SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – Doctors
and volunteers from the non-governmental organization Operation
Smile embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship
USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) June 17.
Operation Smile personnel will perform surgeries over a six-day
period, ranging from cleft lip and cleft palate repair to addressing
facial and burn scars in support of Pacific Partnership 2010.
Before the Cambodian leg of the Pacific Partnership 2010 mission
began, Operation Smile pre-screened more than 130 children and
adults with cleft lips, cleft palates, and other facial deformities,
to select patients for reconstructive surgeries.
“We have brought a full medical team of plastic surgeons,
anesthesiologists, and nurses,” said Scott Snyder, Operation Smile’s
“We will be performing around 20 to 25 surgeries a day and we are
hoping to see about 80 patients during the next four days.”
The Operation Smile team aboard Mercy brings together people of many
countries and backgrounds. For this effort, the team is made up of
47 members from Cambodia, Ireland, Italy, United Kingdom, and United
States, working as a whole to complete these surgeries and help the
Cambodian patients in need.
“It’s great for us to be working aboard (Mercy),” said Snyder. “We
usually work in government hospitals in developing countries and
sometimes the facilities aren’t that great. We have come aboard with
the Navy, and it’s like working in one of the best hospitals in the
Operation Smile has been conducting missions with the Navy since
2006 and started participating in Pacific Partnership in the 2008.
While most of its efforts concentrate on the delivery of surgical
care, Operation Smile engages in subject matter expert exchanges –
even within its own organization.
“I really wanted to go on this trip,” said Brenda O’Brien, an
Operation Smile volunteer from Ireland, when she discovered
Operation Smile would be participating in Pacific Partnership 2010.
“I am looking forward to seeing the techniques from the different
surgeons from all the different countries.”
According to O’ Brien, the part that means the most to her is
getting the patients aboard, giving them a clean recovery room, and
them knowing that they are getting the best treatment they can
Operation Smile has provided free surgeries to children around the
world since 1982. With a presence in over 50 countries, Operation
Smile has helped children whose parents cannot afford to give them
the surgeries they need. Today more than 145,000 children have been
helped by the medical volunteers at Operation Smile.
Pacific Partnership is a joint effort between host nations, partner
nations, NGOs, and other U.S. government agencies that come together
each year to foster the relationships in which they provide medical,
dental, veterinary, and engineering civic action programs as well as
subject matter expert exchanges with local medical professionals.
The fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and
civic assistance endeavors, Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at
strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government
organizations, host nations, partner nations and international
humanitarian and relief organizations.