Dr. Ngoato Bruce Lelala is one of Operation Smile South Africa’s newest volunteers having recently attended his first mission to neighbouring Mozambique in July 2018.

Currently a registrar completing his final year in Plastics and Reconstructive surgery at the Red Cross Children’s hospital in Cape Town, Dr. Lelala has only ever aspired to help people. “I am told that apparently I have wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old, so I guess it’s true when they say medicine is a calling,” says Dr. Lelala.

After qualifying as a doctor and looking towards specialising Dr. Lelala found himself inexorably drawn to plastic surgery. “I was touched and amazed by the work that plastic surgeons can do for babies born with conditions, and my love for the speciality started when I was working for a company that used to partner with Operation Smile.”

Having become aware of Operation Smile while still at medical school Dr. Lelala grabbed the first opportunity he could to become involved. He traveled with a large South African contingent of volunteers to the mission site in Quelamane in Mozambique.  He admits that it was an eye-opening experience while at the same time life-changing, “it made me realise how much need there is in Africa for these surgeries and missions.”

Bruce Lelala

Dr. Bruce Lelala works with mentor Dr. Claire Neser on the Operation Smile mission to Mozambique in July 2018. Photo credit: Zeke du Plessis.

Ever the goal setter Dr. Lelala is already looking forward to getting involved in as many missions worldwide as possible while serving as a mentor to other young surgeons keen to work with Operation Smile. He challenges them to follow their passion and help the world one smile at a time.

“I got involved purely for the love of helping those in need, I strongly believe that each one of us has a different purpose and path in this world and this is one of mine,” enthuses Dr. Lelala.

“Dr. Lelala is an extremely talented and committed surgeon. This talent has been recognised globally and he has been appointed an Operation Smile Regan Fellowship, we are so very proud of him,” says Melanie Pillay, senior programme coordinator for Operation Smile.

The Regan Fellowship identifies outstanding young physicians from around the globe and offers them a highly structured, education driven, hands-on experience in voluntary medical service.

Dr. Lelala concludes with a call to all who would consider getting involved with OSSA. “Volunteerism is very, very important, we need to get involved and help those who are less fortunate and those in dire need. Operation Smile has changed lives of many people across the globe and we need to continue with the Spirit of Ubuntu and make this world a better place.”



“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder and President