How volunteering for Operation Smile has changed the life of a dentist and her patients

operation smileWhen paediatric dentist Dr Dane Hoang first heard about Operation Smile she had no idea of the profound effect it would have on her life over the next decade.

Dane first heard about Operation Smile’s mission to provide free, safe and effective surgery for children with cleft conditions, when she saw a TV programme hosted by actor and Operation Smile ambassador Roma Downey, in 2006.

She was so moved by what she saw she immediately applied to become a medical volunteer. Since then, she’s served on 11 medical and dental missions. And she is a passionate fundraiser for the charity.

Operation Smile mission

Two years later, Dane attended her first Operation Smile mission to Hue, Vietnam. The first time she’d been there since her parents fled the country in 1979.

She said: ‘I was really impressed with the team of volunteers. They worked a 12-hour day shift to take care of the Vietnamese children’. Dane also fondly recalls the passion and camaraderie within the team.

Being back in her hometown, Dane was acutely aware of how things could have been so different in her own life, had her parents not made the decision to leave the country.

She commented: ‘I saw so many patients and families sitting there, just waiting and doing everything they could to get free dentistry or free surgery.

‘I took a step back and said: “You know what, that could have been me if my parents didn’t have the courage to make that decision to flee the country and get on that boat. Not knowing if we were going to live or die.”

‘That to me was an awakening. That could have been me and my kids waiting for Operation Smile to come here and help us.’

Understanding the value of giving

Dane not only gives her time, skills and expertise for free to Operation Smile, she is also a prolific fundraiser for the charity.

She feels proud that through her own volunteering work, her five-year-old daughter is also learning to understand the value of giving.

She continues: ‘I wanted to teach my daughter to learn how to serve others and to help other people. And now she understands that. And at a very young age, so that’s very special to me.’

So, what is it that inspires Dane to give so much of her time and effort to Operation Smile? The answer: changing the lives of children and their families.

She told us: ‘To go to any country and help change a kid’s life with a relatively short surgery, you’re not only changing that child’s life, but the lives of their family as well.

‘When many of these children are born with cleft, society shuns them because of the stigma.

‘So when a kid receives surgery, it’s like they are whole again. You’re changing their life, their whole family’s lives, the whole community and the whole country.’

Dane believes in paying it forward. She hopes that those she has helped, will in turn choose to help others in the future. One small act of kindness can certainly change lives.


It takes as little as 45 minutes and only £150 to provide a life-changing cleft surgery to a child. Help change a child’s life today by donating: operationsmile.uk/fmc.

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