Sharing NAM Knowledge in Peru

February 15th, 2017 by

Some of you might remember that back in 2015, Transforming Faces organized a Nasoalveolar Moulding (NAM) Workshop for some of our partners. Workshop participants agreed to train fellow orthodontists in their home communities on the technique, which is used to reduce cleft size prior to surgery.

NAM training in Toronto in 2015.

– The original NAM training took place in Toronto in 2015.


We’re very pleased to say that our partners have been sharing the knowledge they learned at home! Most recently, TF partner Dr. Lourdes Motta from Peru organized a cleft care workshop at the Children’s Hospital in Lima in December 2016. Sixteen residents from a nearby university came to her hospital’s Orthodontic & Orthopedic Unit for the training.

 - Dr. Lourdes Motta in action


We are pleased that Dr. Motta is sharing these techniques with up and coming young professionals in Peru, and look forward to the impact this training will have on cleft care in the country!

- The new trainees!

– The new NAM trainees!

The 2017 International Cleft Congress is underway!

February 3rd, 2017 by

Cleft2017 (2)

Transforming Faces is thrilled to be participating in the 13th International Congress on Cleft Lip and Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies in Mahabalipuram, India this week.

The Conference, which runs from February 8th – 11th, takes place every five years and creates an international forum for the global cleft community. Delegates from across the world will include service providers, researchers, academics, scientists,  NGOs and non-profits, who all come together to learn from leading experts in the field, and from each other.

Transforming Faces is taking this unique opportunity to bring together a group of our partners, Board of Directors and staff members. Our extraordinary group of delegates represent 12 countries across 5 continents! They will have the opportunity to share their research, network with leading professionals and strengthen their expertise – which will ultimately impact the lives of the patients and families we reach around the world. After the Conference, the group of TF delegates will spend a few additional days together to share knowledge and brainstorm ideas that will help shape our collective vision for the future and strengthen our work going forward.

TF is also very proud of our longstanding partner, Sri Ramachandra University (SRU), who is helping host this prestigious event. Many of our SRU partners are serving as part of the Organizing Committee in capacities like President (Dr. Jyotsna Murthy) and Organizing Secretary (Prof. Roopa Nagarajan). The team at SRU has been working tirelessly to make arrangements for Cleft 2017, and we applaud them for their hard work.

- Our partners at SRU have been hard at work preparing for the 2017 Cleft Congress.

– Our partners at SRU have been hard at work preparing for the 2017 Cleft Congress.


We promise to share stories and results from the 2017 Cleft Congress upon our return, but in the meantime be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter as we keep you updated from India this week!

Chilean Orthodontist & Pediatric Dentist visits the cleft care team at SickKids Hospital in Toronto

February 2nd, 2017 by

Transforming Faces had a very special visitor stop by our Toronto office last week! Dr. Francisca Salazar, Orthodontist, Pediatric Dentist and friend of TF, practices at the Hospital Dr. Exequiel González Cortés in South Santiago, Chile. We connected her with our friends at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), where she spent four days shadowing one of the leading cleft lip and palate repair teams in the world.

Dr. Salazar sat down with the TF team after her training to share some of the lessons she learned at SickKids and to tell us about her experiences treating patients with cleft lip and palate at one Santiago’s major hospitals.

Dr. Francisca Salazar with our Program Director, Abdon.

– Dr. Francisca Salazar with our Program Director, Abdon, in the Transforming Faces office.

Treating patients in one of Chile’s busiest public hospitals

Dr. Salazar, Head of Dental Service, is part of the team of cleft repair specialists working in a public hospital in South Santiago, a low-income area serving approximately one million of Santiago’s nearly seven million people. As one of the primary hospitals treating cleft lip and palate, she explains that at least 80% her patients come from low-income families, and that the hospital truly treats individuals from all walks of life.

Working here is not without its challenges. Space is a major obstacle, and her team currently operates out of a series of small annexes connected to a very old building. However, they will soon be moving to a new hospital with much better conditions, including a meeting area for her team.

And they are a young, enthusiastic team! They have grown very close, coming together about ten years ago when they were all in early stages of their careers. The team has a lot of energy and great communication – which Dr. Salazar cites as one of their biggest strengths.


Dr. Salazar's hospital is one of the busiest in Santiago, Chile.

– Dr. Salazar’s hospital is one of the busiest in Santiago.

Transforming lives in Chile

When asked how she ended up working in cleft care, Dr. Salazar explained that she happened upon a Pediatric Dentistry job treating cleft patients right after medical school. She fell in love with the work instantly.

“I love the team approach,” she says, noting that she gets to collaborate with a multidisciplinary team, when often dentists end up working alone in a clinic. She also loves working with children. “You can do and teach them a lot,” she says. “You can help them in their life, not only in the clinic.” She tells a story of an 18-year-old patient she’s been treating for years. During their last appointment, he reminded her that when he was eight years old, she’d given him a toy car for Christmas. “It was a small car,” she said and couldn’t even remember giving it to him, “but he remembered it.”

“You’re a big part of their life and you have an impact on people,” she explains.


You’re also working closely with the patients’ families. Her team, while talented and energetic, do lack key team members that hospitals like SickKids rely on. For example, they have limited access to a social worker. Without a full-time social worker on board, the whole team takes on pieces of that role. They often have to provide emotional support to families while treating a patient.

She tells us that when parents arrive in the hospital for the first time, it can be a very trying time for everyone. They bring grandparents and other children with them, and the parents are often in great distress. Many families at her hospital come from low-income neighbourhoods and might have limited knowledge about what cleft is or how it’s treated. She remembers one family who didn’t want to tell their other children that their newborn son had a cleft palate because they were embarrassed. Often, she tells us, mothers are crying and “holding their babies like the world will end.”

