Monday, March 10, 2008
The charity business as (un)usual - Operation Smile
There's a nice story on featuring Operation Smile in the New York Time's magazine. Operation Smile is an organization that organizes and performs cleft lip and palate surgery in developing countries. The story is not really about the altruism of Operation Smile, but rather it focuses on how it became an effective organization only after operating more like a business and less like a traditional charity.
3rd world missions by plastic surgeons, where a team flys in for a few days, does a lot of pediatric plastic surgery (cleft lip/palate) and leaves would seem like a hard thing to be criticized, but it has been increasingly done. The appropriateness of these kinds of surgeries performed by surgeons who didn't do them in their state side practice and by loosely-supervised residents (as was often the case on these trips) has been questioned for years. Groups like operation smile have addressed this, and require active practices in pediatric plastic surgery among volunteers. More importantly IMO has been the change in philosophy to where we're now increasingly training local physicians in these countries to do simple and reproducible operations to correct these defects recognizing the limitations of resources they may face in terms of speech therapy and orthodontics post operatively.