Operation Smile

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Operation Smile
HeadquartersUnited States Virginia Beach, Virginia
William P. Magee Jr.
Kathleen S. Magee

Operation Smile is a nonprofit medical service organization founded in 1982 by Dr. William P. Magee, Jr. and his wife Kathy Magee. It is headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

In addition to providing cleft lip and palate repair surgeries to children worldwide, Operation Smile works as a non-governmental organization to reduce the occurrence of cleft lips and palates worldwide; develops ambassadorships to raise awareness of cleft issues; sponsors a world care program for international cases requiring special care; organizes chapters and foundations worldwide to assist countries in reaching self-sufficiency with cleft surgeries; hosts a U.S. care network to assist families in the U.S. with cleft issues and develops and administers worldwide education programs related to cleft issues; and organizes student leadership programs.

As of March 2013, according to its own accounting, Operation Smile had provided more than 3.5 million comprehensive patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with facial deformities.[1]

Early history of Operation Smile[edit]

Chittagong, Bangladesh – Operation Smile team members aboard the Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19), perform a cleft lip surgery

In 1982 Dr. Magee, a plastic surgeon, and Kathy Magee, who was then a social worker and a nurse, were invited to join a Philippine cleft repair mission with a group of medical volunteers.[2][3] When they realized that this group would not be returning to the Philippines even though there were hundreds of children who needed surgery, they established Operation Smile. Dr. Magee said,[2]

It was guilt ... We saw hundreds of children and saw many more turned away. We knew that this group was not planning to return. So we planned another trip, but when we saw how many people were suffering because of their facial deformities, we had to keep on going back. You can't help but be touched by things that we take as completely normal and all of a sudden become a monumental event in a child's life.

The scope of the organization increased after Mother Teresa invited Operation Smile to come to India to treat deformed children.[4]


Operation Smile was founded by Bill and Kathy Magee (Dr. William P. Magee Jr., D.D.S., M.D. and Kathleen S. Magee, B.S.N., M.Ed., M.S.W.).

Dr. Magee is employed as the Chief Executive Officer of Operation Smile and is a faculty member of both the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School. In 2015 his compensation package with the charity included a salary of $387,918 plus $28,961 in other compensation.[5]:7 His wife, Kathy Magee, serves as the president on a full-time, volunteer basis and is a lifetime member of the Board of Directors.


Operation Smile organizes international volunteer missions to provide cleft lip and cleft palate repair in developing countries, coordinates programs for training physicians from around the world, manages programs to assist host countries in reaching cleft lip and cleft palate repair self-sufficiency, supports education and research programs to eradicate cleft lips and palates, and organizes global volunteer programs for high-school and college students.

Surgical missions[edit]

For each mission, Operation Smile verifies the credentials and organizes the participation and travel arrangements for a team of volunteers.[6] The team typically includes a mission site coordinator, plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, a pediatrician, an intensive care physician, head or coordinating nurse, pre- and post-op nurses, child development specialists, speech pathologists,[7] dentists and/or orthodontists.

Teams work with local volunteers from the host nation as well as from other nations. Many of the volunteers provide important logistical (non-medical) support to the mission; they may serve as translators, medical records technicians, photographers, or help in such areas as food services, lodging, procurement of supplies, or transportation. The teams also typically include two high school students who fulfill various functions, including giving presentations on health maintenance and dental hygiene to families living near the mission site. Operation Smile coordinates the donation, purchase and delivery of medical provisions (equipment, medications, supplies) for each mission.

In 2005, these volunteer medical teams provided free surgeries for 8,359 children through international and local, in-country medical missions.[8] During the fiscal year of 2009, Operation Smile provided free surgeries for nearly 13,000 children and young adults suffering from cleft lips and/or cleft palates.

Operation Smile's partner countries include:


World Care Program[edit]

On a case by case basis, Operation Smile will bring extraordinary craniofacial cases to Norfolk, Virginia, when mission conditions are inappropriate for the severity of the case. As of June 2007, approximately 200 world care patients had been treated.[25] The program may be expanded to other locations.[26]

Chapters and foundations[edit]

Operation Smile has global resource chapters that raise funds and awareness to support its programs. Mission teams are hosted by international foundations that are responsible for all in-country mission logistics and raise funds and awareness throughout the year.

