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Smile Train

This article is about a charity. For a Seibu Railway train with the same nickname, see Seibu 30000 series.
Smile Train
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Type 501(c)(3) nonprofit
Headquarters New York, New York, United States
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Susannah Schaefer
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Formerly called
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Smile Train is a 501(c)(3) organization based in New York City, USA. The organization was founded in 1999 and is the largest charity providing corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.[1] Smile Train has established programs to provide free corrective cleft surgery in 87 countries.[2] Through these programs, the charity trains local doctors and provides funding to hospitals for the procedures.[2] According to Forbes magazine, Smile Train is the 72nd largest charity in America.[3]

Susannah Schaefer is the organization's chief executive officer.[4]


Smile Train was created in 1998 by Brian Mullaney and Charles Wang, who had previously worked with Operation Smile, another charity focused on correcting cleft lips and palates.[5] They felt the most efficient way to provide cleft surgery was to train and support local doctors rather than to fly in Western doctors to provide surgeries in poor, developing countries.[5][6] Local doctors would also be able to provide care year-round rather than the limited engagements of the "mission-based" model.[5][6]

In 1999, Smile Train began providing corrective surgeries in China.[2] The charity worked with American and Chinese presidents at the time, George H.W. Bush and Jiang Zemin, in the planning of Smile Train's first operation in China.[7] As of 2013, the charity had provided approximately 300,000 corrective surgeries in partnership with 397 local hospitals within China.[2]

Smile Train began working in India in 2000.[8] In 2011, Aishwarya Rai, a Bollywood actress and former Miss World, became Smile Train's first goodwill ambassador.[9] By 2013, Smile Train was conducting 50,000 corrective surgeries in India annually.[10]

In 2006, Smile Train co-founded the Pan African Congress on Cleft Lip and Palate.[11] The charity also funded the 2008 Pan African Anaesthesia Symposium.[12]

Smile Train unveiled a new advertising campaign, "The Power of a Smile," in April 2014.[4] The campaign featured work from Kátia Lund and photojournalist Alex Webb.[4] The campaign coincided with the release of a new organizational logo.[4] That same month, Smile Train also held an event at the Barclays Center for what it said was its millionth cleft operation.[13]

Smile Train and Operation Smile

In early 2011, Smile Train and Operation Smile announced the two charities would merge,[14][15] followed three weeks later by announcements the merger had been aborted,[16] Smile Train having canceled the union.[17] Smile Train's board also named Priscilla Ma the executive director of the organization, while other board members and directors stepped down.[18]

In 2009, Smile Train initiated an advertising campaign [19] in the Richmond Times highlighting Smile Train's attempts between 2006 and 2009 to donate nearly $9 million to Operation Smile,[20] the organization Brian Mullaney had split from in 1998 in what Mullaney described as a "messy divorce."[21]

In the ad, Mullaney contended Operation Smile was refusing money that could benefit children, later calling the situation "shameful";[20] Mullaney also noted that he respects that in some countries need overwhelms available doctors and he had "a newfound respect for what Operation Smile does."[21] The Virginian Pilot outlined the history and differences between the two organizations and indicated Mullaney wanted the two organizations to reconcile.[21]

At the time, Dr. Magee of Operation Smile declined a newspaper interview, and Operation Smile formally responded to the ad campaign, saying the two organizations "have different operating philosophies and business ethics," and that Operation Smile would continue foregoing donations from an "unproductive relationship."[21]


In 1999, Smile Train approached Dr. Court B. Cutting of New York University's Virtual Research Laboratory to create training videos, which could be used to train local doctors on how to perform advanced cleft surgery techniques.[22] The 3D models used in the videos were based on the CT scan of two Chinese patients.[23] Smile Train distributes the DVDs to local doctors worldwide.[6][22] The DVDs are available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.[24]

Smile Train later used the 3D models of the two Chinese patients to build the first 3D open access virtual surgical simulator, which teaches cleft palate and lip surgery to doctors in developing countries.[25] The simulator, which was created in partnership with BioDigital Systems, is web-based, open source and available for free.[25] It does not require any special hardware to use.[26] A mobile application is under development.[26] In September 2014, Smile Train will showcase a 3D virtual surgery simulator at TEDMED 2014 in Washington DC.[27]

Smile Train maintains Smile Train Express (STX), an internet-based, digital patient record database.[7][24] STX enables Smile Train to have outside medical experts review patient records and quality of care.[6][7] The charity also boasts a large medical research library with more than 1,000 articles related to clefts accessible online for free.[28]

Partnerships and supporters

Smile Train helps the cause of cleft care through its funding of 1,000+ active partners representing nearly 1,200 hospitals and 2,300 partner surgeons in the world’s poorest nations; through these local partnerships, the organization is able to provide free surgery for children any day of the year, with more than 120,000 surgeries each year.[29]

In addition to partnerships with cleft care organizations, Smile Train has partnered with other individuals organizations in an effort to improve safety and quality at their partner hospitals, such as Dr. Atul Gawande, World Health Organization, World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists[30] and Lifebox.[31]

Smile Train has a number of corporate partnerships, including Artisanal Cheese,[32] Dubai Duty Free,[33] Estée Lauder, FedEx,[34] QBE[35] The Queens Flowers,[36] Mars Retail Group [37] and Vertu[38][39] These partnerships - in addition to those in partnership with donors on grassroots efforts - serve to both raise money and spread awareness.

