Doctor raises funds for cleft surgeries

Dr Leila Amien

Newly qualified doctor Leila Amien, from Rondebosch East, has been caring for the well-being of others long before becoming a doctor.

Dr Amien, 25, who graduated on Tuesday December 10 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at Stellenbosch University, has a close relationship with Operation Smile South Africa, helping to raise nearly R500 000 for it since 2015.

Operation Smile is a non-profit that provides free reconstructive surgery in southern and central African countries for those with facial deformities.

Dr Amien first got involved with Operation Smile as a non-medical volunteer in 2013 when she visited Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the organisation.

“On those 10 days, they performed 150 cleft-lip and cleft-palate reconstructive surgeries on kids. After that medical mission, I came back as a changed person, and that is when I thought that I had to give back.”

So, as a big Liverpool supporter, she took her love of football and came up with the annual Score a Smile Fives Futbol tournament, which she sees as a great way to bring people together and create awareness for Operation Smile.

The tournament is open to everyone 16 and older, as long as they are amateur players. The first tournament in 2015 had 32 teams, then 48 teams in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

There were again 32 teams at the latest tournament held at the Fives Futbol court at Century City, last Saturday.

Each team’s entry fee goes towards Operation Smile.“This tournament has grown so big that the same teams call me each year to ask me when is the next tournament,” says Dr Amien.

Since 2015, the tournament has raised about R497 000 for Operation Smile.

Dr Amien says she supports Operation Smile because she can see the change the reconstructive surgery has on people’s lives.

“You can physically see through the money being raised that a difference is being made.”

Dr Amien says reconstructive surgery on a cleft lip and cleft palate takes 45 minutes and when she sees patients look in the mirror afterwards and smile she knows it’s all worth it.

Operation Smile’s Lauren Bright describes Dr Amien as a committed volunteer who raised almost
R500 000 over the past four years with an event she conceptualised, markets and grows each year.

“She achieved this even while studying to be a doctor,” she says, adding that her “tenacity and relentless effort” make the tournament a “key contributor” to Operation Smile, “which we are truly grateful for”.

Dr Amien will start her medical internship at Tygerberg Hospital in January. Visit https://southafrica.operationsmile.org/donate/ to find out how you can help Operation Smile.