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25 June 2008

Operation Smile Supports WHO Safe Surgery Saves Lives Initiative

On June 25th, Operation Smile participated in the global launch ceremony of the World Health Organization’s Safe Surgery Saves Lives Initiative.

Hosted by Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, WHO Regional Director for the Americas, the event highlighted the WHO’s new global campaign to improve the safety of surgical care. The event was attended by ministers of health and world leaders in surgery, anesthesiology and nursing joining together to focus on reducing deaths and complications from surgery globally.

During the ceremony, Dr. Randy Sherman, Operation Smile’s Chief Medical Officer, formally announced Operation’s Smile endorsement of the new WHO Surgical Safety Checklist. The list includes simple safety checks that the WHO team has shown could halve the rate of surgical complications. The list is intended to improve anesthetic safety practices, avoid infections and improve communication among members of surgical teams. Operation Smile is one of almost 200 surgery, anesthesia, nursing and patient societies formally endorsing the checklist.

Major surgery now occurs at a rate of 234 million procedures per year - one for every 25 people - and studies indicating that a significant percentage result in preventable complications and deaths.

"Preventable surgical injuries and deaths are a growing concern," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. "Using the checklist is the best way to reduce surgical errors and improve patient safety."

Operation Smile’s involvement in the WHO Safe Surgery Saves Lives initiative is part of the organization’s broader efforts to advocate for and provide high quality, safe surgery in developing countries.

For more information on the Safe Surgery Saves Lives Initiative, please see:

01 June 2008

U.S. Doctor’s Join Together to Change Marie’s Life

Marie Gebrewold was born in Ethiopia. When she was only six-months-old, she fell out of her bed and broke both of her hands. However, no one noticed that she had also broken her jaw. As she grew, it became increasingly misaligned, affecting her speech and ability to eat. At age six, her parents took her to a specialist, who instructed them to wait a few years and then pursue treatment. Meanwhile, Marie suffered not only discomfort in eating and headaches, but also endured teasing from other children. After two to three years, her parents revisited the specialist, but at that point they could not afford surgery.

When she was a few years older, a group of physicians from Europe and the United States came to Ethiopia and offered to perform surgery. Through the pre surgical process, they discovered Marie had diabetes. As the physicians could not remain for follow up care after the surgery, the medical team made the decision that due to her diabetic condition, the risk for surgery was too great.

When Marie came to the U.S. at age 21, she was referred by Catholic Charities to dentist Dr. Patrick Kildea. With the assistance of Operation Smile, for which Kildea volunteers, he was able to pull together a dedicated team of doctors and resources for her to have the long awaited surgery at no cost.

Now 28-years-old, Marie, who lives in Wheaton, Maryland, is a very personable, smart, clinic nursing leadership student. However, she feels uncomfortable in social situations because people always ask “what happened to your jaw?”

When asked how she felt when she found out she would be getting surgery, Marie said, “When Dr. Kildea called me and told me that they have everything on hand, I cried, I didn’t have any words to express because I knew how this affected me in my childhood.” She added, “At some point I just gave up, I said okay maybe this is not happening for some reason. Maybe it is not the will of God. And Dr. Kildea, all the time he’d follow-up on the process…and always give me updates. He would say ‘don’t be disappointed, there will be a time when we have everything together, and this will happen, so don’t give up.’ He gave me all the hope throughout the whole five or six years. He is such a nice person.”

On May 15, a team of medical professionals led by Dr. Stephen Baker performed reconstructive surgery on Marie. Dr. Baker repositioned the jaw, and then filled in with fat grafts and tissue on the side where the jaw bone was shorter. Then he repositioned her chin correctly.

In addition to Dr. Kildea’s dentistry component and Dr. Baker’s major orthognathic surgery component, there are many other doctors who also helped. In 2004, Dr. Richard Giulani, donated his time and performed four teeth extractions and gave her braces. Dr. Peter Coccaro, donated the pre and post hospital orthodontics. Also, Dr. Eda Elbirlik, Dr. Pirooz Zia, and Dr. Tom Ollerhead donated pre and post surgical endodontics.

Recently, Marie became a U.S. citizen.

18 March 2008

Operation Smile Provides Surgery to Ethiopian Teenager in Norfolk, Virginia

The life of 15-year-old Edelawit Shekur from Tifrem, in the Gurage Zone in Southern Ethiopia, has been changed forever thanks to the efforts of Operation Smile and Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk, Virginia. Edelawit received surgery on March 18, 2008 at CHKD. Operation Smile CEO and Co-founder Dr. Bill Magee and Operation Smile volunteer Dr. Richard Rosenblum performed the surgery to repair Edelawit’s cleft lip.

