Pediatric Hospitalist Teaches Children to 'Smile'

surgeon in operating room
Photo credit: Hero Images/Getty Images

An avid traveler, Glendale pediatric hospitalist Dr. Shelly Batra longed to try international medicine. When her friend, a child life specialist, introduced her to Operation Smile, Batra said it gave her the chance of a lifetime.

“At the time I was introduced to Operation Smile, I was going through a rough patch in my personal life,” she said about 2014. 

“Being able to provide care for people who either don’t have access or don’t have the resources has always been something that I’ve been interested in. I was never really sure how to do it. Operation Smile gave me that platform to be able to not only do what I love but also be able to do it in an environment that’s built on providing quality care.” 

Operation Smile is a nonprofit organization that assists patients who have a cleft condition. A cleft lip or cleft palate is a gap in the mouth that didn’t close during the early stages of pregnancy. Cleft conditions are primarily caused by genetics, medical conditions or exposure to harmful substances. 

According to Operation Smile, every 3 minutes a child is born with a cleft condition worldwide. While this statistic is daunting, as many as 9 in 10 people have difficulties accessing basic medical care, such as surgeries. This means several kids with a cleft condition will have to experience bullying if their condition isn’t surgically fixed. 

This is where Operation Smile comes in. The nonprofit’s volunteer medical workers provide care to patients who wouldn’t have access to these kinds of procedures at any other hospital.

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