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  • Writer's picturebruinasda

New Club Spotlight: Cleft Lip and Palate - Delaney Islip ('22)

This past weekend, the 51st annual Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies Symposium was held in Santa Monica. Presented by the cleft palate team at Saint John’s Health center, the conference followed the care requirements of cleft and craniofacial children from neonatal to 18 years old, when cleft care is usually completed. The speakers of the symposium were diverse, ranging from speech-language pathologists, otolaryngologists, orthodontists and plastic surgeons, as were its attendees, among which included myself and other members of a newly founded organization at the UCLA School of Dentistry: The Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Club.

The inspiration for the organization evolved as a result of my own personal experiences with craniofacial abnormalities. My family has a rare genetic syndrome known as Van Der Woude. The syndrome is variable in expressivity, but often includes the presence of cleft lip and/or palate.

When I was 17, my niece was born with a cleft lip and palate. Through observing the work of my niece’s dynamic team of orthodontists, oral surgeons, pediatric dentists and other health providers, I became drawn to the field of dentistry. After witnessing my niece's treatment first-hand, I resolved that all children deserved the same quality of care that my niece had received, solidifying my desire to pursue dentistry and help treat these patients.

These events inspired me to form the UCLA Craniofacial & Cleft Palate Club. My vision for the organization is to serve as a wealth of knowledge and experiences for future dental providers, ultimately resulting in better care for patients with craniofacial abnormalities.

Fellow colleagues were also inspired by an excellent course in craniofacial development by Dr. Nini Tran. After learning the processes behind how these deformities occur, we were left with the question of, “What do we do now as dental health providers?” The UCLA Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Club was created to educate dental students on this exact question: understanding how to comprehensively treat patients with craniofacial abnormalities and cleft palates by approaching their needs from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Aside from participating in the Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies Symposium, our club has teamed up with Thousand Smiles Foundation, an organization that provides life-saving surgeries and related health care for free to underserved children in Ensenada, Mexico so that they can eat properly, speak normally, and feel more accepted in their communities. Every two months, we host a toy drive during which we encourage toy donations in order to provide entertainment to these children during their long days of treatment.

Our organization has also collaborated with the UCLA undergraduate club, Operation Smile, a non-profit devoted to raising awareness and funds to help provide reconstructive surgeries for children with facial deformities in developing countries. At our most recent event, we wrote sympathy cards for children who recently received care in the hospital. We plan to hand deliver the cards to children at surrounding hospitals. Future events include a lecture series at UCLA featuring diverse speakers with expertise in treating patients with craniofacial anomalies and a workshop on how to surgically repair cleft lips on a model.

A special thanks to our faculty mentor, Dr. Tara Aghaloo for her advice and guidance in forming this organization. We look forward to seeing you at our future events! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at

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