As a result of her facial deformity, Edelawit had difficulty speaking and was teased at school. She also started school late, so she is shy and is only in the second grade. Edelawit enjoys math, language and science, and during her physical education class, Edelawit runs with her classmates.

But things are going to change for Edelawit now that her cleft lip has been repaired, reflecting the Amharic meaning of her name, which is “the lucky one.” Edelawit said there are many children with cleft lips in her village in need of surgery.

Edelawit and her sister left their family and village in Tifrem in November 2007, to meet the mission team that was working in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the World Journey of Smiles. They traveled five hours by bus from Tifrem to get to Addis Ababa. Edelawit came looking for surgery because, “I want my face to be normal and kids tease me,” she said, “I don’t want to have problems at school.”

However, Edelawit and her sister arrived too late, getting to Addis Ababa on the last day of surgery. While she did get a free physical examination, Edelawit did not get surgery and their plan was to stay in Addis Ababa until the next Operation Smile mission to Ethiopia. However, the next mission to Ethiopia isn’t scheduled to take place until December 2008.

That late arrival was part of the reason Edelawit was brought to Norfolk. The timing of Edelawit’s trip to Hampton Roads coincides with the Operation Smile Final Mile which took place on Saturday, March 15, as part of the Shamrock Sportsfest. There were also several Ethiopian and Kenyan runners taking part in the event’s marathon.

For the Operation Smile Final Mile, more than 2,000 elementary school students ran 25.2 miles over the course of several months in order to run their final mile on March 15 for a total of 26.2 miles, the equivalent of a marathon. The Operation Smile Final Mile program is a way for children to get fit and raise money for children around the world suffering with facial deformities. Edelawit ran the final mile with those students and with the marathon runners from Ethiopia and Kenya.

On the day of the Final Mile, a young boy approached Samson Tesfaye, Edelawit’s traveling chaperone and Operation Smile Ethiopia Country Manager. He wanted Samson to give Edelawit a message for him: “Tell her I am running for her.”

Edelawit and Samson are being hosted by the Budorick family of Virginia Beach for approximately one week, before returning home to Ethiopia. Virginia Beach is a big change from her home in Tifrem, a rural environment without electricity or water.

“The plane ride and all the cars here are very exciting,” Edelawit said, “It’s not like it is back home.”

Despite her shyness, Edelawit is getting along very well with the family, which includes three daughters. The girls enjoy jumping rope together and playing soccer.

Now that her lip has been repaired, Edelawit can look forward to returning to her mother and home. Edelawit hasn’t seen her since that initial trip to Addis Ababa in November.

“I want to go back to school, and help my mother. I miss my family,” Edelawit said. “And I want to be a doctor when I grow up,”

01 January 2008

World Journey of Smiles Treats More than 4,000 Children Across the Globe

Operation Smile’s year-long anniversary celebration culminated in November 2007, with the World Journey of Smiles (WJOS), 40 simultaneous missions in 25 countries. WJOS took place November 7-16, 2007 and was the largest simultaneous medical mission of its kind. Free physical examinations were provided to 7,414 patients and 4,082 children born with cleft lips and cleft palates were provided free surgical treatment. The initiative mobilized more than 1,700 volunteers from 44 countries – more than 700 volunteers were from the United States and more than 1,000 volunteers were from 43 other countries. These volunteers worked together in 40 hospitals, care centers and clinics in 25 countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Twenty-five years after Operation Smile was founded, WJOS started in the Philippines, the country and hospital where it first began. On November 7, in Naga City at Bicol Medical Center, Operation Smile CEO and Co-founder Dr. Bill Magee performed the first surgery. More countries began their medical missions and soon, 40 sites were simultaneously providing free treatment. Dignitaries, Operation Smile corporate supporters and celebrities visited some of these sites. These guests and Operation Smile’s volunteers all came together with a shared passion for helping children.

Operation Smile’s mission in Amman, Jordan, treated Jordanian, Iraqi and Palestinian children. Her Excellency Queen Rania of Jordan came to show her support and spoke to volunteers, patients and families. A medical mission coordinated by Operation Smile South Africa took place for the first time in Madagascar. Operation Smile Italy Chairman of the Board Santo Versace and Operation Smile U.K. Chairman of the Board Jeremy Greenhalgh traveled to mission sites with the Magees to Morocco, Jordan and Ethiopia. The group met with the President of Ethiopia His Excellency Ato Girma Wolde-Giorgis.

