About Alliance for Smiles

Our History

Founders (L to R): Jim Deitz, Anita Stangl, James Patrick, John Goings & John Uth (not pictured: Burt Berry)

In October of 2004 six members of the Rotary Club of San Francisco founded Alliance for Smiles (AfS). Each of them had been involved with other cleft lip and palate organizations and collectively they wanted to create two types of programs: to send medical teams to sites to perform corrective surgery, and to create treatment centers where the protocol of cleft treatment in the United States could be replicated.

With these two dreams as the goal, Alliance for Smiles recruited Dr. Karin Vargervik, Director of the Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment Center at the UCSF Medical Center, to head the Treatment Center Program.


Board of Directors

Karl Wustrack, MD

Karl Wustrack, MD

Chairman of the Board

I have been serving on cleft missions for 35 years now. My passion and dedication to this cause started after...

Anita Stangl

Anita Stangl

Special Adivisor

I became involved with cleft lip and palate repair programs in 1994 when I volunteered for a medical mission to...

John Dean

John Dean


My wife Susan and I are both “retired”, although we keep busy with a variety of volunteer and community projects....

Chih-Chen Fang, MD

Chih-Chen Fang, MD


I was born in Taiwan and emigrated to Canada when I was 17 years old. I went to medical school...

Benjamin Lam

Benjamin Lam


For me, AfS has been a breath of very fresh air since I joined the board more than 10 years...

John O’Connor

John O’Connor


I joined the AfS Board as a result of my friendship with, and admiration for Dr. Karl Wustrack, who has...

Jim Patrick

Jim Patrick


Jim Patrick is a third generation owner of Patrick & Co. founded by his grandfather in 1873. Jim found his calling to help others when...

Honorary Board Members

In-House Staff

Paul Vazquez

Paul Vazquez

Director of Operations

After working for many years in the for-profit world, I was looking for a change – hoping to do something...

Q & A

Frequently Asked Questions


Cleft lips and palates are anomalies that occur during the early weeks of embryonic development. Predisposition is the main cause, and studies indicate that other contributing factors might include folic acid or vitamin B deficiency, the use of anti-seizure medications, exposure to chemicals and infectious disease in the mother during pregnancy. Certain environmental agents have also been cited as disruptive to the normal development of a fetus.


Around one in 700 babies are born with a cleft around the world.


For the courageous families in under-served countries who decide to seek medical assistance on their own, very little is available that is financially feasible. With the average cost of surgery being half of what a typical rural family earns in a year, it is clear why they feel overwhelmed and without options.

Our surgeries which transform lives cost $1,000 per child.


Yes, since Alliance for Smiles is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible. AfS will supply you with a tax receipt for your donation.


We have a very efficient business model which means that only .04 cents of every dollar you donate goes to our overhead expenses. This means that .96 cents of every dollar goes directly to our missions around the world.


Most of our funding comes from individuals and from Rotary Clubs; we also receive many donations of equipment, supplies, and in-kind donations. Please see our Partners Page for more information. AfS pays the airfare for all medical volunteers. Non-medical volunteers pay their own way. All volunteers pay a $380 trip participation fee to cover administrative costs.


There are medical volunteer opportunities for Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, Anesthesiologists, Pediatricians, OR Nurses, PACU Nurses, Dentists, Orthodontists, Dental Hygienists, and Speech Pathologists. Please visit our Volunteer Page to learn more.


Mission Directors, Quartermasters, Translators, Photographers, Instrument Sterilizers, Medical Record Keepers, and Patient Ward Coordinators.

Please visit our Volunteer Page to learn more.

Anyone is welcome to apply for a non-medical volunteer opportunity, however if a Rotary club is sponsoring a specific trip, priority will be given to Rotarians from that club. Volunteers must be in good physical health, as the days are long and demanding.

Flexibility is an important quality, as the responsibilities may change during the course of the mission. We also expect the commitment of volunteers to go beyond the mission by raising public awareness and conducting fundraising programs.

