Part of an international collaboration between the University of Southern California Institute for Global Health, Operation Smile and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the annual Operation Smile Research Fellowship offers two scholars the opportunity to assist in researching the genetic and environmental factors in the etiology of oral clefts in children.

Selected fellows join a research team recruiting families from a number of low- and middle- income countries to conduct an extensive maternal and paternal risk factor questionnaire and collect saliva samples for genetic analysis. They assist in maintaining and developing the research study and are be given in-country funded travel opportunities.

The following students were selected as Operation Smile Research Fellows by the Institute for Global Health (see photos from their trips):

2015-2016 Fellows

  • Meseret Alemu is a junior undergrad majoring in health promotion and disease prevention and minoring in natural sciences and health care studies. Her passion is public health in relation to global health and working with underserved communities.
  • Benjamin Brekke is a second-year MPH student at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, majoring in biostatistics and epidemiology. He interned with Dr. Wipfli’s team at the 67th World Health Assembly in Geneva and is a member of the USC Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute lab. His vision is to help individuals prevent NCDs, and to help vulnerable Los Angeles communities avoid exploitation rooted in health policy.

2014-2015 Fellows

The inaugural Operation Smile Student Practicum Fellows included Health Promotion & Disease Prevention student Emily Zolfaghari and Master of Public Health candidate Grace Jang. They traveled to the Philippines, Vietnam and Morocco to conduct research for the International Family Study. Learn more about their fellowship in Emily’s blog post.