Brooke Putelis calls it “a miracle.” But her baby son’s picture-perfect smile is the result of the skilled care he received from the Craniofacial Clinic team at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center after being born with a cleft palate.
“They give quality of life to these kids that they would never have had otherwise—and he’s beautiful,” Putelis said tearfully.
The Craniofacial Clinic was the featured Fund-A-Need recipient at the UMass Medicine 2014 Winter Ball on Dec. 5. Boasting record attendance, the sixth annual event raised $175,000 to help families with expenses not covered by insurance during their children’s treatment for cleft palate and other birth defects of the head and face.
“When I start to cry is when I see the power of the child’s personality scorch through the defect and take over,” said Janice Lalikos, MD, professor of surgery and director of the Craniofacial Clinic.
Through the efforts of Lalikos and other members of an interdisciplinary team, this year the clinic was awarded a six-year accreditation as a Cleft Palate Team by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association and Cleft Palate Foundation. The team addresses all aspects of a patient’s care beyond surgery, including orthodontics, speech therapy and psychosocial support.
“That plastic surgeon [Dr. Lalikos] is my hero,” said 19-year-old Emily Keefner, who was named a Plastic Surgery Patient of Courage by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2013. Keefner has undergone 34 procedures at the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center and has been under Lalikos’ care as Craniofacial Clinic director and reconstructive plastic surgeon since 2002.
“The goal is to allow these children to live a fundamentally completely normal life by simply restoring their facial appearance,” said Raymond Dunn, MD, professor of surgery and chief of the division of plastic surgery.