WASHINGTON (7News) — Dr. Neda Kalantar, a Northern Virginia pediatric dentist, a wife and mom of two boys, encourages people to volunteer, no matter how busy they may be.
She herself has spent 25 years volunteering with Operation Smile, a non-profit organization that provides free surgery to children with cleft palates who have no access to care.
Neda heard about Operation Smile as a teenager when someone gave a speech about how life-changing surgery fixed their facial disfigurement. She was so moved by his experience, that she joined Operation Smile while in high school. In the last 25 years, she traveled on 13 medical missions, including to Gaza, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Vietnam.
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Each mission is about two weeks, and the dentists and doctors commit to five days of surgery, fixing numerous cleft palates in about 45 minutes. She also helps teach how to do the surgery to local dentists, so they can carry on the practice.
7News Anchor Ashlie Rodriguez asked her -- with two boys running around and a busy dentist office -- why she does it:
"I feel like practicing every day, and sharing your story, and having pictures in your office," Kalantar said, "[my patients] come in at 2 and graduate at 18 or 19 from my practice. When they get to see a picture from me or hear a story -- being a dentist, you can be anything you want. But there's so much you can do beyond and you can give back. I think that's been really fulfilling, to just share and inspire.
Neda said she gets great joy from volunteering, and encourages you to give back in your own way. If you would like to get involved with Operation Smile, visit here.