By Adryka Vats, U-Voice student storyteller
Operation Smile UAE has had a long-lasting relationship with New York University, Abu Dhabi. Strengthening that bond, in the March 2022 mission at Burjeel Medical City, three NYUAD students came on board. They all came in with curious minds and compassionate hearts and left with a bag of memories and lifelong lessons.
Tatiana, majoring in Biology, joined the medical mission as a Medical Records Assistant. She had always been aware of Operation Smile through alumni and developed an interest in its work. The name was always familiar to her so when she saw an opening in the medical mission, she took that as a sign and went for it.
Faisal, majoring in Biology, helped out as a Patient Imaging Technician. He particularly related to Operation Smile’s work as he hasfamily members with cleft conditions. Since he attended high school in AbuDhabi, he was well-acquainted with the organization. When the opportunity to participate in a medical mission came by, he knew it was meant for him and applied right away.
Alex, majoring in Biology, also assisted as a Patient Imaging Technician. Unlike Tatiana and Faisal, Alex wasn’t really aware of Operation Smile’s work. He found out about it through a job posting and was drawn to the opportunity.
For all of them, the fact that they were able to get some experience in a medical setting but also have the aspect of helping people was perfect.
When asked about their experience at the medical mission, Tatiana mentioned how she always has had an ‘up down’ relationship with medicine.
She said, “When you get immersed into the technical aspect of medicine, you forget why you initially wanted to do medicine. So, this was wonderful as it reminded me of why I chose this as a career path for me.”
Tatiana particularly loved the collaborative environment and the fact that she was making an impact.
“I loved existing in such a dynamic environment where you’re not doing things just for the sake of doing it and you lose track of time,” she said.
The exposure of talking to doctors was an insightful one. She left feeling inspired and connected a lot of her moments back to her home country, Lebanon.
Faisal answered by saying, “Ilearned more in these past few days than I have in months.”
He got the opportunity to discuss a surgery which he found fascinating. Moreover, seeing the dramatic change in patients and parents made him realizethe sheer impact of Operation Smile.
“It really puts things in perspective,” he said, “We spend the entire week stressed about exams but things like this just make you realize that there are so many other beautiful things.”
He enjoyed seeing the behind-the-scenes work that goes in prepping patients for surgery. He loved the fact that Operation Smile UAE was so accepting and was filling in the gaps in the healthcare system.
Reminiscing about the mission, Tatiana realized that it doesn’t take a lot for people to make a change.
“It just takes a few people who have the skills and capabilities to say yes,” she further said, “Medicine is seen as such a lucrative job but just seeing doctors who want to do this because it’s a calling is inspiring.”
Faisal added to that by saying “People devoting themselves to helping other people is way more than just a profession. It becomes part of your identity.”
Alex answered, “We woke up at 5:40 am and came here and all the surgeries were done by 2 pm. Look at the number of things you can get done by waking up early. You literally changed the lives of 6 people.“
He further elaborated, “With the right objective and the right mindset and a little bit of investment, you can really make a difference.”
For Tatiana, she was particularly struck by how each and every person remembered each patient’s name.It’s a small detail but signifies a lot. “Just the fact that you follow these people so closely throughout their lifetimes is so fulfilling and so inspiring. This is the kind of medical professional and person I eventually want to be,”she said.
We certainly don’t know what the future holds but their ultimate goal is to get into medical school, set up an NGO-like Operation Smile, and make an impact through their work.
For anyone thinking about joining Operation Smile, here’s what Tatiana had to say:
“Go for it and don’t be afraid to ask questions! I think compassion is the most important thing and if you’re here then you’re the right person to be here.”
Just like every volunteer, this medical mission created a hugeimpact on them and has prepared them for the future.
Whether it was Tatiana’s infectious laugh or Faisal’s intriguing conversations, or Alex’s Korean talk with student volunteers, they all brought something special to the mission.