My name is Walmir Da Costa and I am a pediatric dentist in Florida. My journey with craniofacial anomalies is very personal and began in 2009 when attending the 20-week ultrasound of my son, Christian. My wife and I were very excited to find out the sex of our first-born child, but the appointment took an unexpected turn when the ultrasound showed that our child would be born with cleft lip and palate. As devastated as we were, my wife and I quickly turned our attention and focus to learning more about this anomaly and how to best care for our soon-arriving son. Living in Gainesville, we were happy to learn that the University of Florida/UF Shands had a great Craniofacial team that could begin caring for our child from day one.
Three weeks after our son was born, he was seen by the team’s pediatric dentist for a Nasoalveolar Molding (NAM) impression, and for the subsequent 3 months, on a weekly basis to adjust the device. That impactful experience drove me to finally make a career path change that I had longed for. I went to dental school, completed a pediatric dental residency, and had the opportunity to participate in the same craniofacial team that treated, and continues to treat, my son (now 11 years old). The entire journey has been marked with fantastic professionals who have all made incredible contributions to my son’s care. From the social worker to the plastic and oral surgeons, the craniofacial team has been a blessing to our lives.
The pediatric dentist who treated him became my program director, my mentor, and dear friend. She was instrumental in my training and even encouraged me to submit my research for a poster presentation for the 2019 ACPA meeting in Tucson, Arizona. Words cannot express how wonderful it was to be selected and to present my research to a group of practitioners about an anomaly that so personal and special to me. Being an ACPA member has allowed me to meet wonderful medical professionals, increased my understanding of the importance of team and coordinated treatment for craniofacial anomalies, and continuously improves my knowledge of how to best serve my patients. Every time I see a child with cleft, I think of my patient zero, my son, and it gives me the drive and energy to provide the support and excellent treatment my family received. I care deeply about the cleft and craniofacial community because it has impacted my own life in a very personal level. I will forever be connected to this community both professionally and personally, and that brings me great joy.