Program aims to highlight women’s critical role in healthcare in the Philippines and globally.
Operation Smile is launching its new global initiative Women in Medicine program in the Asia region with an all-female international surgical and educational mission in Cebu City
, from October 10 to 15, 2022, aimed at putting the spotlight on the critical role women play in the global healthcare system, and to encourage them to take on leadership roles in their professions.
“Women in Medicine” is central to our 10-year goal of increasing access to quality care for one million patients around the world, and to help build global health infrastructure,” Operation Smile Co-Founder and President, Kathleen Magee, said.
The program seeks to educate women in resource-poor countries on advanced medical practices, empower them become leaders in global medicine, expand opportunities for female health care workers in underserved communities, and elevate the quality of cleft care, Magee said.
“There are 5 million patients in need of cleft care in the countries we work in, and 5 billion people who lacks access to safe surgery across the world; we can’t address this need without more women in the health care arena,” Magee said.
The Cebu launch will kick off with a one-day forum on women empowerment in the medical field for all the participants, followed by four days of free surgeries and care for 80 children with cleft lip and cleft palate at the Cebu City Medical Center.
In partnership with its in-country foundation, Operation Smile Philippines, longtime NGO ally in Cebu, the MSY Charitable Foundation, and the Cebu City Government, Operation Smile assembled a team of 60 volunteer cleft care professionals from 12 countries.
The multinational team comprises of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, dentists, speech therapists, child life specialists and biomedical technicians from the U.S., Vietnam, Australia, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Honduras, Sweden, UK, Egypt, South Africa, and the Philippines.
“Our ultimate goal is to inspire and enable women to take on leadership roles in the medical field so they can help shape policies that would attract more women into the fold and equip them with global-standard skills to widen access to safe surgery and quality cleft care,” said Operation Smile Philippines trustee and MSY Charitable Foundation CEO, Martin Yeung.
“By empowering women in medicine at the local and regional level, we are creating a transformative change that will ripple across the healthcare landscape,” he added.
Women comprise 70% of health professional across the world, said the World Health Organization (WHO).
The figure is even higher In the Philippines. Women account for 75% of the country’s nearly 500,000 health professionals, said the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in a 2018 survey.
Still, despite the seeming large number, the Philippines lacks 290,000 health care workers to meet the WHO-recommended ratio of 44.5 health workers for every 10,000 of the population, the Human Resources for Health Network (HRHN) estimated in a 2019 study.
HRHN, the multi-sectoral agency the Department of Health created to align public health policies and implementation, said less than 1% of employed Filipinos are working as health professionals.
Operation Smile Philippines’ executive director, Emiliano Romano, said the novel Women in Medicine initiative is being piloted in the Philippines, where Operation Smile started in 1982, as well as in Morocco, Malawi, and Peru.
The plan is to roll out the program in all 35 Operation Smile program countries, Romano added.