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Dr. Bill & Kathy Magee
Spreading Smiles Around the World
By: Mimi Makabi
In 1982, Dr. William P. Magee Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen Magee, a social worker and nurse, traveled to the Philippines with a group of medical volunteers to repair children's cleft lips and cleft palates.  While they were able to help many children, they were forced to turn away the majority of those who sought help. From this experience, the Magee’s saw the need for ongoing care of children with facial deformities, and Operation Smile was born.

Twenty-eight years later, the children’s medical charity the Magee’s founded has a presence in more than 50 countries.  With a focus on providing high-quality and sustainable care around the world, Operation Smile and it’s over 4,000 highly trained and credentialed medical volunteers have given new smiles and brighter futures at no cost to over 140,000 children born with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. For these children, most in developing countries, their families wouldn’t be able to afford corrective surgery, which Operation Smile can perform for little as $240 and in a few as 45 minutes.

The Magee’s have been awarded numerous awards for their humanitarian and philanthropic work around the globe and most recently were featured in the November 2009 issue of U.S. News & World Report magazine being named among “America’s Best Leaders.” The issue featured 22 of the country's most exemplary individuals, honoring a select group of men and women from a variety of fields including business, public service, education and arts.
"Both Kathy and I are honored to included in this year’s distinguished group of America’s Best Leaders," said Dr. Magee. “Our driving force is to continue the work of Operation Smile to help the children of the world move from despair to joy and have the opportunity to lead a normal and productive life.”

As the co-founders of Operation Smile, the Magee’s were recognized by U.S. News Media Group, in association with the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at Harvard Kennedy's School of Government, for their achievements in founding and advancing a global organization dedicated to providing safe and effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities, specifically cleft lip and cleft palate. The award acknowledges their tireless efforts in raising awareness, building international support, establishing public and private partnerships, conducting ongoing education, and leading research efforts to help identify the causes of clefts.

The Magee’s vision for Operation Smile is realized through a network of international medical volunteers who are dedicated to patient safety and quality of care. These volunteers are the foundation for creating a model of long-term self-sufficiency and sustainability, ultimately allowing patients around the world to have access to year round quality health care provided by local medical volunteers.

A perfect example of how Operation Smile is able to help build a sustainable model of care on a local level is the success of Operation Smile Vietnam. In November of 2009, Operation Smile celebrated 20 years of working in Vietnam with “20 Years of Smiles – A Journey of Miracles.” The commemorative missions were part of the largest free medical program in Operation Smile Vietnam’s 20 year history. More than 315 international medical volunteers worked at 16 sites during a 10-day period to provide free treatment for nearly 7,000 Vietnamese children suffering from cleft lips, cleft palates, dental problems and other facial deformities. To read blogs from the field and see photos of “A Journey of Miracles,” visit
For more detailed information about Operation Smile and the work done around the world, you can visit

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