Smile Ambassador Carmit Bachar of the Pussycat Dolls participated in the medical mission in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. During patient screenings, Carmit and her team organized stations for the children with face and body painting, bookmaking and crafts. There was also music and dancing for the children which they enjoyed. Actors and Smile Ambassadors Roselyn Sanchez and Eric Winter volunteered during Operation Smile’s medical mission in Managua, Nicaragua, where they helped Operation Smile volunteers screen nearly 250 children, talked to children and their families and played with the children while they waited for surgery. “Being a part of Operation Smile during their World Journey of Smiles was a surreal experience. To been able to see all of those children and their families with their faces filled with hope for a better future was incredible. We learned a lot, helped and understood the value of a smile and the real meaning of a helping hand,” said Roselyn Sanchez. While in Ecuador for the final day of the WJOS, the Magees met with the country’s Vice President Even Lenin Moreno Garces.

Operation Smile supporter David Wolfe volunteered on the mission in Casablanca, Morocco. He recounted, “One evening, the mission team was invited for a wonderful dinner at the local Sofitel. I had arrived early, and the Restaurant manager came up to me and told me that they had a young man working at the hotel who had a cleft lip. I mentioned it to Abdou, Operation Smile Morocco’s Executive Director, and thought nothing of it until three days later when I saw the boy in post-op. I kept wondering that if I was experiencing these random acts of extraordinary kindness, how many were occurring that I was not witnessing – not just in Morocco, but everywhere throughout the World Journey of Smiles.

Operation Smile focused its 25th Anniversary on sustainability, with a goal of increasing the number of children served annually through establishment of regional centers of care. While Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee were in the Philippines, they participated in a meeting in Makati City with Mayor Jejomar Binay, which led to an agreement between Makati City (part of Manila) and Operation Smile Philippines to establish an Operation Smile Center in one of the Makati Hospitals. Two additional Centers will be established in the Philippines, one in Cebu City in partnership with the Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung Foundation and one in Davao City in partnership with Brokenshire Memorial Hospital there. During WJOS, a new Operation Smile Comprehensive Care Center was opened in Hangzhou, China, and is expected to treat 5,000 children annually. Medical missions also took place in Operation Smile Comprehensive Care Centers in Vietnam and Colombia. There are also Comprehensive Care Centers under construction in Fortaleza, Brazil, and Casablanca, Morocco.

Medical volunteers submitted their thoughts to Operation Smile’s WJOS website, which was updated daily. Operation Smile nurse volunteer Cindi Raglin from Virginia served as Clinical Coordinator in Kolkata, India, and said, “Just as a pebble in tossed into the water creates circles from the center so do our lives create the same impact in the world. As one, we touch another person, a family, a community, a country…one smile, one life, one hope for love, for understanding…for world peace. Thank you Operation Smile, thank you Team Kolkata for allowing me to be a part of such a wonderful endeavor. Because of you, I am a better person.” Operation Smile nurse volunteer Quinn Sharkey from Sitka, Alaska, recalls a patient she met during her mission in Managua, Nicaragua, saying, “The boy was terrified and at first was very agitated but the Anesthesiologist and myself calmed him down and eventually got him to lie down. He grabbed my hand and I held his hand and re-assured him in what must of been the most horrible Spanish he had ever heard. He looked at me and smiled. His IV was started without so much as a flinch and he went off to sleep. The surgeon then repaired his cleft lip. It showed me that caring for another person crosses all language and cultural barriers. My trip to Nicaragua with Operation Smile has been the highlight of my Nursing career.”

Operation Smile also conducted a research project during WJOS, in partnership with Yale University, to study the genetic causes of cleft lip and cleft palate. Research data and DNA samples were collected in more than half of the 25 participating countries to be analyzed and screened with the hope of identifying the genetic markers that differentiate the population of people with cleft lip and cleft palate with the hope of finding a causal link.

“We want to thank each of our volunteers for making this incredible journey possible,” said Kathy Magee. “World Journey of Smiles was not simply a celebration of 25 years of accomplishment. It was the first step in our next journey together as an organization to build the infrastructure that will support children in need year-round.”

