An Operation Smile First: Surgical Training Rotation in Madagascar

This August in Madagascar, Operation Smile hosted its first-ever surgical training rotation program at Centre Hospitalier de Référence Régionale (CHRR) in Antsirabe. Building on Operation Smile’s commitment to strengthening health systems where it works, an international team of medical volunteers united to provide medical training to local health care professionals during a mission while providing safe surgery for Malagasy children suffering from cleft conditions.

Operating room nurse trainer Joseph Mwangi of Kenya bonds with a young patient during the screenings. Photo: Charlotte Steppling.

On the first day of pre-surgery screening, the team provided comprehensive health evaluations for 29 patients to determine if they were healthy enough to go under anesthesia and receive surgery during the medical mission. For many Malagasy children, a comprehensive health evaluation from Operation Smile is the first medical exam they have ever received.

During the weeklong medical mission and training rotation, 22 patients received life-changing surgeries to repair their cleft conditions and Malagasy medical professionals strengthened their skills under the instruction of experienced Operation Smile medical volunteers.

“The week went by so fast. It has been such an honor to work with such an amazing, diverse team,” said Ysma, a pre- and post-operative nurse from Madagascar.

Charlotte Steppling, project manager for Operation Smile in Madagascar, added that the team at CHRR was critical to the success of the rotation. “Their patience, devotion to our mission, and consistent strong collaboration has made this week yet again a great show of how two entities come together to form a team,” Charlotte said.

Patients and families of the first surgical training rotation program pose for a photo with Dr. El Hassan Boukind, one of Morocco’s leading reconstructive plastic surgeons and surgeon trainer for this rotation. Photo: Charlotte Steppling.

In addition to CHRR in Madagascar, Operation Smile has several other partners to thank for making this first-of-its kind surgical training rotation program possible. Contributions of medical supplies and instruments enable Operation Smile to provide the highest quality training and education opportunities to medical professionals on-the-ground, creating sustainable solutions and increasing access to safe surgery for people living with cleft.

Last year, Operation Smile received more than $8.6 million in support of international medical and educational programs. Nearly 50 percent of the value of these supplies were in-kind product donations from companies like AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic and Becton Dickinson. Without these generous contributions, Operation Smile would not be able to serve patients with the level of dignity they deserve.

Operation Smile in Madagascar will host five more weeklong surgical training rotations through December 2017.