Friday, 21 June 2024
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Friday, 21 June 2024

World’s largest cleft organisation, Smile Train, adds three members to Medical Advisory Board

SMILE Train, the world’s largest cleft organization, announced today the addition of three new members to its Medical Advisory Board – Dr Felicity Vidya Mehendale, Dr Peter Donkor and Dr Zipporah Gathuya.

Smile Train relies on its Global Medical Advisory Board to help ensure the safety and quality of all its comprehensive cleft treatment programs worldwide – which has become even more critical in the rapidly-changing, post-COVID medical landscape. The Board is led by world-renowned cleft and craniofacial surgeon, Dr Larry Hollier, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S., Surgeon-in-Chief of the Texas Children’s Hospital and Chief of Plastic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, and is comprised of experts from a range of disciplines including plastic and maxillofacial surgery, pediatric anaesthesia, genetics, orthodontics and speech therapy.

“As we celebrate Cleft Awareness Month, we are pleased to welcome new experts to our Smile Train family. These new team members will help reach some of our region’s most in need and play a crucial role in guiding Smile Train through the COVID-19 landscape,” said Susannah Schaefer, Smile Train President & Chief Executive Officer. “We know these doctors will serve as essential members in growing Smile Train’s global cleft treatment programs all over the world.”

“Even with the effects of COVID-19, our international staff and partners have been incredibly resourceful in adapting to the challenges faced by local healthcare systems in the countries where we have programs. To move forward, the importance of global cleft research and its impact on cleft treatment outcomes cannot be overemphasized. Smile Train will prioritize innovation by leveraging technology, building local research capacity, and sharing our data with strategic partners to develop assets that advance our programs, and our newest members will be invaluable in guiding this effort,” said Dr Hollier. “I am honoured to work with Smile Train and the full team of experts on our Global Medical Advisory Board to help children around the world receive the life-saving care they need.”

The new members of Smile Train’s Global Medical Advisory Board include:

Dr Felicity Vidya Mehendale is a Plastic, Reconstructive and Cleft Surgeon and leads the Global Cleft Lip and Palate Research Programme, at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh. She previously led the East of Scotland Cleft Lip and Palate Service. She is Chair of Cleft 2022 and President of the International Confederation of Cleft Lip & Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies (ICCPCA). She trained as a doctor at Grant Medical College, JJ Hospital, Mumbai and did her M.S. general surgery at Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, Mumbai, before moving to the UK to train in plastic surgery, followed by cleft surgery clinical and research fellowships at Great Ormond Street Hospital, North Thames Cleft Centre and the Institute of Child Health. She was awarded the Hallett Prize by the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Ian McGregor Medal by the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons; and is the only person to have been awarded the Arnold Huddart Medal on two occasions, for her research, by the Craniofacial Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Dr Mehendale’s current research interests include the applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to an evaluation of a range of cleft outcomes, identifying early predictors of cleft outcomes, cleft epidemiology, preoperative and neonatal cleft care protocols and safety and equity of access to cleft care globally.

Dr Peter Donkor is a Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and a member of Smile Train’s African Medical Advisory Council. He has been a Smile Train partner since 2003 and has over 25 years of experience in providing comprehensive cleft care. Professor Donkor serves as the Director of the Cleft/Craniofacial Clinic at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH). He will be leading the effort to establish KATH as a Smile Train Cleft Leadership Center in Ghana. He is the Coordinator of the Central Office of Grants and Research at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi Ghana. Dr Donkor is also is the Vice-President of the West African College of Surgeons and President of the Ghana Cleft Foundation. He has served as the Foundation President for the Pan African Association for Cleft Lip and Palate (PAACLIP) and partnered with Seattle Children’s Hospital to establish the PACT initiative for advancing cleft team care in Africa. Professor Donkor’s research interests include cleft lip and palate, head and neck surgery, global health, medical/surgical education, and injury control. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications to his credit.

Dr Zipporah Gathuya is Pediatric Anesthesiologist and a member of Smile Train’s African Medical Advisory Council. She has 15 years of experience both in the public and private health sector and has served on the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA) Pediatric Anesthesia Committee. She is involved in the roll-out of the WFSA Safer Anesthesia from Education program (SAFE- Peds). Dr Gathuya serves as the Secretary on the leadership committee for the Global Initiative for Children’s Surgery and oversees the Anesthesia Working Group. She has volunteered for medical/surgical charities for children in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Peru. As a Senior Volunteer at St. John Ambulance Kenya, she directs First Aid training for communities in Kenya. She was awarded a Head of State Commendation by the President of Kenya for her work in advancing Kenyan pediatric anaesthesia practices and was instrumental in initiating the Pediatric Anesthesia Fellowship program at the University of Nairobi, the first of its kind in East and Central Africa. As a global health specialist, Dr Gathuya’s research and policy interests include education and training in anaesthesia, patient safety, access to safe surgery and anaesthesia in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), and the attainment of Universal Health Coverage.

Smile Train’s sustainable model empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. For the last 21 years, we have supported safe, high-quality cleft care for more than 1.5 million children and will continue to do so until every child in need born with a cleft has access to the care they deserve.


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