Since 2016, Dr. Kathleen has worked with the Project Vietnam Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing healthcare assistance to needy families and children in rural areas of Vietnam and bettering the quality of care available there. The organization leads medical mission trips and provides medical training for local providers, among other activities.

For a single trip in 2018, Dr. Waldorf was part of a team that repaired 60 cleft lips and palates. A cleft palate is the term for when the roof of a baby’s mouth fails to completely join, leaving an opening that—if left untreated—can make activities like eating and speaking difficult or impossible. A cleft lip causes similar problems as a result of lip tissue not joining properly while it is forming. Children may have one defect, the other, or both. Cleft palates and lips can typically be repaired with reconstructive surgery, which are recommended to happen within a few months to a year and a half after birth, depending on specific details. Because of the remote nature of many poor families in Vietnam, this surgery is not possible without help from a group like the Project Vietnam Foundation.

Dr. Kathleen Waldorf performs surgery on children as part of Project Vietnam.


Dr. Waldorf cites a strong desire to help both children and adults who need reconstructive plastic surgery to correct a congenital defect or traumatic injury, but who lack the necessary resources or access to proper care. This can be a problem internationally as well as locally, so Dr. Waldorf sets her sights on global action as well as opportunities to make a difference at home.

Dr. Kathleen Waldorf's humanitarian efforts.

Her main venue for charitable activities has been the Project Vietnam Foundation. As of 2018, she had partnered with the group three times over three years, offering services that included reconstructive surgical procedures for residents of Saigon. She is planning to continue her trips, explaining that she herself is grateful for these opportunities to be a positive impact in the lives of children.


Born from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Orange County, California, chapter, the Project Vietnam Foundation evolved over the years from a smaller project in 1996 to an expanded foundation in 2007. The group is permitted by the Vietnamese government to bring in medical specialists to train healthcare providers, model health-improving programs, and provide direct services to patients in need of care.

Dr. Kathleen Waldorf's charitable work in Vietnam.

Medical mission trips have been running continuously since 1996, with a focus on serving ethnic minorities and poorer families—especially those living in remote and rural areas, where access to quality (or any) care can be a problem. Past initiatives include a three-year study that linked infant mortality to vitamin K deficiencies, which led to the successful adoption of a national vitamin K injection policy for newborns.


Dr. Kathleen Waldorf has also worked with a group known as Faces of Hope. Since 2005, this organization has been organizing annual medical missions to Guatemala, where medical professionals and non-medical volunteers team up to help children who desperately need access to life-changing reconstructive plastic surgery. Specifically, the doctors perform repairs on cleft palates and lips, while the non-medical participants provide support for the doctors, the patients, and the patients’ families. Clefts are the result of a lack of proper tissue formation and connection while a baby is developing in the uterus, leading to a separated upper lip, roof of the mouth, or both. If left untreated, clefts can cause challenges to getting proper nutrition, increased ear infections, speech issues, and higher risk for cavities and other dental problems.

With its roots in Rotary, Faces of Hope has expanded over the years to encompass teams of surgeons, registered nurses, pediatricians, anesthesiologists, and dentists who coordinate and provide services with help from volunteer college students who cook and keep the patients occupied, a public health nurse who works directly with the families so they understand the surgery and long-term hygiene, and local partners—always with an eye for constant improvement. The team also works with doctors in the area to train them in techniques so that they can carry on the important work, even after the Faces of Hope members are gone.

*Patient results may vary