In 2008, Patrick Byrne, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery center established a pro bono multidisciplinary clinic in Nicaragua. This clinic addresses the needs of children born with a cleft lip and palate or other facial deformities. Traditionally, care has been very difficult in developing countries for a variety of reasons. Through partnerships in Central America the team made the commitment to systemically overcome these challenges with much success.
Why This Matters
Without medical intervention children born with a cleft lip and palate are unable to eat properly and the youngest of whom are unable to breast feed. Sadly, parents in this region of the world are left with few resources to overcome the challenges of feeding a child with a cleft lip and palate. This condition can be lift threatening. When a child with a cleft palate eats, food can enter the airway through the nose causing aspiration pneumonia or even asphyxiation. Many of these children who are otherwise born healthy become developmentally delayed as a result of inadequate nutrition.
It has become so clear over time that providing the surgery, while incredibly important, is only part of the solution for these kids. They need multidisciplinary care: feeding and nutrition, dental work, speech therapy and more.
-Patrick Byrne, M.D., Director of the Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
About the Clinic
One to two times per year the care team visits the clinic performing over 50 cleft lip and palate operations each trip. It has become clear that providing the surgery, while incredibly important, is only part of the solution for these children. They need multidisciplinary care: feeding and nutritional support, dental work, speech therapy and more.
The clinic is entirely self-funded by the volunteers without formal support. Volunteers consist of facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons, nurses, speech-language pathologists, nutritionists, medical coordinators, anesthesiologists and many surgical fellows and residents from Johns Hopkins as well as other institutions.
Clinic volunteers include but are not limited to:
- Kimberly Webster, Speech Language Pathologist
- Courtney Haney, Nutritionist
- Sophie Sok-Tyong, Clinic Coordinator
- Sittha Sok, Clinic Coordinator
- Kim Prey, Registered Nurse
- Maureen Ercole, Registered Nurse
- Patrick Byrne, Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon
The clinic has made great strides in improving the health and well-being of children in the region which has included:
- Creating the first multidisciplinary cleft lip and palate team in the region
- Establishing a novel telemedicine program for speech therapy and nutrition
- Building out a dental clinic with prosthodontic services and provide biannual education in speech therapy and nutrition.
- Developing an outcomes research program in 2017 to measure long term outcomes following surgical repair.
- Forming a formal partnership via MOU with Johns Hopkins in 2018
There remains much more the team strives to accomplish including the development of a text message program for early identification of infants in need and intervention. The team also aims enlarge the operating room at the clinic to be able to accommodate more children in need.
Support the Cleft Lip and Palate Center in Nicaragua
Consider making a donation to support the clinic.
For more information or for questions contact:
Donna Clare, CFRE
Director of Development