To aid countries in becoming self-sufficient at caring for cleft patients, beginning in early 2007 the organization planned to open comprehensive care medical clinics in Colombia, Honduras, Morocco, China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam.[27] The centers provide surgeries and treatment, educate local volunteers, perform local development activities and manage local communications / administrative services. The center in Vietnam expected to treat 2,000 patients annually and to train about 1,000 medical professionals.[27]

U.S. care network[edit]

Operation Smile provides a network of resources to assist families in the U.S. with children born with facial deformities. This network is accessed through the Operation Smile website and includes a listing of referral websites and a physicians resource list with the names of doctors available to review a case.


Operation Smile provides a framework for its partner countries to come together to share knowledge, technology and skills through the use of programs customized to each country's specific medical infrastructure. University partnerships offer Operation Smile medical volunteers training in advanced techniques and provide opportunities including fellowships, emeritus professorships and visiting professorship programs. Education exchange programs are also offered through partnerships with leading medical teaching institutions.

The annual Operation Smile Physicians' Training Program (PTP) brings surgeons from around the world to the United States for training in specialized surgical skills. The program has helped train more than 650 international physicians in advanced craniofacial techniques.[28]

Operation Smile has twice hosted a global summit on medical standards in Norfolk, Virginia.[29][30]

Student programs[edit]

More than 600 Operation Smile student associations in the United States and around the world build awareness, raise funds and educate students about the values of commitment, leadership, and volunteerism.

Operation Smile sends hundreds of students on missions each year with two students accompanied by an adult sponsor on each mission. The student team takes toys and games to help keep the kids occupied while waiting for surgery. Before the students go on a mission, they must apply and be selected to attend the Mission Training Workshop (MTW), which is held twice a year. At MTW students are taught four health modules: dental hygiene, oral re-hydration therapy, nutrition, and burn care and prevention. Students make posters for each of these modules and present them on the missions, delivering critical information teaching families simple things that can save lives.

The International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) is a big aspect of the Operation Smile student programs. The 2006 ISLC was held at Weber State University in Utah, and the 2005 ISLC was held at William & Mary in Virginia. The 2007 ISLC was held at the University of Limerick in Ireland. The 2008 ISLC was held at San Diego State University, the 2009 ISLC was held at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, and the 2010 ISLC was held at the University of Denver.[31]

Awards and milestones[edit]

The Magees were awarded the Spirit of Raoul Wallenberg Award from the American Swedish Historical Museum in 1998 for their work in establishing a network of professionals and volunteers engaged in restoring badly deformed faces of children.[32] In 1999, Kathleen Magee was awarded the World of Children Award for her contributions to helping vulnerable children through her efforts with Operation Smile.[33] Dr. Magee received the 2001 Antonio Feltrinelli Prize (Premi "Antonio Feltrinelli") awarded by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei for Exceptional Endeavors of Outstanding Moral and Humanitarian Value presented the[when?]Honorary Kazanjian Lecture to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, and in 1998 received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.[28] Mrs. Magee received the 1997 Servants of Peace Award from the U.N. Representative to the Vatican,[34]

  • In 2001 a documentary on the work by Operation Smile won the Best Medical Documentary at the US Circle of Excellence Media Awards and was a finalist in the New York Film Festival Awards for Best Humanitarian Documentary. The Facemakers: Operation Smile is a co-production by BBC One and the Discovery Channel in conjunction with Century Films. It documents the remarkable changes that occurred in the lives of three children as a result of Operation Smile's visit to Davao City in the Philippines in 1999.[35] The fifty-minute programme was first aired on 21 June 2001. Two of the children received surgery during the mission. Nine-year-old Rozal Garces was treated for her cleft lip, and four-year-old Amorjoy Felipe had a cleft lip and palate revision. The third child, Abel Gastardo, had a condition too severe to be treated during the time of the mission. Abel suffered from a nasofrontal facial encephalocele, an extreme protrusion of brain tissue from the front of his skull. The film follows Abel to the United States to receive corrective surgery, seven months later. He was brought over by Operation Smile to receive major surgery in Virginia at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.[36]
  • In 1996, Operation Smile received the first Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to recognize outstanding contributions to alleviate human suffering.
  • To mark its 25th anniversary in November 2007, Operation Smile undertook the World Journey of Smiles (WJOS), a single campaign that included 40 simultaneous missions over a period of two weeks in 25 countries—beginning with the return to the site of Operations Smile's first mission.[37] During WJOS, Operation Smile completed 4,200 cleft lip/palate surgeries with 1,700 volunteers from 43 countries. The World Journey of Smiles also collected DNA samples from 4,200 children—the largest sampling ever made and now housed at Yale University.
  • Bill and Kathy Magee were honored on March 1, 2008, with the Norfolk First Citizen Distinguished Service Award.[4]

