Smile Train and the University of Nairobi Announce Partnership to Offer 20 Scholarships in Plastic Surgery


The world’s largest cleft-focused organization, Smile Train, has partnered with the leading University in the region, University of Nairobi, through the Department of Surgery to offer full scholarships to medical residents based in Africa to study plastic and reconstructive surgery. The scholarship program will support 20 resident doctors over the next five years in which each resident will receive $19,000 – $22,750 (KES. 2.1- KES. 2.3 million) per year.

Research indicates that 5 billion people lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care, with surgical conditions accounting for 35 percent of the global burden of disease. In a bid to bridge the gap and strengthen surgical systems in Africa, the ‘Smile Train-UoN Scholarship Program’ will provide funding to support four scholars each year: two from Kenya and two from other countries within Africa. Smile Train will cover the full cost of tuition and a living stipend. Qualified resident doctors are encouraged to apply through the University of Nairobi.

“Out of the 5 billion people worldwide who lack access to safe, high-quality surgical care, 1.7 billion of them are children. One of the most critical outcomes of this partnership will be increasing the number of qualified surgeons able to provide safe, timely and quality surgery not only to children with clefts but also individuals with other neglected surgical conditions in underserved communities. Our partnership will also support research on cleft lip and palate, which is critical to evidence-based policy development,” noted Dr. Esther Njoroge-Muriithi, Smile Train’s Senior Vice –President of Global Medical Programs.

The scholarship will be administered through the Department of Surgery led by its Chair, Dr. J. Kiboi, and supported by Leading Professor of Plastic Surgery Prof. S. Khainga, Program Director of the Plastic Surgery Thematic Unit Prof. F. Nangole, and faculty at the Plastic Surgery Thematic Unit Dr. A. Muoki and Dr. K. Wanjeri.

University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Prof. Stephen Kiama expressed delight at Smile Train’s investment in strengthening surgical systems, expressing the University’s commitment to working with Smile Train to increase access to quality care through the education and training of surgeons.

“The University of Nairobi is ranked among the top ten universities in Africa and is uniquely positioned to support, increasing the surgical workforce in the region. Our support to patients will involve taking cleft surgical services to our local communities as part of giving our scholars an opportunity to connect with and deliver positive impact in the community,” noted Prof. Kiama.

Smile Train has active cleft care programs in 40 countries across Africa with more than 245 partners and over 255 partner hospitals across the continent. Through strategic partnerships at the local and international level, Smile Train dedicates itself towards providing funding towards quality healthcare capacity building and advocacy to increase access to safer surgeries and cleft care in low- and middle-income countries. Some of the strategic investments in education and training include partnerships with Scottish Charity KidsOR, the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) and the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) to provide scholarships in various categories. Recently, Smile Train has broken ground in Ghana for Africa’s first Cleft Leadership Centre to build the capacity of cleft professionals to dispense global standards of care at local level.