Cleft Surgery at 10,000 Feet

Tarma, Peru – Dr. Carlos Navarro and his team at CIRPLAST have provided over 2,000 Smile Train surgeries in the last decade. As one of our longest serving partner surgeons, Dr. Navarro prides himself on providing cleft lip and palate surgeries not only nearby his hospital, but in the hardest to reach areas in Peru so that all of the children in his country can smile.

CIRPLAST Smile Train Team

A few years ago, after hearing of the desperate need of children in the city who do not have a cranio-facial surgeon of their own to turn to, Dr. Navarro and his staff traveled to Tarma to start offering their services free of charge. The team has traveled to Tarma numerous times to provide surgery and follow up care. Affectionately known as the Pearl of the Andes, Tarma is as breathtaking as it is unique. Nestled 10,000 feet above sea level, getting to Tarma is an adventure unto itself.

Road to TarmaThe central highways,  or Highway 20 as it is known, is really a very high road, because it goes up to 4818 meters at the highest crossing point on the central Andes Mountain range, before it starts going down on the other side of the slope. It goes through Oroya, where the American Doe Run mining company is working, and then divides into a road that goes to Jauja and Huancayo going south along the Mantaro River. The other road heads north and after a short stretch it divides into one going east to Trama, and eventually down to the Chanchamayo province, which is the so called jungle-eyebrow (ceja de selva), meaning that its geography is a mixture of mountains and jungle, with a climate that  is not quite as hot and humid as it is in the Amazon jungle, and is not quite as cold and dry as it is in the mountains; the other road goes northeast to Cerro de Pasco, a mining town. At 14,370 feet (4,650-4700m) elevation, it is one of the highest cities in Peru. It is a very steep and winding road all the way up to Ticlio, where it snows quite frequently all year around

– Dr. Navarro (Can you tell that he is also a retired professor?)

Recently, the team came back with many amazing tales of children and their families that they were able to help, but perhaps the most striking patient is Maria Hurtado. Maria was born with a cleft lip and for 70 long years, never knew it could even be corrected. Long ago, she had come to terms with never being seen as normal in her community and was almost hesitant to have it repaired as she had lived with it for so many years. With a little persistence, Dr. Navarro walked Maria into the OR and performed her surgery: imagine, waiting 70 years for a simple surgery. Over 25,550 days spent waiting for 1. Maria’s jubilation was seen as she participated in a local religious celebration even before her surgery was fully healed: you can be sure that for her, the celebration was even more meaningful as she was able to let go of 70 years of doubt, unwarranted shame, and even ostracization.Cleft Palate Surgery After Thank you to all of our partners and donors who provide so many new lives.

Smile Train Speech Therapy Summer Camp in Mexico

Mexico City – As many families and patients know, in many cases repairing a cleft palate is only the first step. Within a few months of cleft palate surgery, most patients demonstrate speech development progress, but some children require on-going speech therapy. If a palate is repaired before the child learns to talk, the need for speech therapy drastically decreases, however, the older the patient, the harder it is to change the speech after the surgery. The reason is that with a cleft palate, the child learns to speak differently attempting to make the sounds that he or she hears. When the palate is repaired after the child has learned to speak already, the child needs to relearn to say certain sounds that were affected by the cleft palate. Over the last few years, one of Smile Train’s goals has been to find a way to effectively and efficiently provide speech therapy to our patients that need it in order to lead normal lives. An innovative approach to speech therapy is being led by long time Smile Train partner Hospital General Dr Manuel Gea Gonzalez.

Traditionally, speech therapy is conducted in 45 minute sessions twice a week for months and even years. María del Carmen Pamplona has created a Speech Therapy Summer Day Camp for poor patients from in and around Mexico City who are unable to routinely visit speech therapists. Last year’s day camp served 66 patients 4 days a week for 3 weeks and saw improvements in their speech equivalent to 8-10 months of a regular speech pathology schedule. For these very poor children, they had the added bonus of a field trip to visit their favorite soccer stars and the local zoo – a treat they would never have been able to experience.

The results of the camp have extended into the classroom for the majority of the campers such as Ana Sofia. After she had her palate repaired, six-year old Ana started school, but because she was still having difficulty speaking properly, she had trouble making friends, learning, participating in class, and her self-esteem and life suffered. Because she lived too far away from any speech services that her parents would never have been able to afford, she moved in with her uncle and attended the day camp. In just 3 weeks, she was able to learn and play with other children who had the same difficulties and saw dramatic improvements in her speech. After the camp, her parents were given exercises for her to practice and her teacher sent the camp a letter explaining the difference in Ana’s schooling and life: she has grown assured in herself, always eager to suggest her ideas and raiser her hand for questions and has become one of the most popular kids in her class because of her friendly manor. This from a girl who a year before was embarrassed to go to school.

The Hospital General Dr Manuel Gea Gonzalez Speech Therapy Day Camp also serves as an intensive training workshop for speech pathologists. Last year’s camp further trained 47 speech pathologists who are all eager to take what they have learned to their own cities. This year’s camp starts up this July!

Be sure to check out the pictures from last year’s camp:

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Dr. D. Ralph Millard, Jr., RIP

Ralph Millard Jr, RPIIt is with profound sadness that Smile Train has learned of the death of Dr. D. Ralph Millard, Jr. in Miami, FL on 19th June 2011 just a few weeks after his 92nd birthday. An exceptional plastic surgeon, a great writer and an outstanding human being, Dr Millard will always be remembered for his profound contributions to the field of cleft care.