1999-2002: Criticism and response[edit]

In November 1999, specific patient deaths[38] brought criticism on Operation Smile's medical procedures, suggesting the organization prioritized publicity and volume over patient welfare and safety.[39][40] In response, Operation Smile conducted an internal review. Initially, the organization "promised to make public the full findings of the review",[citation needed] though later chose not to release the findings, considering the review an internal matter. Several directors disagreed with this choice and left the board. Four months after announcing the review, the organization publicly acknowledged organizational flaws.[41] By 2002, the organization also established medical credential standards, improved medical monitoring of patients, and implemented quality and financial controls.[42]

Financial information[edit]

  • Operation Smile's 2017 digital financial report shows cash revenues of $59,215,636. The report shows fundraising/administrative expenditures of $26,016,760 (43.9%)
  • Operation Smile's 2013 financial overview report shows an income of $49,516,821 in cash contributions. The report indicates an expenditure of $23,189,296 for fundraising and administration.[43]
  • In 2011, Forbes ranked Operation Smile as the tenth "least efficient" large U.S. charity, tied with the Alzheimer's Association and just ahead in efficiency of the American Cancer Society.[44] Forbes noted that "financial efficiency is far from the whole story when it comes to assessing a charity's vitality or even effectiveness."[44]
  • Operation Smile spends 42% of the money donated to the charity on fundraising and administration, including a salary of $350,000 (and an additional $27,915 in other compensation) for its chief executive.[45][46]
  • The NGO raised $35,024,864 during the fiscal year ending June 2008. They spent 41% of the cash revenues on fundraising and administration; $11,905,507 on fundraising (33.9%) and a further $2,710,783 on management (7.7%).[47]
  • Operation Smile also operates the Operation Smile Foundation, a separate registered non-profit whose sole purpose is to raise funds for Operation Smile. The Foundation spent $7,267,834 on fundraising and raised $8,387,513 in the tax year ending June 30, 2007. The Foundation transferred a total of $781,858 to Operation Smile.[48]
  • The organization was listed with the Forbes 2005 200 Largest U.S. Charities.[49]
  • Operation Smile is a member of the Independent Charities of America.[50]
  • Operation Smile meets 19 of the 20 standards for charities established by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance,[51] but fails to meet the "Compensated Board Members" standard, because two of the eleven board members (the husband and wife co-founders) are compensated directly or indirectly, which exceeds the standard's limit of 10%.

Operation Smile in popular culture[edit]

  • A 2007 multimedia project featured a seven-story sphere at South Street Seaport in New York, NY. Microsoft worked with Operation Smile, Digital Kitchen (a design firm) and the Wexley School for Girls (Seattle, WA) to have photographic images of visitors projected onto the sphere.[52] [(See also: Case Study)]
  • A 2005 movie, Smile, directed by Jeffrey Kramer was loosely based on the experiences of a student Operation Smile volunteer.
  • Singer Jessica Simpson, actress Roma Downey[53] and television hosts Billy Bush and Nicole Lapin[54] volunteer on behalf of Operation Smile.
  • Singer Mariah Carey volunteered for The Smile Collection fundraising event in New York in 2006/[9]
  • Operation Smile was featured on NBC's reality show The Apprentice, Thursday, April 15, 2004.[55]
  • Operation Smile is referenced repeatedly on Bravo's teen reality show NYC Prep.[56]
  • Operation Smile is referenced in episode 3 of TNT's television series Franklin & Bash.
  • In January 2014, Gawker published an article regarding Operation Smile's interviewing process, which includes throwing a party for 40 people.[57]


See also: Co-branding and Marketing co-operation
  • In 2002, Operation Smile was featured in a Mr. Potato Head contest, with proceeds to benefit the NGO.[58] Hasbro continues to donate Mr. Potato Head toys for Operation Smile missions.[59]
  • An ongoing co-branding campaign between Operation Smile and Sephora combines the NGO's name with the companies products, raising over $400,000 for the NGO.[60] The Operation Smile Sephora Lip Baume was listed at number five on Lara Spencer's "Lara's Hot Shopping List, Hot Products for Women".[61]
  • An ongoing co-branding campaign between Operation Smile and AriZona Iced Tea features the tea company's three best selling (one liter) products' labels replaced with Operation Smile branded messaging, mission statement and photos of children with cleft repairs.[citation needed]
  • In 2007 Lladró unveiled a collection of porcelain, including a piece inspired by Gustav Klimt's painting The Kiss, proceeds from which were to benefit the NGO.[62]

Film producer, director, producer, and author Perry Moore (The Chronicles of Narnia, Executive Producer; author of the LAMBDA award-winning HERO) was a student volunteer in 1988 and, trained as a scrub and health care advisor, he was part of the team that traveled to Manila and then to Naga City in the Philippines.

