Hunt School of Dental Medicine Joins El Paso Children’s Hospital in Hosting National Cleft Lip Symposium

Hunt School of Dental Medicine Joins El Paso Children’s Hospital in Hosting National Cleft Lip Symposium

Health care professionals dedicated to care of cleft lip and palate came from across the country to El Paso in early November for a two-day National Symposium on the Primary Cleft Lip Deformity as part of their continuing education. The symposium was hosted by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Hunt School of Dental Medicine and El Paso Children’s Hospital.

The 60 attendees included directors of cleft lip and cleft palate programs, surgeons, fellows and medical and dental residents.

Richard Black, D.D.S., M.S., founding dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and co-host of the symposium, said surgeons and their teams from all over the country shared the latest techniques on cleft lip and palate repair and treatment in young children. The cleft lip deformity is characterized by an opening through the lip, palate, nose, and face that failed to close while the baby was developing in the womb. One of the most common birth defects, these clefts occur when facial structures in an unborn baby don’t form properly.

“The Hunt School of Dental Medicine was proud to lend our simulation laboratory and oral health clinic for this symposium,” Dr. Black said. “Supporting events like these show that cutting-edge techniques are at the forefront of what we’re doing right here in the borderplex region, and we hope to do more of it. It’s important that the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and El Paso Children’s Hospital partner in a region that’s desperately in need of these services.”

David M. Yates, D.M.D., M.D., FACS, division chief of cleft and craniofacial surgery at El Paso Children’s Hospital, said the opportunity to host a national symposium puts the Borderland on the map when it comes to specialized surgery.

“It demonstrates that we have one of the leading programs in cleft lip and palate surgery,” said Dr. Yates. “To host such a symposium, you must have the support of an academic institution, and this would’ve been very difficult to do prior to the opening of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine.”

Cleft lip and palate occur in about one in 600 children born in the U.S., said Dr. Yates, who served as co-director of the symposium.

“Different factors can cause cleft lip and palate,” Dr. Yates said. “These factors include nutritional deficiencies, genetic mutations, obstructional sources, medications, and some we don’t fully understand but appear random.”

Richard A. Kapitan, D.D.S., M.S., FACS, pediatric craniomaxillofacial surgery director at the Carolinas Center for Cleft and Craniofacial Surgery in Charlotte, North Carolina, was impressed by the symposium and host facilities. 

“As someone who regularly attends continuing education surgical courses, the idea of a new cleft and craniofacial conference was too interesting to pass up,” Dr. Kapitan said. “Everything from the course design to the quality of the speakers, to the outstanding facility exceeded my expectations.”

Dr. Kapitan toured the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and said it was a testament to the investment TTUHSC El Paso and the community are making in the education of future dental professionals.

“It’s clear that it’s the culmination of a vision to bring top-quality dental education to West Texas, and I have no doubt it will attract the highest caliber of students,” Dr. Kapitan said. 

About the El Paso Children’s Hospital Cranial and Facial Clinic:
The Cranial and Facial Clinic at El Paso Children’s Hospital is the first and only comprehensive pediatric cranial and facial program in the region that provides children in the greater El Paso area access to a dedicated multidisciplinary team of physicians skilled in correcting facial, jaw and skull abnormalities. It is the only cranial and facial team in the region to be nationally recognized by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association. It is no longer necessary for families to bear the burden of traveling outside of the region to access this service, and EPCH’s team provides family-centered, compassionate care you’ve come to expect from a dedicated children’s hospital.

EPCH’s multidisciplinary team is made up of cleft and craniofacial surgeons, neurosurgeons, pediatric hospitalists, dentists, orthodontists, psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, registered dieticians, child life specialists and social workers.

The Cranial and Facial Clinic at El Paso Children’s Hospital is the first of its kind in our region and the only one that provides complete care from the time of diagnosis through surgery and beyond.

About the Hunt School of Dental Medicine:
The Hunt School of Dental Medicine is the only dental school on the U.S.-Mexico border and the first in Texas in over 50 years. The school’s unique curriculum features base of knowledge, clinical experience, research and community engagement, while offering skills in digital dentistry with CAD/CAM technology. To prepare for careers in compassionate, culturally competent care, students learn medical Spanish and are introduced to clinical experiences within their first year. Upon graduating, these future dentists will be prepared to provide care in diverse communities while also understanding high-tech, same-day dentistry.