Transforming Faces Blog

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.


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Ontario doctor’s 3D Cleft Palate Simulator is making headlines and transforming the way we teach cleft palate repair

January 12th, 2017 by

Dr. Giuliano & Dr. Podolsky at the two day workshop in Santiago

Dr. Dale Podolsky’s credentials are nothing short of extraordinary. He’s a medical resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Toronto, with prior degrees in mechanical engineering and physics. And to top it off, his innovative new 3D Cleft Palate Simulator has recently been making headlines! Drawing on his unique skill set, he’s revolutionizing the way we teach one of the world’s most common surgeries – cleft palate repair in infants.

Transforming the way we teach cleft palate repair surgery

Dr. Podolsky spent two years working to create a 3D Cleft Palate Simulator, a true-to-life model of an infant’s mouth that improves the way surgeons around the world can practice cleft palate repair surgeries. For many years, this surgery has been taught using Styrofoam cups, which is problematic considering the incredibly intricate procedure of cleft lip and palate repair, especially in very young patients.

“The high-fidelity cleft palate simulator represents a paradigm shift in cleft surgery training, providing the opportunity to practice cleft surgery without compromising patient safety,” explains Dr. Podolsky.

This advancement is so essential because cleft lip and palate is one of the most common birth anomalies in the world. So common, in fact, that according to the US Census Bureau a child is born with cleft lip and palate approximately every two and a half minutes. The condition affects the upper lip and the hard and soft palate of the mouth, which can impact a child’s appearance, speech, teeth, eating, hearing and ability to develop socially.

Building capacity of TF’s partners in Chile

Cleft Simulator Training at Gantz (1)


Dr. Podolsky travelled with Transforming Faces to Chile in December 2016, where he hosted a two day workshop with our local partners at Fundacion Gantz, located in the country’s capital, Santiago.

Podolsky notes:

“A landmark trial for the simulator was conducted in Santiago, Chile at Fundacion Gantz in collaboration with Transforming Faces. Sixteen surgeons from the surrounding region had the opportunity to use the simulator in a unique setting, demonstrating its efficacy and the feasibility of conducting similar training programs around the world to enhance the learning of this challenging procedure.”

The workshop covered the anatomy of the palate and an overview of the 3D Palate Simulator, and included discussion with the participating surgeons about the Chilean context and experience with cleft palate surgery. This was followed by two rounds of practicing with the simulator! Each of the 16 surgeons performed a palate surgery using the simulator, taking an average of about 2 hours per surgery.

Cleft Simulator Training at Gantz (3)

Supporting innovative projects like these is an important part of our mandate at Transforming Faces. We are thrilled to have been able to bring Dr. Podolsky and our partners in Chile together. The cutting-edge technology of the 3D Palate Simulator, combined with our partners’ expertise, should prove to have a tremendous impact on the patients we reach in local communities.


Cleft Simulator Training at Gantz (4)


Stay tuned for more updates, and in the meantime you can check out other articles on the 3D Cleft Palate Simulator here:

And for our Spanish friends:

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Transforming Lives through Training

December 21st, 2016 by

Jeremiah was born with a cleft lip and palate in Mendoza, a city in northern Argentina. Here he is pictured with one of our partner orthodontists, Dr. Silvia Torres.

Silvia with Jeremiah

Earlier this year, Dr. Torres participated in a Transforming Faces training program in Chile that focused on nasoalveolar moulding (NAM). This is a technique that is used to reduce the size of the cleft before surgery; by using the NAM device, patients are less likely to have severe facial scarring or need secondary surgeries.

Within just one week of receiving this training, Dr. Torres was back in Argentina using the NAM technique she had learned to provide better care for Jeremiah.

Thanks to support from Dr. Torres and our cleft care team in Argentina, Jeremiah has now had his cleft repair surgery and has a fresh start with a brand new, beautiful smile.silvia-and-jeremiah_after-surgery

For over 15 years, your support of Transforming Faces has meant that over 16,815 patients like Jeremiah have received care from over 185 local medical professionals globally. Whether it is a nurse counseling a mother on feeding a newborn with cleft or a speech therapist giving a session to a young adult, the Transforming Faces multidisciplinary approach means that all patients with cleft receive high quality and long-term care.

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Mayra’s Magical Smile

December 14th, 2016 by

Mayra joined our project in Argentina when she was one year old.

She was born with a cleft in the town of Los Ralos in northern Argentina. Her mother, Rosa Ester, learned about our partner organization, Gavina from the mother of another patient. Mayra now attends regular speech therapy sessions and her mother has noticed a huge improvement.Mayra from Argentina

Mayra now feels much more comfortable speaking and can pronounce words more clearly. When asked how their lives have changed since accessing treatment, Rosa Ester burst into tears. She is so happy with how far Mayra has come and what’s in store for her future.

We think Mayra’s big, bright, beautiful smile says it all!

Mayra with her mother, Rosa Ester

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Holiday Office Closure

December 13th, 2016 by

Please note that our office will be closed for the holidays between Friday December 23 and Friday December 30. If you need to reach us, please leave a voicemail at 416-222-6581 and we will be sure to get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you for all of your support in 2016 and a very Happy Holidays to you and your families! 


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