Headquarters relocation[edit]

Operation Smile announced in late 2007 that it would relocate its world headquarters approximately 16 miles (26 km) from its location in Norfolk, Virginia to a new building in Virginia Beach.[63] The projected 65,000-square-foot (6,000 m2) building is sited adjacent to a projected regional health profession center to be built by Tidewater Community College. The headquarters occupies land owned by the city of Virginia Beach and received funds from the city for site improvements, including landscaping, utility service and sidewalks.

As of May 2014, the Operation Smile website listed the new address at 3641 Faculty Boulevard, Virginia Beach as its headquarters.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Who We Are". Operation Smile. Archived from the original on March 6, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Proenza, Lydia Rose (July 18, 2002). "Dr. William P. Magee's Operation Smile: 20 Years Putting Smiles on People's Faces". Hour of Power. Archived from the original on July 18, 2002. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  3. ^ "Operation Smile Launches World Journey of Hope '99; Honduras is First Stop on Historic Surgical Mission to Help Children in 18 Countries". PR Newswire. February 4, 1999. Archived from the original on November 28, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Russell, Lia (February 27, 2008). "Operation Smile Co-founders Named Norfolk's First Citizens". The Virginian-Pilot. Norfolk, Virginia. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  5. ^ "Exempt Organization Filing July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015" (PDF). December 21, 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 16, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "ODU Nursing Professor Travels to Bangladesh for medical diplomacy mission". Old Dominion University News. August 22, 2006. Archived from the original on August 30, 2006.
  7. ^ Ducote, Charlotte A. (December 11, 2001). "A Speech-Language Pathologist in Vietnam". American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Archived from the original on May 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "Message from our Co-founders" (PDF). Operation Smile Newsletter. Operation Smile. December 2005. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Operation Smile Announces New Smile Ambassadors; Celebrities Continue To Join Effort Marking 25th Anniversary". TransWorldNews.com. October 12, 2007. Archived from the original on October 24, 2007.
  10. ^ a b c d "Operation Smile Partners with Navy in Humanitarian Mission". U.S. Department of Defense. American Forces Press Service. June 19, 2007. Archived from the original on July 10, 2007.
  11. ^ "Doctors on a Mission". Southern California Physician.[dead link]
  12. ^ Brady, Brendan. "Operation Smile performs 150 surgeries". The Phnom Penh Post.[dead link]
  13. ^ "Prom Gown Benefit Sale to Help Operation Smile's Important Work". The Ledger. February 11, 2007. Archived from the original on May 6, 2009.
  14. ^ "Foreign Organization to treat 51 Kurdish children". Iraq Updates. April 23, 2007. Archived from the original on May 6, 2009.
  15. ^ Nguyen, Ha (November 17, 2007). "Charity helps children smile again". Việt Nam News. Archived from the original on December 25, 2007.
  16. ^ "Children receive free facial surgeries from US programme". Việt Nam News. May 31, 2005. Archived from the original on May 15, 2009.
  17. ^ "World Journey of Smiles". Operation Smile. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  18. ^ "Smile Ambassador for Operation Smile". Operation Smile. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  19. ^ "Dhani Jones". Operation Smile. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  20. ^ "Operation Smile's Wilt Chamberlain Award". Operation Smile. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  21. ^ "Smile Ambassadors: Megan Follows". Operation Smile. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
  22. ^ Jimenez, F. R. (October 7, 2010). "Regine Velasquez gives joy to children via 'Operation Smile'". GMA News (in Filipino). Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  23. ^ Carbone, Suzanne (April 5, 2014). "Miss Universe beauty Olivia Wells aims to help Third World". The Age. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  24. ^ Fenes, Victor (May 6, 2015). "South African cyclist raises smiles with epic Cairo to Cape Town journey". Guinness World Records. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  25. ^ "Over 200 children helped through Operation Smile's World Care Program". WVEC News. Norfolk, VA. June 5, 2007. Archived from the original on May 5, 2009.
