The TF 2017 Partner Summit

February 28th, 2017 by

Bookmark and Share


Following a productive few days at the International Cleft Congress in India, our partners participated in a special two-day TF Partner Summit.

- TF partners share ideas and expertise at the 2017 Partner Summit.
– TF partners share ideas and expertise at the 2017 Partner Summit.

We wanted to make the most of this unique opportunity to have representatives from each of our projects together in one place! Our Board Members led discussion sessions that centred around topics like:

  • innovative approaches to providing cleft care
  • program sustainability
  • struggles and successes in accessing rural and remote communities
  • lessons on working together as multidisciplinary teams

A Valuable Opportunity to Connect

"It's very good for me to come here and to learn from you and orthodontists from around the world, and learn how you think." - Nan from Thailand tells Rocio from Peru.

“It’s very good for me to come here and to learn from you and orthodontists from around the world, and learn how you think.” – Nan from Thailand tells Rocio from Peru.


The TF Partner Summit offered our partners the opportunity to connect with each other, share lessons and ideas, come up with solutions to common challenges and form lasting relationships. Our partners provided feedback that will help shape our collective vision and strengthen TF’s work moving forward, and we are so grateful for their invaluable insight and expertise.

TF Board Member, Dr. Ronald Zuker, summed up the experience beautifully:

“It is a great pleasure for us to bring together our partners from projects
all over this world, to share in our knowledge of cleft lip and palate,
to interact with one another, and to learn from each of our strengths and challenges.
Only in this way can we advance the care of our patients.”



– Board Member Dr. Zuker shares a smile with Phanomwan from Thailand.


You can read more about the great work our partners are doing by checking out our blog!



Highlights from the 2017 International Cleft Congress

February 24th, 2017 by

Bookmark and Share

TF Partners, Board & Staff.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on our blog or social media over the past few weeks, you will already know that the International Cleft Congress took place in Chennai, India this February.

Once every four years, the world’s leading cleft professionals convene at this prestigious international event to share their expertise and learn from each other. TF partners, Board Members and staff played an important role at the Cleft Congress, and we are thrilled to share their accomplishments with you!

  • Bringing together 28 delegates from 12 countries across 5 continents 

– Delegates from Thailand present our Board with hand-drawn pictures from children who TF has supported.

  • Our delegates made major contributions to the Conference, including 6 oral presentations, 7 free paper sessions and 11 poster presentations!

– Orthodontist  Dr. Rocio Lu Chang Say is all smiles as she reports on successes in Peru!

  • TF honoured for our contribution to cleft care

Jackie and Jill honoured at the Opening Ceremony.

– Founder Jackie Elton and Board Member Jill Martin honoured at the Opening Ceremonies.

  • Friend of TF, Dr. Dale Podolsky wins the Congress’s coveted award

Canadian Dr. Podolsky was awarded the Owen Cole Memorial Scholarship for his development a high-fidelity cleft palate simulator. Read more about the simulator and his work with TF in Chile here.

Dr. Podolsky and Program Director Abdon

  • TF’s longtime partner in India hosts this prestigious event

We are so proud of our longtime partner, Sri Ramachandra University (SRU), who organized the International Cleft Congress this year. We applaud them for all the time and hard work they put into hosting nearly 1,000 delegates from across the globe (and we truly believe it was the best Cleft Congress yet!).

“We are very proud here at SRU. It is a big milestone for us to be able to host such an event.”
– Suraj Subramaniyan from Sri Ramachandra University

Suraj presents to delegates

-SRU & TF have been working together to deliver comprehensive care in India for 11 years!

Sharing NAM Knowledge in Peru

February 15th, 2017 by

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

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!