Through the pillars of mentorship and bidirectional learning, thought leadership and advocacy, Operation Smile’s Champion Programme will amplify the work of medical leaders to continue to change lives and offer sustainable solutions to strengthen health care delivery in the countries where we work. 

For 40 years, Operation Smile’s global medical volunteers have worked together to champion our patients’ need for cleft care and build surgical capacity int he countries where we work. 

Operation Smile’s Champion Programme creates opportunities for our medical volunteers to partner with medical leaders who are on the frontlines of cleft surgery and care in their countries. By harnessing their shared medical expertise and advocacy, Operation Smile will continue to change lives and strengthen health care delivery around the world. 

Increasing access to cleft surgery and care means addressing the gaps in the health system that create barriers for patients in need of care. The Champion Programme aims to bolster the skills of medical professionals and engage them in addressing these gaps to further elevate the capacity to provide quality of care for all. 

Rwanda: a new generation of plastic surgeons

With only two plastic surgeons serving a population of 13 million people, Operation Smile’s goal is to increase surgical capability by delivering safe, timely cleft and reconstructive care for the people of Rwanda and support neighbouring countries.

Dr Yves Nezerwa, resident plastic surgeon with Plastic Surgeon Patrik Boivie from Sweden during operation. Building Surgical Capacity Production in Rwanda. Photo: Jorgen Hildebrandt

The Champion programme establishes long-term relationships between veteran surgeons and medical professionals with under-resourced medical leaders in three ways:

Mentorship and bidirectional learning

Operation Smile will facilitate exchanges that accelerate the professional development of medical leaders in their country and bolster the skills of the next generation of cleft care professionals and global health leaders.

Thought leadership

Operation Smile will unlock the medical insight and expertise of our medical volunteers to identify potential areas of focus required to further elevate the quality of care in the countries where we work. Their insight will inform Operation Smile’s strategic priorities and programme planning.


Operation Smile will partner with medical leaders to engage strategic hospital partners, academic institutions and governments in our advocacy for the need to increase equitable access to cleft surgery and care.

Serving more people in more places

While there are thousands of people in Guatemala living with untreated cleft conditions, there is also a total of 5 million people in need of cleft care globally.
Baby with cleft
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