwanda. She is committed to remaining in Rwanda to help her people. "It is important for us to stay in our country, to serve our population," she says. "Because we have seen the need, and it is for us to meet that need."

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.