The actress works with Operation Smile to make a change in kids' lives
Credit: Erin Lubin/Operation Smile

Kate Walsh is the first to admit that plastic surgeons aren’t always portrayed accurately.

“When people think plastic surgeon, they might think it s sort of a vapid profession,” Walsh tells PEOPLE. “But the truth of the matter is they can change people’s lives.”

A few years ago, Walsh, 47, began lending her support to Operation Smile, a nonprofit that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the world.

With a break in her schedule, the actress was able to travel to Mexico in early April, to see first-hand the work the organization is doing.

“I just got back from a mission in Mexico, following two children who had bilateral clefts,” Walsh says. “One of the children, a 6-year-old named Rosa, had this very sad look in her eyes. She could barely speak. Clearly she had been affected socially, emotionally and psychologically.”

Walsh, who spent time with the children and their families, also witnessed the surgery, which she describes as “an incredible puzzle; the doctors put her mouth back together.”

“The change in this girl’s life will be profound,” Walsh says. “It’s really an uplifting and beautiful thing.”

To learn more about Walsh’s involvement with Operation Smile, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

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