But when this happens, her whole team rallies together to explain that cleft lip and palate is treatable, and that their child “will grow up as a normal kid that can do the same thing as others.” You see the parents change, she says, “they become less anxious… You do all that work to try to make their family function again.”


- Thanks for the visit!

– Visiting with the TF team in Toronto.


Learning valuable lessons from the cleft care team at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children

When asked what stood out during her four day visit with the cleft care team at Sick Kids, Dr. Salazar lit up. It was a “very good experience…it was my first time I was able to visit a hospital in a developed country and see a cleft team working [there].”

She commented on the size of the team, noting that they were dynamic, functional and systematic in their approach. “It’s good to see we’re doing some things in Chile that are done here,” says Dr. Salazar, mentioning the NAM technique as an example. She admired their efficiency and procedures, describing how every team member is interconnected, and how the focus of team discussions and decisions consistently centre around the patient.

One thing that really stood out was the SickKids team’s regular group assessments of each patient. She would like to bring that concept home to her hospital in Chile, where currently each specialist books an appointment with a patient individually every few months, rather than booking appointments and assessing the patient as a team. She hopes the team can meet together to create a comprehensive treatment plan, as she observed during her time in Toronto.

“I saw a lot of good things we can take and try to do in our service,” Dr. Salazar says, adding that “we are doing some things right. We are trying to protocolize – it’s not an easy job. It requires time and patience. But we are doing some things right.”

Thanks for the visit Dr. Salazar, we look forward to an update from your team down the road!


Award of excellence goes to our partner, Fundación GAVINA

January 26th, 2017 by

Award of excellence to our partners


We are very proud of our Argentinian partner, Fundación GAVINA, who has been awarded special recognition from the Tucuman Provincial Legislature for the second year in a row! The local provincial government praised Fundación GAVINA for their excellence in the non-profit sector and applauded the impact of their work.

Transforming Faces has been working in Argentina for over 15 years. Our current partner, Fundación GAVINA, provides comprehensive cleft care services, including surgery, speech therapy, dental care, nutritional support and counselling for family members.



   – Gaby Reinoso (left) and Monica Galvan (right)           accept the award.

Along with a certificate of distinction, they were awarded monetary support of 120,000 Argentinian Pesos (roughly $10,000 CAD) as a contribution to continue to provide multidisciplinary care for patients with cleft lip and palate.


Congratulations Fundación GAVINA!


Exciting updates from the TF Family – introducing our new Executive Director, Hugh Brewster

January 19th, 2017 by


The new year at Transforming Faces is off to a great start, and we wanted to take a moment to update you on changes and new additions to our team in Toronto.

We are delighted to share that Hugh Brewster (M.Ed) has stepped into the role of Executive Director! Hugh most recently served as World Vision’s National Manager for Canadian Programs, leading a team that partnered with over 100 diverse non-profits through grants and capacity building. We know that Hugh’s passion for leadership, transformational development and organizational capacity building (not to mention his great sense of humour and knack for making brewed coffee!) will be an excellent fit for the team, and for this stage of TF’s growth.

Hugh Brewster

Check out our Q&A with Hugh below and get to know him a little better!

Welcome to the team, Hugh! Tell us a little bit about what drew you to Transforming Faces. 

Thanks! I am pleased to join such a strong and dynamic team. I am very impressed by TF’s holistic, multidisciplinary, and long-term approach to supporting children born with cleft lip and palate. TF’s commitment to true partnership with our local teams of professionals is also inspiring. It is hard to beat the motivation of stories of children experiencing marginalization due to their cleft palate, moving forward with confidence and good health! Coming to work each day is a joy.

What are some of the past experiences and learnings that you will be drawing from and bringing to the table in your new role? 

I loved collaborating with organizations that are passionate about the well-being of children across Canada. The international context of TF’s work poses unique opportunities and challenges, while some elements of effective partnerships are consistent around the world: demonstrating and sustaining impact with participants; growing organizational capacity; and effectively telling stories of transformation. I recently helped found a small non-profit that engages Indigenous youth in healthy and active living. The absolute necessity of earning a community’s trust and being responsive to local aspirations and solutions is definitely a learning that I treasure.

What are you looking forward to in these first few days in your new role?

I am grateful to be able to travel to the Cleft 2017 Conference in Chennai India. This is an important gathering of practitioners, academics and non-profit partners from around the world focused on the well-being of patients born with a cleft palate. TF is thrilled to have representatives from its international partners to join a strong contingent of Board and staff in this opportunity to learn, network, and plan for the future. I have already heard great things about our partner leaders, so I am looking forward to meeting them in person shortly. 

Finally, can you share with our partners and supporters a fun fact about yourself? 

I love keeping active through the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. I was privileged to join Canada’s contingent that competed for a World Championship last summer in London, UK.

Please join us in extending a very warm welcome to Hugh!

We also have a few other team updates to share:

  • Our talented Program Manager, Abdon, has recently accepted the role of Program Director. He is the primary contact for our partners in South America and brings years of experience (as well as fluency in many, many languages!) to the role. Congratulations Abdon!
  • Courtney, who started out at TF as our communications guru, has shifted to a full-time focus on programs! Relying on her extensive international experience and outstanding leadership skills, she will be working closely with some of our partners in Asia and Africa.
  • We also welcomed our new Communications Specialist, Cari, who started with us in January. You’ll be hearing from her a lot on our blog and social media channels in the future!
Abdon, Courtney, Cari

                                         – Abdon, Courtney & Cari –


We look forward to a bright year ahead with a strong, dedicated and talented team.