Smile Train Furthers Commitment to Global Health Equity

Smile Train to create Cleft Leadership Centers to increase access to healthcare

Smile Train partner with child

NEW YORK – July 13, 2021 – Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft organization, announced today the launch of its Cleft Leadership Centers (CLCs), one of its largest investments to-date furthering its commitment to improve global health equity and access to safe, affordable, comprehensive cleft care worldwide.

An estimated five billion people around the globe, including many with clefts, do not have access to safe, affordable surgery and anesthesia in their own communities. The CLCs will serve as regional hubs for cleft treatment and training, providing a holistic, team-centered model of care that encompasses surgery, speech therapy, nutritional support, orthodontics and more. Equipped with the latest technology and staffed with some of the area’s best-trained medical professionals, CLCs will be a model for other cleft centers and ensure the highest standard of cleft care is available for all.

“The impact of CLCs will extend far beyond cleft care. They will strengthen health systems throughout these countries and regions,” said Smile Train President & CEO Susannah Schaefer. “They are one of the many ways that Smile Train, our global Medical Advisory Board, local Medical Advisory Councils, and our partners are leading the way for sustainable improvements to global health systems to create a better standard of care and healthier, happier futures everywhere we work.”

Initially launching in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, India, Ghana, Vietnam, and the Philippines, new cleft centers will soon be established across additional regions around the globe. Over the next five years, Smile Train anticipates introducing 10 additional CLCs in low- and middle-income countries, expanding its sustainable model of empowering local trained medical professionals to save the lives of individuals with clefts while building stronger, more resilient surgical systems across the globe.

“The global disparity of access to safe and high-quality healthcare, especially the specialized surgical treatment necessary to treat conditions like cleft lip and palate, leads to millions of preventable deaths every year.” said Dr. Larry Hollier, Chief of Plastic Surgery at Texas Children's Hospital, and Chairman of Smile Train’s Global Medical Advisory Board. “This inequity is due, in part, to a lack of access to necessary resources, equipment, and training for healthcare professionals. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that is committed to improving the access and caliber of cleft care for children across the world.”

Prof. Peter Donkor, Smile Train’s Africa Medical Advisory Council Chair and President of the West African College of Surgeons spoke to the impact that CLCs would have not only in his region, but worldwide. “This milestone will elevate Smile Train’s partner medical professionals across all fields of cleft care, increasing our capacity to bring patients with clefts holistic, quality care delivered close to their doorstep.”

Smile Train's sustainable model empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. For over 20 years, Smile Train has supported safe and quality cleft care for more than 1.5 million children globally and will continue to do so until every child in need with a cleft has access to the care they deserve.

To learn more about Smile Train's global efforts, please visit Follow Smile Train on Twitter and Instagram @SmileTrain and like us on Facebook at


About Smile Train

Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. We advance a sustainable solution and scalable global health model for cleft treatment, drastically improving children’s lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive. To learn more about how Smile Train's sustainable approach means donations have both an immediate and long-term impact, please visit

Media Contacts

Nijha Diggs
Smile Train

Julianne Rogers