Operation Smile headquarters taking shape

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce

Dr. William P. Magee Jr. hopes to create a “window to the world” when Operation Smile’s new $20 million global headquarters opens in Virginia Beach’s Princess Anne Commons “academic village” in 2013.

“We will bring in people from around the world for education, research and technology,” says Magee, Operation Smile’s executive chairman. “The building is just bricks and mortar. Inside is where so much of the drama of the organization occurs.”

Operation Smile, currently based in Norfolk, provides free reconstructive surgery for children and young adults around the world who suffer from facial deformities such as cleft lips and palates. Its neighbors in the 9.37-acre “village” include the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center, LifeNet Health, The Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters Health and Surgery Center at Princess Anne and Tidewater Community College.

“We will have access to cutting-edge educational and medical resources while working in collaboration with the area’s leaders in medicine and education,” says Howard J. Unger, Operation Smile’s CEO.

Official groundbreaking for the 65,000-square-foot headquarters building was held last September, and construction is moving forward. “We are working with a team to finalize the design for the interior of the headquarters,” Unger says. “While we have secured the majority of the funding for the building, we are still in a campaign to raise additional funds.”

Unger stepped into his current role after Magee, who founded the organization with his wife, Kathy, in 1982, became executive chairman in July. The change allows Magee to move away from the day-to-day management of the organization’s operations and focus on building sustainable, year-round, in-country medical services in the developing nations served by the organization.

“We currently have programs and Operation Smile Foundations in more than 60 countries and 12 Operation Smile Comprehensive Care Centers around the world, with more to follow,” Magee says.

Along with raising money and creating awareness for the organization, Magee will be meeting with staff and volunteers from around the world.

“I want to make sure there is a cohesive vision worldwide and everyone is on the same track,” he says. “I don’t want people to just hear from me in an email or a phone call. [This gives me] the opportunity to get to the key players.” 

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