Mighty Blog

Recognizing cleft and craniofacial awareness month

July is cleft and craniofacial awareness month. To celebrate, Children’s Minnesota cleft and craniofacial providers typically host a summer camp for their patients and their families. This is an opportunity for kids with cleft and craniofacial conditions to meet others with similar backgrounds and find supportive communities with each other. While this camp can’t happen in-person this July due to COVID-19, we are still spreading awareness.

Cleft and craniofacial care at Children’s Minnesota

Complex conditions, such as cleft lip and palate, and craniofacial disorders require coordinated care from multiple providers. Organizing that care can be challenging. We do everything we can to enable patients to see all the necessary providers at one time, and to give those providers an opportunity to discuss recommendations and make plans together, in the same room, with the patient and family present.

“The multi-disciplinary team is strong because all of the members feel like they have an important role on that team,” said Dr. Brianne Roby, pediatric otolaryngologist, facial plastic surgeon, and director of the cleft team at Children’s Minnesota St. Paul.

Not only does the team recognize the importance of all members, but also the importance of family involvement: “We get family involvement early, even prenatally, so that families know from birth until ‘graduation’ [from the program] that all of their cleft and craniofacial care can be performed with the best, most up-to-date care,” Dr. Roby explained.

Commitment to education and research

The Children’s Minnesota cleft and craniofacial team is known throughout the country as leaders in research and outcomes related to cleft and craniofacial care. When it comes to pediatric otolaryngology, Dr. Roby and Dr. Robert Tibesar, a pediatric otolaryngologist and facial plastic surgeon overseeing the cleft and craniofacial program at Children’s Minnesota, are considered some of the best of the best—whether for their work at Children’s Minnesota or in their role as assistant professors in the department of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at the University of Minnesota.

Throughout the last decade, Dr. Roby and Dr. Tibesar have led several research studies together with the support of medical students and trainees from the University of Minnesota. In fact, Dr. Roby led the first study to use eye-tracking technology in kids. This study looked at how kids view their peers with cleft lip scars, which helps them learn what they can do to make their patient’s peer-to-peer interactions better after surgery. Dr. Tibesar has helped to develop a protocol on craniosynostosis surgical care that is being adopted around the country to prevent the need for blood transfusions.

Dr. Roby and Dr. Tibesar have used findings from their studies at Children’s Minnesota and the University of Minnesota to improve care for cleft and craniofacial patients.

Cleft and craniofacial program

The cleft and craniofacial program at Children’s Minnesota would not be what it is today without the influence of Dr. James Sidman. Dr. Sidman was a mentor to many providers in Minnesota, including Dr. Tibesar and Dr. Roby, and around the country. He was instrumental in developing the multidisciplinary team. Because of this strong history and excellent outcomes, the pediatric craniofacial specialists at Children’s Minnesota care for most of the children in Minnesota—and the surrounding states—who have cleft and craniofacial conditions.

Our team treats everything from cleft lip and palate to rare craniofacial conditions at four clinic locations. Our program is accredited by the American Cleft and Palate-Craniofacial Association, which provides a standard for team care. We approach each child’s treatment by drawing on the expertise of a multidisciplinary team.

Kaitlyn Kamleiter