The Experience of Participating in the ACPA Visiting Scholar Program – 2016

Alyssa KirkmanACPA News

I have the honor of being the 22nd Visiting Scholar of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, a program which is supported thanks to important donations by the company Stryker. The objective of the ACPA visiting scholar program is to identify and select professionals who have the potential to establish and/or direct an interdisciplinary team in their country for the comprehensive management of individuals with craniofacial anomalies.

The program took place at three centers in the United States that treat craniofacial differences from March 20 to April 19, 2016. The visits to these centers consisted of one rotation per week in each center where I observed and learned about the interdisciplinary management of patients with craniofacial differences.

During my visit to the United States, I had the opportunity to participate in the 73rd ACPA Annual Meeting and Symposium in Atlanta, GA and present, at an international level, the reality of treatment for patients with cleft lip and palate in Costa Rica. Finally, I had a visit with the company Stryker where I presented the achievements and lessons learned during the rotation.

This program has given me the opportunity to know and establish new channels of communication which, without a doubt, will be of great help and support for the treatment that can be provided to the patients with craniofacial differences in the National Children’s Hospital – “Dr. Carlos Saenz Herrera”, in Costa Rica (the institution in which I work and provide care to these patients).

Among the cities I visited and the people with whom I got to share were:

  • Ramón Ruiz, DMD, MD. Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director of the Craniomaxillofacial Program at Arnold Palmer Hospital, FL, USA.
  • Kevin S. Smith, DDS. Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director of the Craniomaxillofacial Program at the University of Oklahoma, OK, USA.
  • Sharon Aronovich, DMD, MD. Maxillofacial Surgeon, University of Michigan, MI, USA.
  • Sean Edwards, DMD, MD. Maxillofacial Surgeon, University of Michigan, MI, USA.

What I learned from these doctors has allowed me to extend my continuing education through the integration of knowledge and information, which will have a direct effect on the training of the dentistry and medical students at the University of Costa Rica who are involved in the interdisciplinary management of patients with cleft lip and palate in the National Children’s Hospital.

I am committed to improving the interdisciplinary management of patients with craniofacial differences in Costa Rica; to personalizing the surgical techniques for primary correction of cleft lip and palate and craniofacial differences; and to integrating fundamental areas of health into the care of patients with craniofacial differences, like speech therapy and orthodontics, in order to support the functional success of the surgery.

Understanding the management of these pathologies, as well as discussing experiences and outcomes of complex treatments in multidisciplinary settings, allows professionals to achieve better results in the approaches that they provide to this population.

From the lessons I learned in my rotation through the three centers I visited, my challenges for the near future are:

  • To develop an interdisciplinary clinic in Costa Rica that plans the treatment of each patient
  • To begin the treatment of patients and parents in the prenatal period
  • To integrate the direct support of speech therapy in the management of the patient with cleft lip and palate

I want to thank ACPA and the company Stryker for this opportunity because, for many centers, continuing education is the most important support that can be provided to us. I want to especially thank my sponsor Dr. Jeffrey J. Moses, DDS, who motivated and supported me in every moment as visiting scholar. Also, I want to give thanks on the part of the children of Costa Rica who will be the beneficiaries of this program by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association.