In 1981, friends asked plastic surgeon William P. Magee and his wife, Kathy, a nurse and social worker, to substitute for them on a two-week volunteer medical mission with a group of American doctors who went to the Philippines to operate on children suffering from cleft lips and palates. What they found was overwhelming: children ravaged by life-threatening and grotesque deformities, a teenager resting a massive facial tumor on her hand, another with a bandanna masking the disease that had already eaten away his mouth and nose, and children suffering from severe burns and congenital hand deformities.
For five days, the surgical team worked continuously in 16-hour shifts. At the end of the week, 150 faces had been repaired. Out of time and out of supplies, exhausted doctors and nurses watched in despair as hundreds of children were turned away. A year later the Magees recruited a group to return to the Philippines to take care of over 200 children they had not been able to treat the previous year.
Determined to help children around the world, the Magees went in search of volunteers. With an overwhelming response from plastic and orthopedic surgeons, nurses, dentists, psychologists, speech therapists, physical therapists and child life therapists, Operation Smile was born. Since its founding in 1982, several thousand volunteers of Operation Smile have provided medical treatment for almost 40,000 young adults at home and abroad.
In 1996, the Magees were the first recipients of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize for their "exemplary and significant contributions to ease human pain and suffering, and have been honored for outstanding service to children by many individuals and organizations. An international jury named Operation Smile as the most outstanding of 185 international organizations, awarding them $1 million.
The second son of twelve children, Dr. Magee graduated from Mount St. Mary's College, earned his D.D.S. from the University of Maryland and his M.D. from George Washington Medical School. After competing a general surgery residency at the University of Virginia Medical School and a plastic surgery residency at the Astern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine, Mr. Magee advanced his education with studies in Switzerland, France, Germany and Scotland. He has practiced medicine in Norfolk, Virginia since 1978. Bill and Kathy Magee have five children.
NOTE: Bio is as it appeared in the Forum playbill for "Heroes Among Us" on March 18, 1997.
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