Student Volunteers at Medical Missions

June 20, 2019 -- Abu Dhabi -- Student Ambassador Maryam Saleel  (center) with Eeva Liisa Langille. Patient screening takes place in Abu Dhabi ahead of two days of surgeries organized by Operation Smile UAE to repair cleft lips and palates. Image Courtesy Operation Smile UAE
June 21, 2019 - (Abu Dhabi, UAE) - Student Ambassadors making braces to prevent childrern from pulling on their tongue stich. The OS UAE 2019 Mission first day of cleft palate and lip surgeries. Image Courtesy Operation Smile UAE
June 20, 2019 -- Abu Dhabi -- Student Ambassador Aya Hammad with a patient. Patient screening takes place in Abu Dhabi ahead of two days of surgeries organized by Operation Smile UAE to repair cleft lips and palates. Image Courtesy Operation Smile UAE

The student team typically consists of 2-3 high-school students and an adult sponsor, however this can also be expanded to include a¬† university-student ‘U-Voice Reporter’ and an in-country student team.


Why do we send students on Medical Missions?

Students represent the future of furthering the Operation Smile vision. Volunteering with us gives students a fulfilling and unique opportunity to be exposed to different cultures, serve those in need and discover things about themselves they may not have otherwise known.


What is an Operation Smile Medical Mission?

Operation Smile Medical Missions are surgery programs designed to provide a short-term boost in the surgical capacity of an area. Essentially, the medical mission model requires transportation of all the equipment, materials and personnel to a site for a short period of time to provide screening, surgery and short-term post-operative care to a large number of patients.

Goals of a Mission:

  • To provide children with cleft conditions the opportunity to live the life that every child deserves
  • Through the provision of facial reconstructive surgery, change a child’s appearance which will increase self-esteem and enable the child to attend school, interact with society and most importantly, eat and drink properly to obtain essential nutrition.

The Primary roles of the High School Student Team

Operation Smile connects students with global communities in order to ramp up health care education and improve students’ interpersonal communication skills that are essential to bring awareness to cleft conditions and the need for safe surgery and ongoing care.

The student team has two primary responsibilities, in order of priority:


The student team teaches children and adults at the hospital, and may also go on off-site visits to orphanages, schools and more in the surrounding community, to educate the local population about:

  • Basic Healthcare
  • Burn Care and Prevention
  • Dental Hygiene
  • Hands-Only CPR
  • Nutrition
  • Post-Surgery Lip Care
  • Empathy and Understanding of individuals with cleft conditions

Build Relationships:

The student team plays a major role in comforting the patients and their parents throughout the mission and connecting with them on a deeper level.

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The Primary role of the U-Voice Student Reporter:

*University students only.

The role of the U-Voice student is to serve as the reporter during the medical mission, capturing and telling the story of Operation Smile, it’s patients and volunteers. Often the U-Voice student works closely with the high school team.

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The Primary roles of the In-Country Student Team:

Local students often have different roles than the international student team. The main assignment of a local student is to help the clinical and mission coordinator and ensure smooth screening and surgery days through provision of translation and administrative tasks as well as general on-site logistics. Just like the international students, these students work hard to spread awareness, fundraise and collect necessary materials for missions.

Adult, Student Sponsors:

On each mission, students are accompanied by an adult student sponsor over the age of 26. During a medical mission, the student sponsor has many obligations such as ensuring the safety and security of the high school student team as well as to oversee and report on the number of presentations the student team conducts.

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Student experiences on Medical Missions

Since 2017, OSUAE has included some of our most exceptional and dedicated student volunteers on our in-country medical missions. Take a look at what they had to say about their experiences.

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For more information about the Mission Training workshop, click here