Spouses of volunteers may participate, as long as both spouses are volunteering as team members in specific positions.

Sorry, we do not accept minors.


Traditional international efforts to repair cleft lips and palates have consisted of small teams that perform surgical procedures to correct defects. However, the initial surgery only addresses one part of the problem. Cleft patients require ongoing treatment in the disciplines of dentistry, orthodontia, speech therapy, and sometimes psychological counseling. Time and funding constraints typically make it impossible to address those needs on our short two week trips.

Even if information, expertise, and treatment were available, it would pose an impossible financial burden to the families of our target population, whose budgets are already strained by their basic daily needs for food and shelter.

Our multi-pronged approach and long-range model distinguish us from traditional international surgical teams in several ways:

  • — To respond to the immediate need, we conduct two week surgical missions.
  • — We provide advanced training for health care providers who are dedicated to the treatment of underserved cleft lip and palate patients.
  • — We are establishing treatment centers where patients can receive follow-up and ongoing care, using the same treatment protocols used in the United States. Eventually, the centers will be owned and operated by the communities that they serve.
About Alliance for Smiles

Our Heroes

Our Founders

Alliance for Smiles was formally founded by five individuals: John Uth, John Goings, James Patrick, James Deitz and Anita Stangl. However, Alliance for Smiles wanted to recognize individuals who made a leap of faith in the concept of the work of Alliance for Smiles and decided to donate a minimum of $20,000 during the first four years of operation. They are also founders of Alliance for Smiles and will be recognized in perpetuity as such. The following individuals receive the honor of this unique position:

Mr. Burton BerryMrs. Debbie Jefkin-Elnakave
Mr. Bill BenterMr. Benjamin Lam
Mr. Wilber BresemanMrs. Noime Liangco
Dr. Wallace Chang, M.D.Dr. Thomas Mack, D.V.M.
Ms. Cecile ChiquetteMr. Donald Parachini
Dr. Scharleen Colant, Ph.D.Mr. James Patrick
Dr. James Deitz, Ph.D.Ms. Esther Rebizzo
Ms. Barbara FisherMs. Dee Dee Ricks
Mr. John GoingsDr. Alan Stormo, M.D.
Allan and Nancy HerzogMr. Eng-Rung Tsai
Mr. Howard HoMr. John Uth
The Family of TaipeiTai and Tony Wang (W.A.C. Lighting)
Mr. Joseph HoffmanDr. Colin and Mrs. Silvana Wong

Rotary Clubs who supported the work of Alliance for Smiles during its first four formative years with donations of $25,000 or more received the honor of being Founding Rotary Clubs. Alliance for Smiles recognizes three Rotary Clubs with this title and they will be recognized in perpetuity for their faith in the work and dreams of Alliance for Smiles.

The Rotary Club of San Francisco

The Rotary Club of Chicago

The Rotary Club of Wanchai, Hong Kong

Alliance for Smiles wishes to thank the above individuals and Rotary Clubs for their support which has helped Alliance for Smiles to not only facilitate medical missions during its first four years but to prosper and grow.

Legacy Club

In 2009 Alliance for Smiles launched its Legacy Campaign to encourage individuals to make a minimum $5000 one-time donation; or to make multiple donations through-out the year adding up to $5000. Participation in this campaign is recognized by membership in a special Legacy Club that will be publicized on the website, at the Gala and in literature. Everyone who donated a minimum $5000 by December 31, 2009 became a Charter Member of this very special Club.