Operation Smile thanks its 25th Anniversary Corporate Smile Ambassadors who have each pledged or raised $100,000 in support of the 25th Anniversary: Abbott Fund; AriZona Beverage Co.;

The Atlantic Philanthropies; Becton, Dickinson and Company; Cardinal Health Foundation; Citigroup Foundation; CONMED Corporation; Datascope; ETHICON, Inc.; Financial Times; Hasbro Children’s Fund; Johnson & Johnson; King Systems Corporation; Lladró; Mallinckrodt, Inc.; McNeil Consumer Products and Specialty Pharmaceuticals; Molnlycke Health Care; Stryker; and SwimWays.

In addition to the corporate supporters, Operation Smile also recognizes with appreciation its 25th Anniversary Celebrity Smile Ambassadors who join Jessica Simpson, Operation Smile’s International Youth Ambassador, in support of the organization. 25th Anniversary Smile Ambassadors include: Carmit Bachar, Mark Burnett, Billy Bush, Mariah Carey, Justin Chatwin, Oscar D’León, Roma Downey, Melanie Dunea, Benj Gershman, Dhani Jones, Nigel Parry, Molly Sims, Vanessa and Donald Trump Jr., Roselyn Sanchez and Eric Winter.

For more, visit

11 November 2007

Co-founders of Operation Smile visit Ethiopia – November 2007

Operation Smile co-founders Bill and Kathy Magee visited Ethiopia on November 11, 2007 leading a delegation as part of the largest cleft lip and cleft palate global medical mission, called the World Journey of Smiles (Wjos). From November 7-16, 2007, more than 1900 Operation Smile volunteers gave new smiles to 4086 children at 40 sites in 25 countries and marked Operation Smile 25th Anniversary.

The co-founders of Operation Smile and the delegation had the pleasure of having a courtesy meeting with His Excellency Ato Girma Wolde-Giorgis, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on November 12, 2007.

30 October 2007

Basic Life Support Training in Addis Ababa and Jimma

In October 2007, Operation Smile organized its second Basic Life Support training course at the Black Lion Hospital. Twenty three healthcare professional benefited from this course which was organized in collaboration with the Black Lion Hospital.

Additionally, Operation Smile and Jimma University Specialized Hospital organized the first Basic Life Support training course for 19 medical professionals.

30 September 2007

Operation Smile United Kingdom Funds Founding Conference

The weekend of September 29 – 30, 2007 marked the founding conference of the Ethiopian Anesthesiologists Professional Association (ESAPA) funded by Operation Smile United Kingdom. The two-day conference was held at the Dessalegn Hotel. The primary aim for the conference was the formation of a professional anesthesia society whose mission is to “raise the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of patients”.

More than 60 participants participated in this historic event including Dr. Phil McDonald, Operation Smile U.K. Medical Director; Operation Smile medical volunteer and former teacher at the School Anesthesiology in Ethiopia, Dr. Wayne Barry of Canada; Dr. Keith Stratified from Australia, founder of the Ethiopian School of Anesthesiology. Other participants include anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists and guests invited from different sister societies.

The conference also created awareness for Operation Smile’s programs in Ethiopia.

30 November 2006

Basic Life Support Training, Addis Ababa

Operation Smile in Ethiopia organized the first Basic Life Support training in collaboration with the Addis Ababa Health Bureau.

Operation Smile trained 90 of the candidates proposed by the Addis Ababa Health Bureau in American Heart Association certified Basic Life Support thus strengthening the relationship between Operation Smile in Ethiopia and the Addis Ababa Health Bureau.

Operation Smile is an International Training Organization (ITO) of the American Heart Association (AHA). The program allows Operation Smile to develop training networks and provide Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) training to physicians around the world. Operation Smile is the only organization authorized by the AHA to function as a global and mobile ITO.

30 August 2006

Nursing Education Program

Operation Smile conducted a second Nursing Education Program for the nursing staff at the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in August 2006 and 22 participants attended the three day intensive training.

Some of the topics covered included the Anatomy of Clefts, Cleft Care, Pre and Post-Operative Nursing Care, Post-Operative Pain Management, Nutrition and Malnutrition, Cancer and Treatment, Mixing and Administering of Chemotherapy, Cancer and HIV, and HIV.

30 March 2006

Nursing Education Program

In March 2006, Operation Smile in Ethiopia conducted a Nursing Education Program for the nursing staff at Black Lion Hospital. More than 105 nurses from the Pediatric, Surgical, Gynecology, Orthopedic, Radiotherapy, ER, Neurology, Hematology, Cardiac, Specialty Unit and Acupuncture departments participated in the program. Topics including cleft lip and cleft palate surgery, the surgical cycle, chest injuries, rapid pediatric assessment, spinal cord injuries and assessment of the newborn were presented through formal and informal education lectures and discussion sessions.

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