“25 years, 1000,000 smiles, we’ve just begun”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Operation Smile, a worldwide, non-profit organization dedicated to the surgical correction of childhood facial deformities. 

To commemorate their anniversary, the organization held a weeklong "World Journey of Smiles," featuring "simultaneous medical missions in 25 countries that in one week will treat an estimated 5,000 [patients]," according to the organization’s Web page, www.operationsmile.org

The event, conducted in November, required an immense number of volunteers. One of these volunteers was UVSC student Marci Hooton, vice president of the UVSC Operation Smile club.

After being accepted into the program, Hooton left for Egypt on Nov. 8, for two weeks. Assigned as a patient imaging technician (PIT), Hooton was responsible for photographically documenting patients before, during and after surgery. While in Egypt, Hooton’s team, consisting of approximately 60 volunteers from around the world, performed surgery on 92 patients, primarily correcting cleft pallets and cleft lips. A total of 314 patients were screened by plastic surgeons, nutritionists, speech pathologists, anesthesiologists and dentists to check their overall health and viability for surgery, according to Hooton.

"This trip effected me immensely; it has totally changed my life," said Hooton.  "I came back with a whole new appreciation for the United States and especially Utah."

Hooton has completed numerous volunteer missions with Operation Smile. Prior to her trip to Egypt, she trained students in dental hygiene at Operation Smile’s headquarters in Virginia, attended the student leadership conference in Ireland and assisted with the annual Utah-exclusive "Be Someone" event.

The Operation Smile club is new to UVSC this year and already joined with ASUVSC in Oct. for its first fundraiser.
According to the Web page, "Approximately 5,000 students serve as Operation Smile volunteers working to raise funds and awareness in more than 450 schools across the United States and around the world."

Hooton connects her desire to volunteer for Operation Smile to her husband, who currently works for Operation Smile to oversee all student clubs worldwide. "We live and breathe it," she said.

"Operation Smile has changed more than 100,000 children’s faces and lives dramatically for the better over the past 25 years," summarized the Web page.

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