team compressedWe were invited to bring the speech component to the 20th anniversay of the Healing the Children surgical mission in Neiva, Colombia. With our colleagues, Dr. David Hoffman (medical director) and Dr. Sidney Eisig and a team of 70 surgeons, orthodontists, pediatricians, nurses, and medical records we were together June 5 to 12, 2013. We gathered a team of Miriam Baigorri, Jayne Miranda, Jessica Baquero, and students Theresa Donohue, Carla Montoya, and Kirea Crowley from Teachers College Columbia University. We invited 16 Colombian-based SLPs (fonoaudiologists) to join us in a cleft palate speech and feeding 5-day intensive course. We had a great group of Colombian SLPs. I knew that the Colombian programs were strong because I have met many who were students in the Bilingual Extension Institute.

It was intensive and needed lots of coordination, but we had an amazing time. The difference between the pre- and post-tests was very significant. We will follow up with the Colombian-SLPs in one month, six months, and nine months via skype and maybe with on onsite visit to make sure the Colombian-based SLPs are seeing cleft patients in their practice and continue to provide services consistent with the current research as presented during the five days. We were so grateful to be part of such a high quality mission and to have invited such intelligent, prepared, and committed Colombian-SLPs.

We screened about 175 patients with cleft palate on June 6, and then started the course. We taught in the morning and then had a supervised speech clinic with patients with repaired cleft palates in the afternoons. During the clinic we saw 36 patients and gave 98 individual therapy sessions. Dr. Hoffman did a nasoendoscopy with Jayne Miranda as the SLP so the Colombian-SLPs could learn and eveyone observed a cleft palate surgery. We also distributed 225 flashdrives to every cleft palate patient, Colombian-SLPs, parents, nurses, and surgeons. We made sure to share them with everyone who was going to see cleft palate patients in their work. The flashdrives contained the 6 video tutorials that Miriam Baigorri and I created in Guatemala in 2012 which contain strategies for parents to do at home with their children when no SLP is available. We also distributed over 400 handouts on appropriate cleft feeding pre-palate surgery.

Josh Hays, filmmaker, came with us. We are creating step-by-step video tutorials for SLPs to acquire the specialization in assessing and treating cleft palate speech. We also are at the beginning stages of creating a cleft clinic at TC working with our colleagues at Columbia Dental School and the cleft teams at Columbia, Staten Island Hospital, Mamonides, and Montifiore. (More photos are posted on the Bilingual Extension Institute facebook page.)