In the field, Dr. Millard is specifically acclaimed for the rotation-advancement technique which he pioneered for repair of cleft lips that remains by far the most widely used. His three volume Cleft Craft is an epic that has educated several generations of surgeons. He will also be remembered for his great wit, a wacky sense of humor and an artistic streak that came through in his etchings on the margins of his books. A true giant of a man. We salute his memory and may his soul rest in peace.

Dr. Millard graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1944, interned in pediatric surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital and obtained his plastic surgery training at Barnes Hospital, Washington, the Straith Clinic in Detroit and Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston, TX.

Dr. Millard was nominated as one of only 10 “Plastic Surgeons of the Millennium” by the members of the American Society of Plastic Surgery. He had been described as “the most brilliant and creative plastic surgeon we have… His work and publications speak for themselves.”

Dr. Millard’s obituary

The Dr. Ralph Millard Plastic Surgery Society & Education Foundation

3rd Annual Skyline Restoration Smile Train Golf Classic

New York, NY – Grab your irons and bring out your madras pants because registration is now underway for Skyline Restoration’s 3rd Annual Golf Classic Benefiting Smile Train!

Smile Train Golf Classic RegistrationLast year’s Golf Classic raised over $40,000 – enough to cover over 160 free cleft lip and palate surgeries and this year Skyline Restoration is looking to raise even more!

This amazing event is teeing off at the Village Club of Sands Point on Monday, July 18 at 10:00 am for registration and brunch. A noon shotgun start keeps the flow steady on 18 great and often challenging holes.

Special guests include the stars of the hit Broadway show Baby It’s You: Geno Henderson, Barry Pearl, and Crystal Starr.

Smile Train Golfing for Cleft Lip and Palate SurgeryWhen your scorecard’s full, be sure to head to the Club House for cocktails and dinner and end the day with the awards ceremony and raffle. Local sponsors have already committed to some great raffle prizes, but we’re sure we can all agree that the best prize is the one you’ll be giving to the desperate children in our programs, free surgery and a second chance at life.

For the full details of the event  and to sign up, check out the Golf Classic registration page.

We’d like to extend our deepest thanks to everyone at Skyline Restoration for putting this all together and for their wonderful dedication and commitment to helping kids with cleft lip and palate.Skyline Restoration Smile Train Golf Classic

Watch Smile Train on the Daytime Emmys

Erik Estrada chats with Carlito, who will undergo his 2nd cleft surgeryCelebrities Dean Cain, Erik Estrada and Tatyana Ali recently joined Smile Train on a trip to Mexico where many children’s lives were forever changed by the care that Smile Train provided them with. Their trip is going to be featured on the 38th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, airing LIVE! Sunday, June 19th at 8pm EST on CBS, during a segment called Daytime’s Best Smiles.


Dean Cain and Dr. Rafa Ruiz RodriguezThe trip was an amazing success with three compelling stories emerging and dozens of children receiving free cleft surgery. Be sure to watch the Daytime Emmy Awards next Sunday; you can even find some fun ideas for a viewing party and a ballot for holding an Emmy pool on


Tatyana Ali said:

Tatyana Ali watches a cleft surgery in the OR

“I had never before considered how having a cleft palate affects every single aspect of a person’s life. In Mazatlan, I was truly humbled and experienced first hand the many ways that Smile Train is improving lives around the world. I saw people of all ages undergoing life-changing surgery. I saw local doctors being trained. It was incredible to know that this blessing would not be a one time occurrence, but a persisting force of undeniable good.”

Schools Around the World Supporting Smile Train

The school year may be coming to a close, but thanks to the hard work, dedication, and support of thousands of school children, the lives of countless Smile Train patients are just beginning.

Throughout the school year, over 200 elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges held special fundraisers to help provide desperate children with free cleft lip and palate surgery. Students all over the US, UK, and Europe found ways to show their support, creating smiles in their communities and Smile Train partner hospitals  a world away. Some students were either born with a cleft themselves or know someone else who was. They’ve participated in bake sales, talent shows, screenings of Smile Pinki, car washes, selling of wristbands , penny harvest collections and countless other activities selflessly devoting their time and energy to help kids in need in the poorest parts of the world.

I am so proud that a wee child can get a new smile that will last forever because everybody in my school brought in money for an operation.” Graham Taylor of Glasgow, Scotland

We’re just as proud of all of our school fundraisers and wish them the best as they prepare for the summer and the next steps in their lives.

On June 8, student representatives of participating schools in the New York City Project Boost program, run by CEI-PEA, braved the heat and gathered on the steps of City Hall to present a grand total of $17,000! Be sure to check out the short video highlight of the Project Boost Smile Train Presentation.

NYC Project Boost Schools Present Smile Train Donations from Smile Train on Vimeo.

On behalf of everyone here at Smile Train and all of our patients and their families, thank you to all of the schools and students that have worked so hard to give the gift of a smile.

Remembering Dr. Francisco Teixeira

It is with heavy hearts that we would like to inform the Smile Train community of the passing of our partner surgeon Dr. Francisco Teixeira on May 29.

Dr. Teixeria and Smile Train Cleft Lip PatientsA kind and loving Smile Train partner for years, Dr. Teixeira dedicated his life to helping children in Fortaleza, Brazil. Through his partnership with Smile Train, Dr. Teixeira helped hundreds of children smile in Northern Brazil by giving them free cleft lip and palate surgeries. Not content to rest on his past successes, he  often put his life on the line to travel far distances into the Amazonas to treat children in desperate need who would otherwise never be able to dream of a life without cleft. His passion and commitment to children that have been outcast from society remains an inspiration to us all.

Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Francisco Teixeria’s family and loved ones and we know that his amazing legacy and smile will live on in the faces of all of the children and families he has helped.