  26. ^ Matsaneng, Lerato (16 December 2007). "Doctors to take away Muriel's 'pain'". Independent Online. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  27. ^ a b Simpson, Elizabeth (March 20, 2007). "Operation Smile to open clinic in Vietnam to treat face deformities". The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on May 8, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  28. ^ a b "William P. Magee, Jr. DDS, MD Dental School, 1969". University of Maryland, Baltimore. Archived from the original on April 30, 2007. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  29. ^ "Operation Smile exports U.S. good will". The Virginian-Pilot. February 10, 2007. Archived from the original on May 8, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  30. ^ Simpson, Elizabeth (February 9, 2007). "Operation Smile to develop new care standards at local meeting". The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on May 5, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  31. ^ Lattman, Melissa (August 10, 2007). "EHS sophomore learns leadership in Ireland". Seacoast Online. Archived from the original on May 6, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  32. ^ "Wallenberg Award Information". American Swedish Historical Museum. 2009. Archived from the original on September 3, 2011. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  33. ^ "Honoree Kathleen Magee". World of Children Award. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  34. ^ "Kathleen S. Magee, B.S.N., M.Ed., M.S.W". The Global Medical Missions Hall of Fame Foundation. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  35. ^ The Facemakers with Operation Smile. YouTube. 29 July 2010.
  36. ^ "The Facemakers". Century Films. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015.
  37. ^ "Journey of smiles' began here, now in 25 nations". Philippine Daily Inquirer. November 19, 2006.[dead link]
  38. ^ Kettle, Martin (November 25, 1999). "Charity faces inquiry on child deaths". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  39. ^ Abelson, Reed; Rosenthal, Elisabeth (November 24, 1999). "Charges of Shoddy Practices Taint Gifts of Plastic Surgery". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  40. ^ Rosenthal, Elisabeth; Abelson, Reed (November 25, 1999). "Whirlwind of Facial Surgery By Foreigners Upsets China". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  41. ^ Abelson, Reed (April 12, 2000). "Charity Promises Sweeping Changes After Review". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  42. ^ Simpson, Elizabeth (December 30, 2002). "A New Leader, A New Image". The Virginian Pilot.[dead link]
  43. ^ "Financial Overview: Fiscal year ending June 30, 2013" (PDF). Operation Smile. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 9, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  44. ^ a b Barrett, William P. (November 30, 2011). "Least Charitable Bang For The Donor's Buck". Forbes. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  45. ^ Simpson, Elizabeth (November 17, 2013). "Two sides of charity: Competing, compassion". The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on November 18, 2013. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  46. ^ "Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990)" (PDF). Operation Smile. March 2, 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 2, 2015. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  47. ^ "2008 Form 990" (PDF). Operation Smile.[dead link]
  48. ^ "2006 Form 990" (PDF). Operation Smile.[dead link]
  49. ^ "The 200 Largest U.S. Charities". Forbes. 2005. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  50. ^ "View Our National And International Members". Independent Charities of America. Archived from the original on January 13, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  51. ^ "Charity Report - Operation Smile". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  52. ^ "Microsoft Live / Operation Smile". Firstborn Multimedia. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  53. ^ Morgan, John (November 4, 2003). "Roma Downey works miracles with Operation Smile". USA Today. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  54. ^ "Nicole Lapin". Operation Smile. Archived from the original on November 16, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  55. ^ "Bill Rancic Becomes The Apprentice". NBC.com.
  56. ^ Kinon, Cristina (July 22, 2009). "NYC Prep Mona Lisa Smile". New York Daily News.
  57. ^ Nolan, Hamilton (January 10, 2014). "Operation Smile's Job Interview Process Is Insane". Gawker. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  58. ^ Kaus, Danek S. (March 17, 2002). "Waiting for that winning smile to pay off? This spud's for you". Silicon Valley Business Journal. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  59. ^ "Hasbro supports Smiles". Playthings.com. July 17, 2007.
  60. ^ "Operation Smile/Sephora".
  61. ^ "Lara's Hot Shopping List, Hot Products for Women". ABC News.
  62. ^ "Lladró Porcelain Unveiling and Signing Benefit". SanFrancisco.com. October 11, 2007. Archived from the original on May 5, 2009.
  63. ^ Quinn, Richard (October 11, 2007). "Operation Smile moving from Norfolk to new Beach building". The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on May 8, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2018.

External links[edit]