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Dr. Wieslawa de Pawlikowski, who led Operation Smile’s Women in Medicine mission to Lima, Peru in June.

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Behind the Scenes

Dr. Wieslawa De Pawlikowski, Operation Smile

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Meet Dr. Wieslawa De Pawlikowski, one of the inspiring women who enables Operation Smile to make a difference. “Children should have a future that is unresticted,” she says.

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Dr. De Pawlikowski is the head of reconstructive microsurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Lima, Peru. In June, she served as the director of Operación Sonrisa Perú, the Operation Smile mission trip that changed the lives of 71 children.

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“We want them to live a life without any kind of limitations,” Dr. De Pawlikowski says. “That’s why we volunteer.” By we, she is referring to the all-woman medical team who she lead through the mission as part of the organization’s Women in Medicine program. More than 120 female medical volunteers from 15 countries came together to provide free medical care to children in need.  

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“This mission has just show me what I already knew, which is that women in the field of medicine are incredible,” she says.

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Here, we see the mission trip through her eyes.

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Q&A

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Q: What does it mean to be the director of this mission?
Dr. Wieslawa De Pawlikowski: To be the director of Operación Sonrisa Perú means leading the volunteers so we can provide comprehensive treatment to our patients. We are a group of specialists from different fields of healthcare—surgeons, pediatricians, anesthesiologists....We all want to achieve the same goal, which is to provide healthcare and a better well-being to children with cleft lip and cleft palate. We want them to live a life without any kind of limitations.

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Dr. Wieslawa de Pawlikowski with a patient and the patient's parents

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That’s why we volunteer. What we’re doing in assembling all these different medical disciplines is so, in uniform way, we can give these children a future. Children should have a future that is unrestricted.

Lima Clinical Coordinator Karla Robles with a patient

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Q: What kind of care do the children receive from these different disciplines?
W: Comprehensive care is the dream that all of us volunteering at Operación Sonrisa Perú share. It’s a dream that is crystalizing now, after 20 years because we’re finally able to provide our patients with the treatment they deserve. These children need so much more than just surgical treatment. They also need nutritional treatment, psychological treatment, speech therapy, orthodontics...

Giselle, an Operación Sonrisa Perú patient

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Q: What is it like working with all women?
W: This mission has just shown me what I already knew, which is that women in the field of medicine are incredible. We have dedication to our patients. We also have compassion, tenderness and warmth. That makes a huge difference to these children.

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The all-female volunteer team at Operación Sonrisa Perú

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Q: Lastly, do you remember your patient, Valery? You performed her surgery.
W: Yes! Valery is a beautiful baby girl who needed her lip to be repaired, as she had a very wide cleft. We performed corrective surgery so that it would appear as if she never had had a birth defect—so she would be no different than her classmates, and so she would not feel different. I’m so happy with how everything turned out.

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