The Urgent Need for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Genetic Studies

Operation Smile and its International Family Study (IFS) team follow a series of steps to conduct their research during medical missions in a handful of countries — from Guatemala to Madagascar to the Philippines — where there are especially elevated numbers of people born with cleft conditions. Operation Smile photo: Jessica Brandi Lifland.
As of 2019, our International Family Study has collected more than 16,000 individual saliva samples representing more than 7,000 families, creating the largest and most diverse genetic repository of cleft samples globally. Operation Smile photo: Margherita Mirabella.
Preliminary research conducted by the organization and its partners suggests a potential link between cooking smoke inhalation and an increased risk of having a child with a cleft condition. Operation Smile photo: Jörgen Hildebrandt.

This evidence is compelling, but more importantly, it tells a different story than the body of research that precedes it.

Ma Te and her 14-month-old son, Ton, await for their chance to receive life-changing surgery during a 2006 surgical program in Mae Sot, Thailand. Operation Smile photo: Marc Ascher.

Simply training more surgeons and providing surgery may never be enough for the 5 billion people who lack access –we have to prevent disease.

For Operation Smile volunteer and IFS team member JR Lado of the Philippines, nailing down the cause of cleft — and finding a solution — is a personal mission. In 2009, JR received surgery for his cleft condition from Operation Smile and has been a dedicated volunteer ever since, working for medical records and then serving on the IFS team. Photo courtesy of Aeson Baldevia.
Operation Smile photo: Zute Lightfoot.

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Operation Smile

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