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Team Approach

A better team for a better life.

No one likes to be teased. Yet children suffering from a cleft lip and/or cleft palate are often mocked for the shape of their mouth, protruding teeth and unclear speech. Compounded with other health issues like hearing loss, respiratory and psychosocial problems, the visible disfigurement can be devastating for a child’s development and self-esteem.

SurgeryDr. Peter Witt, medical director of Children’s Department of Pediatric Plastic Surgery, strongly supports what research shows – patients receiving comprehensive team care have the best chance of becoming functioning, contributing members of society.

“Current standards of cleft care include multidisciplinary management by a qualified cleft palate team in accordance with American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) criteria,” said Dr. Witt. “The complexities of the condition make it necessary for a variety of clinicians to collaborate on planning and delivery of treatment, including specialists from medical and surgical, dental, and speech and hearing.”

Dr. Witt strongly believes that the kind of team expertise practiced at pediatric hospitals is key to this treatment.

“The more specialized we get in healthcare the more multidisciplinary we need to be,” he said. “Complex problems need more than one expert. That’s why these kinds of conditions should be treated at a tertiary institution equipped to handle them.”

Cleft facial patients typically undergo multiple surgeries and procedures over many years, sometimes until they are young adults. “It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of what I do, to see them grow up, graduate, get married – succeed,” said Dr. Witt.

Board certified in plastic, hand and general surgery, Dr. Witt is nationally known for his skilled cleft lip and palate repair and personal interest in subsequent speech issues. The plastic surgery program at Children’s serves more than 1,650 kids a year. The busy department has three board certified plastic surgeons.

“Because of what Dr. Witt has helped establish with his team at Children’s, there’s no reason for any child to go outside the Valley for a cleft-craniofacial issue,” said Todd Suntrapak, Children’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “When I think of all the incredible work that we do here, I still get amazed by some of the things that Peter is able to achieve. I hope the Valley truly understands the special talent we have here with this plastic surgery team.”