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Group to Offer Free Surgery to Poor Children

Using a $1-million prize from a local foundation, the voluntary medical services group Operation Smile will begin a program in Los Angeles to screen indigent children for facial, congenital and burn deformities and surgically correct them at no cost.

Operation Smile, which provides free reconstructive surgery to indigent children in developing countries, Thursday received the first annual Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in New York City.

The new Los Angeles program is being coordinated by Dr. Randy Sherman, a USC surgeon, and will collaborate with the nonprofit Children’s Dental Center in Inglewood, which provides free dental care to such children. Some members of the local Operation Smile chapter are performing such surgeries, but the money from the Hilton Foundation will enable the group to substantially enlarge the program.

Modeled on a successful 5-year-old program in New York City, the new project will focus on indigent children whose medical deformities--often correctable by simple surgeries that take no more than 45 minutes--have been overlooked by the health care system.

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The goal, according to Sherman, is to free such children from lives of ridicule and physical suffering.

Operation Smile was selected from among 175 nonprofit organizations nominated to receive the first award.


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