I have just spent the last week at the Australian Cleft Lip and Palate Association Conference followed by the Annual Scientific Congress held in Sydney. The invited speakers from around the world were truly inspiring.
Of particular note were some of the doyens in cleft surgery such as Bryan Summerlad (Great Ormond Street Hospital, London), Robert Mann (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and Christopher Forrest (SickKids, Toronto).
For those of us cleft surgeons, our results can take a generation to evolve: from a child we meet at birth whose cleft lip we repair at 3 months of age to their final surgery that may be a rhinoplasty in adult years. As such, we rely on these mentors and leaders in our field for their decades of experience, research and guidance to allow us, the next generation, to surpass expectation and achieve the best results for these children.
Highlights from the week included a dissection course where Dr Summerlad showed the anatomy of a submucous cleft found serendipitously in one of the specimens.
I got to spend time with Professor Robert Mann learning palatal repair techniques that revolutionise our thinking on the most difficult defects.
Christopher Forrest, Head of Cleft and Craniofacial Surgery at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital, arguably one of the leading research units in cleft lip and palate, generously shared his knowledge and experience. Including models for training and potential future robotic surgery in cleft. I hope to take up his offer of visiting his unit sometime soon.
A truly inspirational week in my career!