“At least 300 kids came in to see us in Naga City, and we took care of maybe 40 and had to turn over 250 away,” said Dr. Magee. “Without a doubt that was probably one of the most emotionally distressing moments of all our lives.”

With a shared love for children and helping others, the couple embarked on the ambitious endeavor together. Since Operation Smile’s foundation in 1982, they have provided more than 300,000 children in 60 countries with safe surgical care.

Founded with love

Operation Smile is dedicated to bettering lives and puts a strong emphasis on the emotional connection formed between its volunteers and its patients. Dr. Magee shared that he always makes a point to tell parents that they have a beautiful child, “because that child is beautiful, and [I] can see past that deformity.”

Dr. Magee attributes much of Operation Smile’s success to love: “Love by definition is self-sacrifice. Love is the decision to make somebody else’s problem your problem. I think the beauty of medicine is that you get to share love every single day.” He believes that once you connect with a patient and the burdens they’re shouldering, you become bonded with them on a deeper level.

HELPING HAND: Dr. William Magee traveled to the Philippines with his wife Kathleen in an attempt to help children suffering from cleft lips.

Emphasis on preparedness

Much of Operation Smile’s future plans center around training more volunteers — not just surgeons, but nursing staff, anesthesiologists and other integral members — and focusing efforts on research studies.

They’re also attempting to get through the backlog of patients they have while instilling a value in safe surgery.

BETTER TOGETHER: Through their shared love of helping those in need, Dr. Magee and his wife made the journey together in an attempt to better the lives of the children afflicted with the birth defects.

“We’ve been very focused on creating the infrastructure of safe surgery so that, although we’ve taken care of somewhere around 300,000 children, what we’ve left in those places that we’ve visited is an infrastructure that promises to take care of anybody who comes into those operating rooms,” said Dr. Magee.