Hilton Humanitarian Prize

1996 Laureate

Operation Smile

Operation Smile

In 1996, Operation Smile was the first recipient of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. This international children's medical charity provides free life-changing surgery for children and young adults who are suffering from facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate.

Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft. One in 10 of those children will die before their first birthday. Those who survive often cannot eat or speak properly. Too often, they are shunned, hidden away and not able to attend school. In developing countries, many parents cannot afford the surgery their children desperately need.

Operation Smile was founded in 1982 by Dr. William P. Magee, Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen, a nurse and clinical social worker. Since its founding, Operation Smile has provided more than 2 million comprehensive healthcare evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with facial deformities.

Operation Smile is committed to building sustainability in its developing partner countries. The organization trains local doctors so they are empowered to treat their own communities year-round. Nearly 60% of Operation Smile’s surgeries are performed by in-country, local volunteer medical teams.

Operation Smile also operates 13 Comprehensive Care Centers worldwide. These medical facilities offer year-round patient care including surgery and the myriad of specialties related to cleft care such as ENT and dental treatment, speech pathology and nutrition counselling.

More than 5,000 medical professionals from over 80 countries around the world volunteer with Operation Smile. Through Operation Smile’s Global Standards of Care, the organization ensures every patient cared for benefits from the same sophisticated equipment, procedures and highly-trained medical teams, no matter where they receive treatment.