Dr Anna Negus, Anaesthetist

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What inspired you to volunteer with Operation Smile?

I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer closer to home on a regular basis. There are many countries near Australia where there is a great need for volunteers to help support communities without immediate access to the help they require. 

Operation Smile has an excellent reputation, delivers an extremely high standard of care whilst integrating local healthcare providers with international volunteers. It is a great opportunity as a specialist to work with local experts; we learn from each other. 

I find great personal satisfaction from volunteering in this capacity, it is wonderful to see what a difference this makes to the patients quality of life.

Why do you feel the responsibility to take care of these children?

I think it is human nature to want to offer care to others. It is wonderful to have a job where this desire is made so easy to fulfil. Taking care of children is a pleasure, I enjoy my work and am extremely grateful to be welcomed as a  volunteer by Operation Smile.

From your perspective, describe the three biggest challenges/barriers to care for patients in your country or places you have worked.

Understanding cultural differences is vital in ensuring patients get the care they need. This can be very challenging when coming to a new culture for a week or two at a time. Language can be a barrier to communication with patients, despite the excellent interpreters. One of the great things about working with children is the universal language of play and kindness, which need no words! 

It can also be difficult to adapt to the equipment we have available for anaesthesia. Whilst fully functional and safe, the options are not as diverse and may be limited in supply. This requires a degree of innovation and flexibility to ensure each patients needs are fulfilled, thankfully the teams are willing to share ( and negotiate!)

How has volunteering with Operation Smile impacted you professionally and personally?

Volunteering with Operation Smile has impacted me in a number of ways. Before my trip I had so much support from friends and family. I mentioned that we had dress up days for the children, before I knew it, I had three bags of outfits to choose from.  I met some wonderful and inspiring people on the mission, lasting friendships can be built surprisingly rapidly when working and living in such close proximity to one another. I always find I learn something about myself when I do these trips, mostly through the genuine kindness of others. I have certainly learnt that I am enthusiastic yet Rubbish at Karaoke!

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"We strive for a world where no child suffers the risks and uncertainties of a facial deformity."

- Richard Lewandowski, Plastic Surgeon, Co-Founder Operation Smile Australia