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An Inside Look at Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation in Morocco

A message from our Co-Founder and President

While the world changes around us, I want to share a bit of brightness made possible by people like you. Several weeks ago, we concluded the first-ever Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation mission in Oujda, Morocco, where every medical specialty was represented by an incredibly talented and committed woman. As we approach our 40th year anniversary, we realize there are approximately 5 million people living with cleft conditions. Looking ahead, we know the comprehensive care that we provide, including dental and speech, are key for successful outcomes and our education and training opportunities are essential to elevate our local medical volunteers and professionals. While there is still much to do, we thank each and every one of you for making a profound impact in the lives of people living with cleft conditions. It is because of you that our patients have a renewed chance at hope, can eat and speak, and have the chance to live healthier lives. Please enjoy stories and photos from this mission, and I hope everyone is staying healthy!

- Kathy Magee, B.S.N., M.S.W., M.ED.

To coincide with International Women’s Day, this March we conducted our first international medical mission comprised entirely of female volunteers. Through this mission, we celebrate our thousands of female medical volunteers who make our work possible!

We had a team of more than 50 female medical volunteers from 25 countries who, together, provided life-changing surgeries for nearly 130 patients and conducted training and education workshops. In the beginning of the week, we provided 286 patients with full health screenings. Our amazing female-led team of volunteers worked efficiently and collaboratively at every station of the screening process.

Nearly three years ago, Safia gave birth alone at home to her son, Radouane. But even after seeing his cleft lip, the love she had for him never faltered, “I was not afraid. I’d seen kids like that before, and I knew that this was the gods’ fate. I’m grateful for what the gods gave me.”

Dr. Carmen Kamas-Weiting from the US alerted her fellow dental volunteers after realizing that Janat, who was just 1-month-old, was severely malnourished when she arrived for screening. Dr. Vilma Arteaga De Cifuentes of Guatemala and Dr. Teresita Pannaci of Venezuela sprang into action and transported Janat and her family to our year-round care center to be fitted for a feeding plate. She was one of two children who received feeding plates to make eating, breathing and drinking possible until they are healthy enough for surgery.

Our all-female team engaged in training and mentorship activities, including an innovative cleft surgery simulation workshop for plastic surgery residents. The training and education components of the mission provide enrichment opportunities for female physicians that might not otherwise be available to them. Cleft surgeon Dr. Wafaa Mradmi of Morocco led one of these sessions. Thanks to her expertise, medical students and certified plastic surgeons learned unique techniques that improve surgical outcomes for our patients.

This mission was particularly special to our President and Co-Founder Kathy Magee because she celebrated this momentous occasion with her two daughters, Brigette Clifford and Kristie Porcaro, and her granddaughter Isabelle. Brigette, Kathy’s oldest daughter, is our Director of Strategic Initiatives for Student Programs, while Kristie is our Senior Vice President for Global Philanthropy. Isabelle, Brigette’s daughter, is one of 14 grandchildren and is a volunteer in our Student Programs initiatives. This is the first time in years three generations of the Magee family have attended a medical mission together. Kathy is so proud of the opportunities Operation Smile creates for future female leaders and the legacy she has created for strong-female leaders in her own family.

Fouzia Mahmoudi co-founded Operation Smile Morocco 20 years ago and continues to serve as Vice President and Regional Vice President of the MENA region. Her daughter, Nour, began volunteering with the foundation in 2006, but has since taken over as the Program Manager. With such great female leadership in this foundation, it only makes sense that Morocco is the first to host our all-female volunteer mission in Oujda. “From my perspective, the involvement in women in medicine is very important. I think the impact of women in medicine is just as great as men in medicine. A woman cares about her patients as if they’re her own children, so I think the impact is big and I think this will be even more impactful for the organization,” Fouzia said.

Khadija traveled 12 hours with her baby daughter, Meriem, to Oujda to reach our mission site. Many parents living in low- and middle-income countries with children who are born with cleft conditions don’t know that safe surgical care is accessible, luckily Khadija learned right away thanks to her doctor. After Meriem received free, safe surgery, Khadija looked at her daughter’s new smile and was glad that she will be able to grow up and live a happy, normal life. Meriem was just one of almost 130 patients our all-female volunteers cared for during the mission.

We firmly believe that our female volunteers are powerful role models to inspire and mentor the next generation of health care workers and this mission is just one example of why we’re confident in continuing our work for many years to come. All of this is possible, thanks to supporters like you.