Adam explains he was inspired to volunteer after learning about Operation Smile surgical programmes from fellow anaesthetist and Operation Smile Medical Director Phil McDonald. Phil encouraged Adam to join him on a forthcoming surgical programme to the Philippines in 1999 and Adam has been volunteering ever since.

Talking about what he enjoys most about being an Operation Smile volunteer, Adam says, “I enjoy the nature of the work, the surgery and the instant, life-changing results it gives for such a relatively small intervention. I also think the way it’s [Operation Smile] has been set up is a very enviable model, one that should be looked at by other organisations. I like the fact that it’s sustainable and it involves utilising a lot of the local resources to try and build up the infrastructure locally, whilst supporting that infrastructure going forward, I think it’s a good model.”

We ask Adam to describe a favourite experience or memory during his time with Operation Smile. There are so many, it’s difficult for him to choose, but he recalls one particular patient who has stayed at the forefront of his mind:

“I remember a 14-year-old girl who turned up on the last day of the programme when we were just packing up the surgical tables. She’d ridden on horseback for three days just to get to us for her surgery.  We kept a table open to actually make sure she got it!

“That stood out in my mind as not only do you know how important this surgery is, and the people don’t necessarily have access to the resources that we take for granted, but the incredible team ethic and goodwill of the team involved who went the extra mile to make sure the surgery could happen. It’s very inspiring to be involved with it all.”

Rania received life-changing surgery from Operation Smile in Morocco. Photo – Lorenzo Monacelli

Adam tells us that professionally he feels ‘refreshed’ when he comes back from a medical programme and personally the experience leaves him with a feeling of ‘wellbeing’. Volunteering also gives Adam a new sense of gratitude for the resources he has to work with in the UK:

“I have to say I tend to get a little bit more impatient with my colleagues when I get back, when they’re moaning about not having this, that and the other. When you think actually, ‘You don’t know how lucky we are!’ with the resources and infrastructure that we have here.”

Talking about why he’d recommend other medical professionals to volunteer with Operation Smile Adam says, “It’s endlessly rewarding. It’s Incredibly well supported. You feel you’re part of a well-supported organisation that is professionally very responsible and has extremely strong governance. So you don’t feel that you’re taking a risk professionally doing it.”

Adam is clear on the many benefits that volunteering has brought him, he goes on to explain, “You know, I think it makes you a better doctor. Interacting with different specialities, internationally and with different perspectives is endlessly rewarding,” he says, “and you always come back brimming with new ideas and conversations that you’ve had with people during a surgical programme. It’s a really enjoyable and professionally invigorating thing to be involved in.”

Sincere thanks to Adam for taking the time of out of his day to chat to us, not to mention his considerable efforts as a volunteer!   

Find out more about volunteering for Operation Smile.

Operation Smile Morocco office
Operation Smile centre in Casablanca, Morocco provides comprehensive care and surgery for children with cleft conditions – Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli

Change a life today