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Cleft Lip and Palate Program

Our history

In 1953 Dr. Egil Harvold was appointed to the Research Institute of the hospital to demonstrate the efficacy of a team approach to cleft lip and palate treatment. As a result of his studies The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) established a Cleft Lip and Palate Research and Treatment Centre in 1954 under the leadership of Dr. W. K. Lindsay. Under the leadership of Dr. Ronald Zuker, Medical Director of the Cleft Lip and Palate Program, 1986-1999, the Cleft Lip and Palate Program expanded tremendously to provide comprehensive interdisciplinary care to this patient population. Dr. David Fisher assumed directorship of the program in 2000, and he is dedicated to continue this tradition.

Our team is comprised of health professionals from 16 different disciplines who believe the team approach is crucial in the provision of comprehensive family centered care. Team members meet and discuss their assessments of patients and families on a weekly basis, and formulate individual treatment plans. We have the largest Cleft Lip and Palate Program in Canada with 3,500 patients in active treatment. Each year we enter 175 new patients into the program.

Early intervention education is an integral part of our program. A member of our team is available 24 hours a day to accept referrals from birthing hospitals to provide cleft and feeding information to families of newborns. When the Coordinator role for this program was established in 1988, the primary focus of the position was the development of services during the neonate period. It was apparent that the cleft infants were hospitalized longer than other non-affected infants in the community hospitals due to their feeding difficulties. Following an extensive educational process with 80 referring hospitals, a detailed referral protocol was developed. The newborn referral protocol ensures that the community hospital contact the program within 48 hours of the infant's birth. The benefits of this protocol include; a reduced length of stay in the community hospitals; a decreased number of inpatient transfers to The Hospital for Sick Children; and the ability of families to meet members of the SICKKIDS Cleft Lip and Palate Team to have their questions and concerns addressed.

We are also happy to receive referrals of families with a prenatal diagnosis of cleft lip and/or palate to provide them with information.

The Cleft Lip and Palate program is committed to providing information, education and support to patient, families and health care providers. We have developed multiple teaching pamphlets and booklets for this purpose.


Adapted from the article "Continue Excellence in Cleft Lip and Palate and Craniofacial Care and Research" by Cindy Guernsey RN, BScN, Irena Hozjan RN, BScN, and Christopher Forrest MD, MSc, FRCS(C)