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Smile Train: Making the Grade in Global Cleft Care

Louis, Matthew (Division of Plastic Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital Clinical Care Center, Houston, Texas ) ; Dickey, Ryan (Division of Plastic Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital Clinical Care Center, Houston, Texas ) ; Hollier Jr., Larry (Division of Plastic Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital Clinical Care Center, Houston, Texas ) ;
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    Abstract The global medical and psychological burden of cleft lip and palate is large, especially in low- and middle-income countries. For decades, medical missions have sought to alleviate this burden; however, there are significant barriers to providing sustainable, high-quality cleft care using the mission model. Smile Train, an international children's charity founded in 1999, has developed a scalable model which provides support to local partner hospitals and surgeons around the world. Smile Train partners with hospitals to support cleft care treatment across the developing world. Partner hospitals are held to strict safety and quality standards. Local or regional providers are primarily used to train medical personnel. A quality assurance process developed by the Smile Train's Medical Advisory Board is used to assess cleft surgery cases and suggest additional review and training as needed. Surgical candidates are systematically evaluated and must meet specific medical criteria to ensure safety. Experienced anesthetists adhere to Smile Train's safety and quality protocols including anesthesia guidelines. Smile Train and its partners have provided more than 1.2 million safe, high-quality cleft surgical treatments since 1999. Smile Train has sponsored more than 3,000 hands-on training opportunities, 30,000 opportunities to participate in cleft conferences, and 40,000 virtual cleft training opportunities. Through rigorous self-governance and its sustainable, scalable model, this organization has elevated the standard of cleft care in the developing world.


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