Operation Smile was founded in 1982 when Dr. William (Bill) P. Magee, Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen (Kathy), a nurse and clinical social worker, traveled to the Philippines with a group of medical volunteers to repair children’s cleft lips and cleft palates.
What they found was overwhelming. “People pushed their babies at us.” recalls Kathy. “They tugged at our sleeves with tears in their eyes and begged us to help their children.” In Naga City, approximately 300 families arrived hoping their children would receive surgery, but the team could only treat 40 children. As they prepared to leave, the Magees made a promise they would return to help more children.
They began soliciting donations of surgical equipment and supplies from manufacturers, threw themselves into grassroots fundraising and assembled a volunteer team of 18 doctors, nurses and technicians for their own medical mission to the Philippines. They helped approximately 100 more patients, but again, hundreds still waited.
Operation Smile works with local medical professionals, governments, and hospitals to create different models of surgical care. They determine which solutions work best in order to reach as many children as possible wherever. Each year, Operation Smile conducts hundreds of medical missions in locations around the world.
Operation Smile is committed to increasing access to surgical services, and they have for more than three decades now. In working with the World Health Organization, Operation Smile believes that a safe, well-timed surgery is a basic service that should be accessible to all families. Their website is http://www.operationsmile.org/