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More than 30 families attend free cleft palate clinic at NMSU

More than 30 families with children born with a cleft lip or palate got the chance to receive free medical care Friday, March 11, at a multidisciplinary clinic hosted by New Mexico State University?s Edgar R. Garrett Speech and Hearing Clinic.


Two men and a girl sitting around a table
Richard Whitman, left, and his daughter Savannah Whitman visit with pediatrician Dr. Fernando Indacochea on March 11, 2016, at a free cleft palate and lip clinic hosted by New Mexico State University?s Edgar R. Garrett Speech and Hearing Clinic. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)
A woman looking into a girl?s ear
NMSU director of audiology Moumita Choudhury checks Marianna Villalobos? hearing on March 11, 2016, at a free cleft palate and lip clinic hosted by New Mexico State University?s Edgar R. Garrett Speech and Hearing Clinic. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)
A woman bottle feeding a baby
Claudia Garcia feeds her infant son Santiago Garcia as they wait to see a specialist on March 11, 2016, at a free cleft palate and lip clinic hosted by New Mexico State University?s Edgar R. Garrett Speech and Hearing Clinic. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

Families in southern New Mexico were eligible to attend the clinic and see specialists in plastic surgery, otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), maxillofacial surgery, pediatrics, pediatric dentistry, orthodontia, speech-language pathology, speech science, audiology, nursing and social work.

The New Mexico Cleft Palate Center in partnership with Smile Train sponsored the clinic, which included volunteers from Las Cruces, El Paso and Albuquerque, and staff and graduate students from NMSU?s speech and hearing department.

New Mexico has a high incidence of cleft lip and palate due to the large number of Hispanic and Native American residents.

?It is a pleasure to bring this vital service to the community and the surrounding areas, and an honor to play a small role in something much bigger than ourselves,? said Tenecia N. Trammel-Yeboah, director of the Edgar R. Garrett Speech and Hearing Clinic.

Richard Whitman visited the clinic with his daughter Savannah Whitman, 9, after Dr. Luis Cuadros, Savannah?s Albuquerque-based plastic surgeon, encouraged them to attend after they hadn?t attended in some time.

?It?s just to see how she?s progressing in her speech and her hearing, orthodontics, things like that,? Whitman said as he and Savannah waited to see Dr. Fernando Indacochea, a Las Cruces pediatrician. ?She?s done very well. I think we stopped speech therapy with her when she was in second grade. Her language is really intelligible, so I think that the various specialists that she?s seen have helped her progress to where she?s at today.?

Whitman called the cleft lip and palate clinic ?well organized,? with graduate students helping families make sure they get from one specialist to another and receive ample time with each specialist.

?This opportunity is a labor of love from all the above-named professionals who gather together from University of New Mexico, NMSU and throughout the state,? said Linda Spencer, director of NMSU?s Communication Disorders program. ?The professionals volunteer their time, talent and expertise, with some driving three hours to participate. Dr. Luis Cuadros, a board-certified plastic surgeon, has been instrumental in this endeavor. This clinic has operated on a shoestring budget in order to bring the services to some of our state residents with the highest financial need.?

Spencer said Trammel-Yeboah and graduate students Rachel Hoehle, Marissa Perez and Leslie Guzman worked in conjunction with Cuadros? office to organize the clinic during both the fall semester and spring semesters.

?They have done a tremendous job in spite of being short on administrative help and clinical educator help,? Spencer said. ?The service is an intrinsic one for our students and for the citizens of Southern New Mexico.?

Chick-fil-A and Peter Piper Pizza sponsored lunch for the volunteers at the clinic Friday.