Ernest Gaie, Senior Advisor Global Business Operations, Operation Smile

In 2015, the Lancet Global Health medical journal published a report that revealed an alarming five billion people do not have access to safe surgical care when they need it. Additionally, 17 million lives are lost every year from surgically treatable conditions.

Surgery is a critical component of an effective and responsive health care system. However, it remains unattainable to more than 80% of the world’s population.

Nine out of 10 people in low- and middle-income countries cannot access basic surgical care.

The global need for stronger surgical health care systems cannot be overemphasized. The unprecedented effect of COVID-19 in…


By Kendra E. Davenport, Chief Development Officer, Operation Smile

Much is written about confidence possessed by successful leaders and how that self-assurance draws people to them, inspiring people to follow their lead. But there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

For women, this line is difficult to straddle and critical judgement of female leaders for being confident is not just levied by men — other women can be equally critical. The qualities we admire and serve as examples of charisma and competence in men are often frowned upon in women. …


By John Streit, Managing Editor and Writer, Operation Smile

In that moment, I was surprised — but I shouldn’t have been.

“Why would this man be so angry with me?” I wondered, dumbfounded and naïve.

He was one of the merchants at a large public bead market in Koforidua, Ghana, where our crew set out to capture footage that would be used in a story about the work of our Ghanaian volunteers. The scene was vibrant and bustling, layered with the colors of beads hanging from long strings — the kind of photogenic backdrop that videographers are naturally drawn toward.

Emphatic and animated, he demanded that we stop filming…


By Kendra E. Davenport, Chief Development Officer, Operation Smile

About a year ago, I hosted did a brown bag lunch discussion with my team on the topic of thinking and acting strategically to reach your personal and professional goals. One of the issues I covered was maximizing the connections you make every day, which demands that you consider all facets of the people you meet, not just the aspect that your initial connection reveals.

This skill comes naturally to some of us, while others need to work at it. It is often referred to as networking, but what I am talking about is deeper than networking.

A group of four people smiling at the camera.
A group of four people smiling at the camera.
Thirteen years ago, Tony Burchard (second from the left) hired me to work with him and his team at Project HOPE. He remains a trusted advisor and friend.

To me networking…


By Charlotte Steppling, Nutrition Program Manager, Operation Smile

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by healthcare professionals for at least the first 6 months following birth. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until 2 years old because the benefits continue throughout early physical development.

A mother in Wenshan, China, breastfeeds her baby after surgery.
A mother in Wenshan, China, breastfeeds her baby after surgery.
A mother in Wenshan, China, breastfeeds her baby after surgery.

The perks and the power of breastfeeding are endless — not only is it free and ready at any time — but breast milk is loaded with antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and bacteria, which is critical in early months.


By Dr. Naikhoba Munabi, plastic surgery resident at the University of Southern California and former Global Surgery Fellow at Operation Smile

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” — African proverb

When asked how I’ve been able to climb the ladder of success to where I am today, my answer is always simple: I didn’t do it alone.

I come from a family of physicians, including women such as my mother and grandmother. On the occasions that people have said my race or gender would limit my ability to succeed in my chosen career, I looked to my family to confirm that these opinions were wrong.

My inspiration and support came from…


By Kendra E. Davenport, Chief Development Officer, Operation Smile

When I was growing up, one of the many things my parents would say to me was that I was no better than anyone else and no one else was better than me.

I can remember being irritated when I was upset, or my feelings were hurt, that they weren’t more compassionate or conciliatory. I wanted them to take my side and reassure me that I was a shining star in their eyes, not tell me that I was no better than anyone else or that nobody was better than me. …


By Geir Stangeland, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Operation Smile

When this organization began, almost 40 years ago, we relied on skilled medical professionals who volunteered their time to travel to some of the most remote areas in the world to perform life-altering cleft surgery. Since then, we have grown from that first medical mission in the Philippines to providing care for patients in more than 30 countries with volunteers from more than 60.

Operation Smile volunteers standing in front of a mountain in the Philippines holding a sign.
Operation Smile volunteers standing in front of a mountain in the Philippines holding a sign.
Operation Smile volunteers during one of the first medical missions in the Philippines

For the past year, I’ve collaborated with the medical oversight team to review and refine our Medical Global Standards© of care. …


By Dr. Ruben Ayala, Chief Medical Officer, Operation Smile

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Operation Smile remains committed to providing our patients with the highest quality of cleft surgery and comprehensive care, and we are working in close collaboration with ministries of health and local authorities to determine when it will be safe to resume these activities in the countries where we work.

We firmly believe that comprehensive cleft care supports the entire well-being of our patients, and that these services, while considered “elective” by some, should be categorized as essential. …


By Kristie Magee Porcaro, Chief Strategy Officer and Partnerships, Operation Smile

As I sat across the table from Antero, I remember holding my fork a little more tightly than normal. My body was tense and I was unsure where to direct my attention. Antero had noma, a disease that caused the death of the tissue around his nose and mouth. It’s a condition that is difficult and painful not only to those who experience it, but also to those who see it. …

Operation Smile

Through our expertise in treating cleft lip and cleft palate, we create solutions that deliver safe surgery to people where it’s needed most. operationsmile.org

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