Training is the cornerstone of who we are. It's the only way to ensure that every child receives quality care every time, everywhere they receive surgery. The goal of Operation Smile training programs is to move toward sustainable programs conducted at the local level.

Through our education initiatives, partner countries are given specialized skills to treat children with facial deformities on their own — with their own resources, volunteers and medical professionals, making our impact even greater than we could with international medical missions alone.


The worldwide demand for cleft repair surgery is staggering and can only be met if we build a self-sustaining network. Education, training, medical equipment, volunteerism and building a vital network of partner countries give children with facial deformities the chance for a new life, a new future.

While we work daily to plan and carry out international medical missions each year, we reached a tipping point several years ago. Now, the majority of our medical missions originate from our partner countries — they are developing the volunteer base and resources on their own to carry out our work at the local level. Our dream of self-sufficiency is becoming a reality!


Operation Smile partners with universities, hospitals and other organizations to coordinate training that equips participants for medical practice and connects them with other medical volunteers from around the world. This unique partnership helps share with one another best practices and support for the organization.


Our medical missions provide treatment and new smiles for children and a chance to learn for volunteers. Our training during medical missions ranges from formal medical conferences to informal workshops on specific skills or techniques. The programs are designed to meet the needs of the health care facilities that host the medical missions and of the health care providers from partner countries.

Certain Operation Smile team members are selected to engage in this educational role, which they perform before, during or after the surgical mission. At times, the team includes guest educators who are internationally recognized in their fields. During a medical mission, as many as 100 in-country health care workers benefit - and even greater numbers of children benefit as these workers put their training into action.


To help ensure that our patients receive care under the safest conditions, Operation Smile partnered with the American Heart Association (AHA) to establish international training programs for developing nations that will provide critical life-saving skills to in-country medical professionals. The program is intended to develop training networks and deliver certification in Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Basic Life Support (BLS).

Through this partnership, and the ripple effect it has created, more than 25,000 volunteers have been trained and certified in the American Heart Association's life support throughout the course of the program. Plus, in a recent survey of previous life support participants, more than 85% of respondents said they had saved a life with their newfound knowledge.






“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder