Helping Children with Facial
By Jeffrey S. Lewis, MD, DMD
Cleft palate is a very
common birth defect in the United States, effecting one in every 800 births.
Three to five babies are born every year at Cayuga Medical Center with cleft
lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities. Additional babies and children
come to Tompkins County from the surrounding region for services, and a number
of children with facial deformities move here each year with their families.
Since 1996 the Cleft Palate
and Facial Deformities Team at Cayuga Medical Center has been helping these
children, who typically experience functional problems related to eating and
speech, as well as psychosocial problems. Our multidisciplinary team has
evaluated and provided collaborative treatment to dozens of newborns, children,
and adults since we began our work twelve years ago. Currently we are actively
following 50 patients of various ages.
What makes this team
We provide all needed
services right here in our community. All of the children we help receive the
same level of care, regardless of financial means. We are able to do this
because every specialist serving on the team donates his or her services with
no expectation of payment, as does Cayuga Medical Center. This
means that children with complex treatment needs from families with
insufficient resources receive the same level of care as those whose families
have adequate coverage. A family network of parents provides new
parents with support and information about what to expect.
The Cleft Palate and
Facial Deformities Team focuses not merely on the upcoming operations, but
rather on the arc of a child’s particular needs over the coming years. Team
members include experienced professionals in newborn nursing care and
lactation, oral and maxillofacial surgery, plastic surgery, speech and language
therapy, pediatrics, ENT, pediatric and general dentistry, orthodontics,
developmental psychology, occupational therapy, audiology, genetics, and social
work. The parents’ network adds the important dimension of peer support from
people who understand firsthand what the children and families are
How does the team work?
When a baby with facial
deformities is born at Cayuga Medical Center, I make contact with the parents
that same day. Terri MacCheyne, director of Maternal-Child Health, and I meet
with the parents to evaluate the infant and to begin coordination of services
right away. These new mothers often need help with breastfeeding and that
coaching begins immediately.
specialists on our unified treatment team hold a clinic twice a year where each
patient is seen by every team member. We develop recommendations and a
treatment plan, which I subsequently share with the family. We talk about the
child’s specific needs and how we will meet them. We also stay in constant
communication with families and schools, and work hard to coordinate the
different components of service and support. We are committed to removing as
many obstacles to care as possible.
are here to help; we do not turn children away. If you call us
needing help, the answer will be yes. If a child needs to see
our team between the scheduled clinics, we make it happen. I can be reached at
Dr. Lewis is board
certified in cosmetic surgery and oral and maxillofacial surgery. He serves on
the medical staff of Cayuga Medical Center, where he chairs the Cleft Palate
and Facial Deformities Team, and is a faculty member at the
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Dr.
Lewis is in practice at Cayuga Facial Surgery, where he can be reached at (607)