Legacy Club Charter MembersLegacy Club 2010-2011
Burt BerryBurton Berry
Wilber BresemanWilber Breseman
Tai Can -WangTai Can-Wang
Dr. Wallace ChangCecile Chiquette
Cecile ChiquetteDavid De Roode
David De RoodeJim Deitz
James DeitzJohn Goings
John GoingsAllan Herzog
Allan HerzogSilvia Iselin
Bing Shin HoMary Jensen
Howard HoBenjamin Lam
Joe HoffmanDr. Quentin Li
Benjamin LamAnna Marie Marcias
Edward LauDr. Thomas Mack
Jojo and Noime LiangcoJames Patrick
Dr. Thomas MackAngelo Rebizzo
Gary MitchellDr. Colin Wong
James PatrickEdith Richter
Stacey QuoRobert and Kathryn Smith
Eng Rung TsaiJohn Uth
John UthDr. Karin Vargervik
Karin Vargervik
Dr. Colin Wong
Choi Chung Yuen

Individuals are inspired to volunteer and donate because of their belief in the work of an organization. Especially when considering humanitarian programs, the emotions felt because of participation in a program that changes lives can have a sincere and long lasting impact.

For many, what an individual accomplishes during his or her lifetime is totally satisfying and fulfilling. Involvement in family, friends and work create a sense of well being. However, for those who want to make a mark in another way and share more of their talents and wealth with humanitarian concerns, involvement in a cause can be extremely rewarding. When they pass, they will have left a humanitarian legacy.

Those people involved in the work of Alliance for Smiles, whether as volunteers or donors, are leaving a legacy that goes beyond the lives of the children receiving surgery. It extends to the patients’ families and to their villages. Alliance for Smiles heals tens of thousands of lives when considering the extended community affected.

To carry on the work of Alliance for Smiles, funding is crucial. Therefore, those individuals who are willing and able to make significant donations are core to program sustainability. These individuals have the opportunity to allow the work of Alliance for Smiles to progress, building on an impressive past.

Therefore in 2009 Alliance for Smiles launched its Legacy Campaign to encourage individuals to make a minimum $5000 one time or multiple time donation to the work of AfS. Participation in this campaign will be recognized by membership in a special Legacy Club that will be publicized on the website, at the Gala and in literature. Everyone who donated a minimum $5000 by December 31, 2009 became a Charter Member of this very special Club.

Volunteer Awards

YearVolunteer of the YearDistinguished ServiceJohn Uth AwardLifetime AchievementChildren's Champion
2008Barbara Fisher
2009Dave FowlerDr. Colin Wong
2010Wilber BresemanDr. Wally Chang
2011Dr. Quentin LiJohn Goings
2012Dr. Karin VargervikJohn Uth
2013Tina HollcroftBarbara FisherBurton Berry
2014Dr. Chih-Chen FangTina HollcroftRotary Club of Wanchai
2015Mary JensenRotary International
2016Dr. Billy De ShazoSTOP Cleft International Alliance
2017Rosemary WeldeDavid FowlerShanghai Ciguang Skin Health Foundation
2018Dorothy FerreiraTai Wang & WAC LightingDr. Colin Wong
2019Becky Steed, RNDr. Karl WustrackDr. Chih-Chen FangDr. Karin Vargervik
2020Mary LiuDr. Deinde ShogaTina FischlinJohn Goings
2021Nan MaddenRosemary WeldeJean and Dave RosenblumBurt and Joan Berry
2022Pat LaRoccoLinda Stewart & Doug BerryDr. Chih-Chen Fang
2023Dr. Susan TaylorBarbara FisherTina Fischlin
2024Rochelle StacksSusan & John DeanDr. Karl Wustrack

Decade of Leadership Awards

In order to celebrate dedication to AfS on the occasion of our 10th Anniversary, the Decade of Leadership Award was created to honor four remarkable individuals who have given of their skills and talents from the beginning days of Alliance for Smiles.

  • Barbara Fisher
  • John Goings
  • Dr. Karin Vargervik
  • Dr. Colin Wong

Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Dr. Colin Wong
  • Dr. Karin Vargervik
  • John Goings
  • Dr. Chih-Chen Fang

Children’s Champion Award

  • Burt and Joan Berry
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