The volunteer nurses at Operation Smile demonstrate persistent passion and dedication in their care for patients and in their commitment to continuing education and training their in-country counterparts on Operation Smile international surgical programs.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., May 18, 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Since its inception, as Operation Smile has developed and evolved its mission spanning over four decades, skilled nursing professionals have always been a vital element to the fabric of the organization. Operation Smile was founded in 1982 by Dr. Bill Magee, a plastic surgeon from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and his wife, Kathy Magee, a registered nurse. The couple built Operation Smile out of the need to treat cleft conditions in communities that lacked the necessary resources and nurses have been an integral part of this journey since the very beginning. This inspired what is now one of the world's largest medical volunteer-based nonprofits with over 6,000 medical volunteers helping to carry out Operation Smile's vision to create solutions that deliver safe surgery to people where it's needed most through the organization's expertise in treating cleft lip and cleft palate. Operation Smile volunteer nurses are also responsible for training their in-country counterparts, helping build local capacity and increasing access to health care for their patients.
With a passion for the nursing profession, Kathy Magee wanted to ensure that nurses were a vital part of Operation Smile surgical programs. And today, Operation Smile's volunteer nurses make up over 70% of the organization's more than 6,000 medical volunteers. Operation Smile welcomes nurses from all different backgrounds and specialties to join the organization in treating patients on surgical programs, mentoring local health care professionals, and even inspiring students to pursue careers in medicine through volunteer involvement in the nonprofit's Student Programs division.
One of these talented nurses is Kristi Neiswender, a pediatric nurse from West Jordan, Utah whose experience living with a cleft condition inspired her to become a nurse and volunteer her time to Operation Smile. "For the first half of my life, my cleft was something I tried to hide and didn't want to deal with," Kristi said. "It wasn't until I was about 22 that I had an awakening that helped me realize my cleft was actually a gift and I needed to use it to help others." Kristi has been spreading joy within the organization for over 18 years, volunteering on over 18 international surgical programs and attending countless International Student Leadership Conferences (ISLC) as a conference nurse. Her love for the organization started when she was in high school, when her mother, who is also a nurse, encouraged her to volunteer with Operation Smile. Kristi has even had the unique opportunity to volunteer alongside her mother at ISLCs and on surgical programs.
Kristi isn't the only nurse who has an infectious enthusiasm for the work she does with Operation Smile. Denver, Colorado local, and registered nurse, Mamta Shah exudes positivity and generosity that inspires all she surrounds. When asked why she enjoys working with Operation Smile, Mamta expressed, "Operation Smile fosters a thriving educational platform to offer opportunities for nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgeons in several countries. Career paths are expanded. Operation Smile also makes a gigantic contribution to the global economy by building a more cohesive, safer, and stronger community."
Bryan Manalo is a volunteer nurse from Chicago, Illinois who splits his time volunteering with Operation Smile and managing the Division of Ambulatory Services at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital. During his time with Operation Smile, Bryan has volunteered on ten surgical programs to the Philippines, Haiti, Mexico, and Madagascar and with each patient he cares for, his love for nursing grows more and more. "When I look into the eyes of those children, I see their future of boundless opportunities," said Bryan. "I believe that it is my duty to help them reach their full potential one smile at a time. This is what I love most about nursing."
Another volunteer nurse with a deep passion for her profession is Stacie Goodrich from Salt Lake City, Utah who found her calling at an early age by the influence of her mother and grandmother who are also registered nurses. Stacie's mother was an Operation Smile volunteer in the 90s. She often returned from surgical program trips enthusiastic and with a different outlook on life. While Stacie has only recently started volunteering with the nonprofit, she already feels inspired and more connected to her passion for nursing. "From my experience, working closely with local nurses during the surgical programs is so important. We learn from each other and collaborate to give these kids the best outcome possible," Stacie says. "From doctors to nurses to dieticians, we get to see our patients taken care of more than just the here and now. We work with local health care providers to make sure they're prepared for future cases and are still able to get the resources they need."
In addition to providing care, Operation Smile is educating future generations and local health care providers on the proper treatment and comprehensive care for cleft conditions to create an even bigger impact in the communities they work. To facilitate this education, Operation Smile has created mentorship initiatives like, Women in Medicine and the Champion Program which partners medical volunteers with local health care providers in low-and-middle income countries where Operation Smile works. These programs intend to increase access to health care, empower individuals all over the world to pursue careers in medicine, while strengthening health systems.
Carrying out these mentorship initiatives are volunteer nurses, Maryjose and Rodney Kapunan. Maryjose and Rodney are husband and wife from Jacksonville, Florida and together they have volunteered on over 25 Operation Smile surgical programs and have already been on four surgical programs this year! Last year, Rodney got the opportunity to join the organization on one of the Champion Programs in Riohacha, Colombia. "My favorite memory during my last surgical program in Colombia is the enthusiasm of the in-country volunteers to learn and be credentialed as Operation Smile volunteers," Rodney said. "They all have regular jobs that require them to work for 5 days a week minimum and yet they still came over to help and learn during the 2-day surgical program. They all came in good spirit, great enthusiasm, and eagerness to learn."
As Operation Smile expands its volunteer family and continues to grow globally, volunteer nurses will continue to act as the guiding force of the organization. This National Nurses Month, Operation Smile expresses gratitude to the exuberant and dedicated volunteer nurses that provide love and support to the organization's patients and their families and to the in-country counterparts they work alongside during Operation Smile's surgical and education programs.
To learn more about Operation Smile and its volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.operationsmile.org/medical-volunteers.
About Operation Smile
Operation Smile is a global nonprofit specializing in expert cleft surgery and care. Over the last 40 years, we have provided medical expertise, research, and care through our dedicated staff and medical and student volunteers around the world, working alongside local governments, nonprofits, and health systems, and supported by our generous donors. Learn more at https://www.operationsmile.org/ or by following @operationsmile on social media.
Whitney Morris, Operation Smile, 904-249-9784, [email protected]
SOURCE Operation Smile