SmileTrain partnered with medical visualiztation company BioDigital to create the first 3D, open access surgical simulator to teach cleft lip and palate surgeries to doctors in developing countries.[40]

Current and former supporters include: Tatyana Ali,[41] John Bishop, Christie Brinkley,[42] Dean Cain,[43] Stephen Colbert, Kevin Connolly,[44] Walter Cronkite,[45] Erik Estrada,[46] Sammi Hanratty,[47] Rebecca Herbst,[48] Jane Kaczmarek,[49] Howie Mandel, Mary McCartney,[50] Reba McEntire,[51] Bette Midler, Jimmy Pardo,[52] General Colin Powell,[53] Aishwarya Rai Bachchan,[9] Carly Simon and Hilary Swank.[54]


In a 2008 New York Times article, economist Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame indicated that the organization's model and its technological innovations "likely make Smile Train one of the most productive charities, dollar for deed, in the world."[55]

In 2008, Smile Train was the runner-up in the Health-Care IT category of the Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards in recognition for their surgical technique training videos.[56]

In 2009, the documentary Smile Pinki, won the 2008 Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject).[57] The documentary was sponsored by Smile Train and directed by Megan Mylan. The film shows the story of a poor girl in rural India whose life is transformed when she receives free surgery to correct her cleft lip. Free copies of the film are available through Smile Train’s website.[58]


In 2008, Charity Watch criticized then-president Brian Mullaney's $420,209 salary and questioned the 2007 company's tax form, which said Mullaney's salary came from temporary restricted funds designed to go toward overhead.[59]

In 2009, Givewell could not assess the impact of Smile Train's activities based on the charity's 2008 tax form and other publicly accessible information.[60]

Key personnel

The organizations key personnel are:[61]

  • Susannah Schaefer, Executive Vice Chair and Chief Executive Officer
  • Robert T. Bell, Executive Director, Charles B. Wang Foundation
  • Michael J. Dowling, President and CEO, North Shore-LIJ Health System
  • Ed Goren, Founder and CEO, Goren Media Group
  • Arthur J. McCarthy, Chief Financial Officer, NeuLion
  • Roy E. Reichbach, General Counsel, NeuLion
  • Richard A. Ruderman, President and CEO, Krieger Ruderman & Co., LLC
  • Robert K. Smits, Counsel, Salans
  • Charles B. Wang, Founder and Chairman, Smile Train

Medical Advisory Board


Smile Train complies with the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability established by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.[62] The alliance was developed to "assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to foster public confidence in charitable organizations."[63]

According to Smile Train's 2012 annual report, management and general expenses account for $1.9 million (1.2%) of total expenses.[64] $132.4 million (81.8%) went to program services and $27.6 million (17%) to fundraising.[64] Total support and revenue for 2012 was $175 million.[64]

