More than 5 million patients are in need of cleft care in the countries where we work, and 5 billion people lack access to safe surgery globally. By educating and empowering women in health care and medicine, Operation Smile can increase access to care and help build global health infrastructure.

Through mentorship and leadership at the local, regional and international levels, we can increase access to career development and leadership opportunities, creating a lasting impact in health care and increasing access to care for children with cleft and other surgical conditions. 

Mentoring the next generation

At the first Women in Medicine programme, our all-female team comprised of more than 50 medical volunteers joined forces and engaged in training and mentorship workshops, which provided them with opportunities to learn from some of the best surgeons, dentists and physicians around the world.

Team photo on the second day of screening for the Women in Medicine, Inspiring a Generation Operation Smile programme at Hospital Al Farabi in Oujda, Morocco. Photo: Jasmin Shah

In low- and middle-income countries around the world, the Women in Medicine initiative works to: 


women on advanced medical practices;


women to become leaders in global medicine;


opportunities for female health care workers; and


cleft surgery and comprehensive care.

As part of Operation Smile’s Next Decade strategy, the Women in Medicine initiative aims to achieve the above goals by continuing to expand the following offerings: 

  1. Women-Led surgical outreach programmes 
  2. Medical scholarships for women in medicine 
  3. Leadership conferences 
  4. Research grants 

We want to highlight and celebrate the involvement of female surgeons and health care workers globally

Dr Naikhoba Munabi, former Global Surgery Fellow Operation Smile

Where we work

With the launch of Women in Medicine in 2020, Operation Smile has brought all-women programmes to patients around the world.


March 2020
March 2022


September 2022


June 2022

The Philippines

October 2022

The Women in Medicine Initiative has an impact not only on the women who participate, but also the patients they treat and their families. 

During the first Women in Medicine program in 2020, 96% of parents said they are more confident to seek out medical care by women after their child received care from an all-women health care team. And, all parents (100%), regardless of their child’s gender, agreed that the experience made them believe in the capabilities of family members that are women. This includes 75% of parents who strongly agreed the program helped them believe their children or family members who are women can pursue careers in medicine. 

When 1 billion women in low- to middle-income countries are not formally employed due to barriers in education, lack of mentorship or social stigma, showcasing, mentoring and empowering women in medicine is critical. 

First female plastic surgeon in Rwanda shares hopes for her country

We recently caught up with resident surgeon Francoise Mukagaju in Rwanda.
Female and male cleft surgeons
Read more