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Global Smile Foundation

Overview of organisation

Global Smile Foundation is a U.S.-based NGO whose mission is to provide comprehensive cleft care for underserved patients in developing countries and to build global capacity for cleft care practices though empowerment and sustainability initiatives. We believe all communities deserve first-rate cleft care by highly qualified healthcare professionals regardless of socioeconomic, racial, or religious background.

Cleft is one of the most common congenital birth defects in the world, occurring on average in 1 in every 700 live births. Children born with cleft in resource-limited areas are at greater risk of poor health, malnutrition, and poverty. Unfortunately, the specialized care needed is not only extremely limited in developing countries, but virtually nonexistent for families living at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.


Aims of organization

With 34 years of experience in outreach cleft care, GSF founders and volunteers have developed a diagonal model of comprehensive cleft care to achieve the best patient outcomes as well as maximize capacity-building efforts in underserved areas. While a vertical model tackles short term solutions without sustainable practices and a horizontal model requires significant investment to achieve long-term impacts, GSF brings together the best elements of each into the diagonal model and our article, Sustainable Cleft Care: A Comprehensive Model Based on the Global Smile Foundation Experience, was published in the Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, May 2021 issue.

GSF’s vision is for all patients to have access to comprehensive cleft care. We work towards this vision in three ways. First, to build global capacity for cleft care practices, we have several empowerment and sustainability initiatives. GSF established an internationally acclaimed annual Comprehensive Cleft Care Workshop/Congress (CCCW), now in its 4th year ( . This annual meeting brings together the world leaders in the cleft and craniofacial fields and rotates every three years between geographic regions to reach the widest audience possible. Other initiatives include training and workshops for in-country health care providers during missions, a Comprehensive Care Fellowship, an advanced training program in NasoAlveolar Molding (NAM) therapy in outreach settings, and Post-Doctoral Fellowships in Research and Training.

Second, to raise the level of care beyond the scope of our organization, GSF has prioritized collaboration among international NGOs involved in the field of cleft lip and palate in order to standardize and hence optimize overseas delivery of care. We helped co-found the World Cleft Coalition ( , comprised of 6 international cleft NGOs, and establish international safety standards for outreach cleft care programs. GSF team members have also worked with numerous cleft care professionals on research and publications.

Third, we provide pro-bono cleft care for more than 1,000 patients a year during 6-7 outreach programs, including surgery, dental and orthodontic care, speech therapy, feeding consultation, psychosocial support, and recommendations for future treatment. Our outreach programs also enable us to lay the groundwork to establish sustainable cleft centers at program locations.


GFS Team Ecuador


Examples of progress made or particular achievements

GSF has established two Cleft Centers in Beirut, Lebanon and Guayaquil, Ecuador to empower onsite providers and enable them to provide free year-round, multi-disciplinary care to patients born with cleft. During annual outreach programs, we deliver hands-on training in the latest cleft care techniques to onsite providers.

We have developed the CCCW as an annual meeting that gathers the world leaders in the cleft and craniofacial fields to provide didactic lectures and hands-on training while encouraging intellectual exchange and networking. The meeting location rotates every three years back to the same geographic region to include a wide audience and address the regional necessities through education and training. Our 4th annual workshop will take place in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2021 and we expect over 400 attendees. []

In our article, “Clinical and Economic Impact of The Global Smile Foundation Surgical Program,” which was published in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, we have demonstrated the power of comprehensive multi-disciplinary cleft care. This research shows that over the last decade we have averted more than 13,000 years of disability for GSF patients who underwent primary cleft lip and palate repairs. These procedures have provided an economic gain estimated at $65-$124 million, which translates to around $43,000-$82,000 per patient. This economic gain is produced by enabling parents and guardians of individuals with cleft to begin working and contributing to GDP instead of providing full-time care at home.


Opportunities to get involved

Global Smile Foundation volunteers have to be currently providing cleft care in their home based institutions. Each team is staffed by senior cleft surgeons, pediatric anesthesiologists, pediatricians especially pediatric intensivists and pediatric cardiologists, OR, PACU & periop nurses, pediatric dentists & orthodontists, speech pathologists and child psychologists.

Interested volunteers can email their CV’s to: &



Global Smile Foundation
101 Access Road, Suite 205
Norwood, MA 02062, USA