See also


  1. ^ Domenico Nicosia (15 November 2013). "Ironman Arizona athletes raise funds for Smile Train to help kids". AZ Central. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Liu Zhihua (24 October 2013). "Driven by smiles". China Daily. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Smile Train". Forbes. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d Jennifer Rooney (3 April 2014). "Smile Train Breaks Away From Formulaic Charity Advertising In New Campaign". Forbes. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Elizabeth Simpson (17 November 2013). "Two sides of charity: Competing, compassion". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Stephen J. Dubner; Steven D. Levitt (9 March 2008). "Bottom-Line Philanthropy". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c Nell Porter Brown (September–October 2009). "Scaling Up Charity". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Subodh Kumar Singh (October 2009). "Smile Train: The ascendancy of cleft care in India". Indian J Plast Surg. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Aishwarya gets a cleft smile for charity". Hindustan Times. 15 July 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Kounteya Sinha (17 June 2013). "11-year-old Smile Train patient Pinki Sonkar to flip coin at Wimbledon". The Times of India. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  11. ^ Oluwaseun Adetayo; Rachel Ford; Mark Martin (30 May 2012). "Africa has unique and urgent barriers to cleft care: lessons from practitioners at the Pan-African Congress on Cleft Lip and Palate". The Pan African Medical Journal. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "Pan African Anaesthesia Symposium". AMREF. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Helaina Hovitz (7 April 2014). "All Aboard the Smile Train: Organization Brightens One Million Young Lives". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "Smile Train and Operation Smile Boards Agree to Merge". PR Newswire. February 14, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Operation Smile and Smile Train to merge charities". The Virginian Pilot,, February 15, 2011. 
  16. ^ "2 Charities Set to End a Merger, Papers Say". The New York Times. March 6, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Smile Organizations Break Off Engagement". The Non-Profit Times, Mark Hrywna. March 7, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Smile Train Board Votes to Call off Merger". Smile Train. Retrieved 04-07-2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  19. ^ "'Smile' charity leaders in midst of decade-long feud". The Virginian Pilot, Elizabeth Simpson, December 20, 2009. The Richmond Times-Dispatch published the ad on Dec. 3, and Mullaney said he is considering running it in other publications. 
  20. ^ a b "Smiles to frowns". The Virginian Pilot,Letter to the Editor, Brian Mullaney, Dec 28, 2009. 
  21. ^ a b c d "'Smile' charity leaders in midst of decade-long feud". The Virginian Pilot, Elizabeth Simpson, December 20, 2009. 
  22. ^ a b Amanda Schaffer (2 August 2005). "Cleft Palate Practice, Pre-Surgery". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  23. ^ Aaron Oliker; Court Cutting (November 2005). "The Role of Computer Graphics in Cleft Lip and Palate Education". Semin Plast Surg. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  24. ^ a b Sheppard ML (January–February 2005). "Virtual surgery brings back smiles" 25 (1). IEEE Comput Graph Appl. pp. 6–11. 
  25. ^ a b Tracy Miller (10 January 2014). "App’s map of the human body also charts next generation of surgical training". New York Daily News. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  26. ^ a b "IU surgeon leads innovative app to train remote physicians in cleft palate repair". Indiana University. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  27. ^ Alan Cole (28 July 2014). "Charity's 3D surgery simulator". Xperedon. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  28. ^ "Medical Research Library". Smile Train. 
  29. ^ "Smile Train Report Card". Smile Train. 
  30. ^ "Pulse oximeters breathe life into surgery in poorer nations". The Lancet. 
  31. ^ "Lifebox and Smile Train". Lifebox. 
  32. ^ "Say Cheese...Share a Smile!". Artisanal Cheese. 
  33. ^ "Dubai Duty Free donates US$1.5 million to The Smile Train at Miles for Smiles fun run in Dubai – 21/11/09". Moodie Report. 
  34. ^ "Corporate Partners". Smile Train. 
  35. ^ "QBE Presents Smile Train with $100,000 Grant". PR Newswire. 
  36. ^ "Limited-edition Bouquet Blooms at Ahold USA Banners". Progressive Grocer. 
  37. ^ "Smile Train, Inc. Announces Partnership with Mars Retail Group, Inc". Bloomberg Businessweek. 
  38. ^ "Vertu Constellation Smile". Vertu. 
  39. ^ "Vertu Constellation Smile". YouTube. 
  40. ^ Miller, Tracey. "App’s map of the human body also charts next generation of surgical training ". Daily News. Jan. 10, 2014
  41. ^ "Tatyana Ali Vists Smile Train". YouTube. 
  42. ^ "Christie Brinkley Named Global Ambassador Of World Smile Day 2012 On Behalf Of Smile Train". PR Newswire. 
  43. ^ "Give a Smile: Celebs Help Fix Clefts". The Daily Activist. 
  44. ^ "Smile Train Welcomes the Holiday Giving Season". PR Newswire. 
  45. ^ "Smile Train Suporter, Walter Kronkite". YouTube. 
  46. ^ "Erik's Charities". Erik Estrada Official Web Site. 
  47. ^ "Sammi Hanratty To Make Charity Visit To Peru". Look to the Stars, The World of Celebrity Giving. 
  48. ^ "Smile Train and Rebecca Herbst – Changing Lives one Smile at a Time". Hollywood Today. 
  49. ^ "Caught Caring: Jane Kaczmarek and Smile Train". People. 
  50. ^ "Vertu and Smile Train Present Their First Charity Handset Constellation Smile With a Private View by Mary McCartney". McCartney Photo Blog. 
  51. ^ "ACM Lifting Lives My Cause: Reba McEntire- Smile Train". Academy of Country Music. 
  52. ^ Luippold, Ross (November 21, 2011). "Jimmy Pardo Tells Conan About His 'Pardcast-A-Thon' Podcast For Charity". Huffington Post. 
  53. ^ "Smile Train's 10 Year Anniversary Celebration". WireImage. 
  54. ^ "Celebrity Supporters". Smile Train. 
  55. ^ Dubner, Stephen J.; Levitt, Steven D. (March 9, 2008). "Bottom-Line Philanthropy". The New York Times Magazine. 
  56. ^ "2008 Technology Innovation Winners and Runners-Up". Dow Jones. 
  57. ^ "Nominees & Winners for the 81st Academy Awards". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 
  58. ^ "Get Smile Pinki". Smile Train. 
  59. ^
  60. ^ "Smile Train". GiveWell. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  61. ^ "The People Behind Smile Train". Smile Train. 
  62. ^ "BBB Wise Giving Report forSmile Train". Better Business Bureau. 
  63. ^ "Standards for Charity Accountability". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  64. ^ a b c "2012 Annual Report" (PDF). Smile Train. Retrieved 21 May 2014.