Transforming confidence and care in partnership with Operation Smile

Founded in 1982 by Dr Bill and Kathy Magee, Operation Smile is a global non-profit organisation that creates solutions to deliver safe surgery to people where it's needed most. For over 30 years, Stryker has partnered with Operation Smile to make healthcare better, a journey that started in the 1990s with product donations and discounts, grew to supporting medical education and training projects and now includes our employees, who annually raise funds.


Headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA with programmes in over 30 countries worldwide, Operation Smile has helped over 346,000 people access surgery.1 Cleft surgeries are a majority of the surgical care provided to patients, addressing critical needs, because when left untreated:

  • Babies have difficulty with feeding, leading to malnutrition,
  • Speech and dental development can be impaired and
  • Children may be bullied or socially isolated.


A child is born with a cleft every three minutes2
This happens when tissues of the face fail to join properly during foetal development. For children with these facial conditions, the pain can become extreme, both physically and emotionally. That's why Operation Smile helps thousands of children living with cleft lip and cleft palate to better breathe, eat, speak and live lives of greater confidence and quality, and Stryker is proud to stand by Operation Smile as a signature partner, expanding access and quality of care.

“We would never be able to be the organisation that we are with the sustainability that we’ve had and the continued elevation of the vision we want to create, without our partners like Stryker,” said Dr Bill Magee, Co-Founder and CEO Emeritus, Operation Smile.


Changing lives and strengthening healthcare systems
According to Operation Smile, 90 per cent of people in low-and middle-income countries can’t access basic surgical care.3 That’s why looking at the systemic issues that cause backlogs in care and taking action to address them is so vital. Whether it’s training healthcare workers or helping replace outdated equipment in a hospital, Operation Smile is forging solutions in some of the world’s hardest-to-reach areas so that more patients have access to care – and Stryker is focused on advancing these solutions forward.

“Our partnership with Operation Smile is a shining example of our mission to make healthcare better. Globally, our employees are passionate about making a difference, and working to ensure broader access to healthcare through organisations like Operation Smile really brings people together,” said Anita Mehta, Director of Social Impact at Stryker. “What we love about Operation Smile is that their work both helps people today and builds for the future. And we’re proud to play a part in that journey, because together, we’re transforming communities.”


In low-and middle-income countries, there is only 1 surgeon for every 100,000 people4
That type of gap can seem insurmountable. But through our company-level giving, which supports strategic medical education and training programmes, we’re not just hoping to close it. We’re actively helping to close it.

Since 2010, Stryker helped train more than 650 healthcare professionals (HCPs) in over 10 countries. In 2022 alone, 125 HCPs were trained in 9 countries, which included 5 new plastic surgeons added in Rwanda. The increase in plastic surgeons drove 150% increase in care capacity in Rwanda, which means that more patients are getting the care they need. But there is still a great need, which is why training and education remains such a major focus.


RWA_2022_Kigali_Surgeon_Faustin Ntirenganya_003

Dr Charles and Dr Ntirenganya were originally the only two plastic surgeons in Rwanda. Last year, Drs Nezerwa, Mukagaju and Shyaka joined them – the first graduates of the University of Rwanda’s plastic surgery residency programme launched due to the success demonstrated by the surgical training rotations that Stryker helped launch and continues to support. Dr Mukagaju is also the first female plastic surgeon in Rwanda. 

From right to left: Dr Furaha Charles, Dr Faustin Ntirenganya, Dr Yves Nezerwa, Dr Françoise Mukagaju, Dr Ian Shyaka.

“We developed a hospital in Guwahati, India in the early 2000s that at the time, had nothing,” recalled Dr Bill Magee. “I called my contacts at Stryker and asked if there was anyone in India who could help. A day later, this gentleman came and we sat down together and drew out what would ultimately become a hospital with seven operating rooms that operated on close to 11,500 people in four years. That’s the kind of thing Stryker helps start up.”


Making better happen
As part of our signature partnership with Operation Smile, our goal isn’t only making surgeries happen. It’s making surgeries better.

Product donations and discounts help care teams perform surgeries, improving healthcare at Operation Smile programmes globally. Additionally, our charitable contributions help scale training for healthcare workers. For instance, in one region of Madagascar, Operation Smile worked with LifeBox, a partner non-profit organisation, to deliver a training course to healthcare workers across three hospitals that helped drive reductions in surgical complications.

Our impact is amplified even more by the dollars raised during the annual employee giving campaigns, where we engage employees in this journey that we’ve been on for 30 years. Employees have joined Operation Smile on medical missions, and more than US $1.5 million has been raised by employees since 2015. What keeps us giving is knowing the difference that every dollar and every minute spent training a healthcare professional means for a child, a family, a community. “What else could you ask to make you feel fulfilled than to know that at least one kid had a chance for a life that they may never have had if it wasn’t for you?” added Dr. Bill Magee.



1. Operation Smile. ‘Talking points.’ 2021. Accessed on 1 October via https://brand.operationsmile.org/our-brand/talking-points/#1517588981715-babfbe8d-5e21
2. Operation Smile. ‘Stats.’ 2021. Accessed on 1 October via https://brand.operationsmile.org/our-brand/stats/
3. Peterson-Falzone SJ, Hardin-Jones MA, Karnell MP. Cleft palate speech. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO: Mosby; 2001.
4. Hoyler M, Finlayson SR, Mcclain CD, Meara JG, Hagander L. Shortage of Doctors, Shortage of Data: A Review of the Global Surgery, Obstetrics and Anaesthesia Workforce Literature. World J Surg World Journal of Surgery. 2013: 38(2), 269280. Accessed 7 March 2016: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00268-013-2324-y

Photos courtesy of Operation Smile, Inc.

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