Founder & Chairman
Board of Trustees
Medical Advisory Board
Founder & Chairman
Kenneth E. Salyer, M.D., is internationally recognized as a leader and pioneer in craniofacial surgery. He is the founder and Chairman of the World Craniofacial Foundation as well as the founder of the International Craniofacial Institute and the Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment Center at Medical City Dallas Hospital.
For more information visit...
- Dr. Salyers web site
- Dr. Salyer's Facebook Page
I believe the children of the world deserve to lead normal lives, and for one child in 500 births, a normal life can be an elusive, often unachievable dream without craniofacial surgery. A normal face and skull are essential to a normal life. Consider a child born with a congenital abnormality causing a twisted nose, an absent side jaw or a missing eye orbit - a child with a disturbing facial distortion. Imagine the reaction this child receives when he or she walks into a grocery store, much less attempts to succeed in school or perhaps, make a friend. These precious souls live a life of constant rejection and ridicule.
For decades, even centuries, those with facial differences were locked away in institutions - out of sight and out of mind. Most societies of the world simply do not accept or even tolerate facial abnormalities on any level - due to a fundamental fear of the unknown. Yet, relating to another human being, regardless of ethnicity, geography or socio-economic status typically involves face-to-face communication and specifically, eye-to eye. As the child matures, a facial deformity can also become a personality facade or shroud that obscures the special gifts an individual offers. But, as C.S. Lewis said, and I believe, as well, "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."
Throughout my career and my work with thousands of children, I have been passionate about removing the masks of body deformity to reveal the hidden truths these unique children bring to the world - one child at a time. And we must do more. The potential exists, and it is that potential that is my driving force. It is also the catalyst for the World Craniofacial Foundation and its global vision to facilitate avenues of healing and hope for these extraordinary children.
Craniofacial surgery is a relatively new specialty, and I part of the second generation of surgeons practicing a treatment protocol pioneered by French physician Dr. Paul Tessier. We focus on the correction of deformities of the bones of the skull and face. Less than 30 years ago medicine offered little hope to patients with severe craniofacial deformities. Today, craniofacial surgery, performed by highly experienced teams, has profoundly changed the outlook for these patients and their families. What was deemed impossible less than a century ago is now a practical reality due to the advancements of modern, medical technology and the precise skills of multidisciplinary professionals.
Today, paying for this complex course of treatment is a growing challenge. More and more, the highest quality medical care is denied the children who need it most, because insurance companies and Medicaid do not pay for the multidisciplinary teams required to achieve optimal outcomes. They simply are not allowed. The orthodontic and plastic surgery components often disqualify the surgery out of hand - even though they are critical components of a life-saving course of treatment. Therefore, many of the best surgeons back away from this specialty, because their reimbursements represent only a fraction of the costs involved, or they must be treated as charity. Even worse, unskilled practitioners may attempt procedures that end up exacerbating the deformity. In fact, about 70% of my craniofacial cases are what I term "re-dos." They come to me to correct the results of sub-standard care.
Now, as I face my own transition from the practice of medicine and craniofacial surgery to teaching the techniques, I have developed a more philosophical approach to my work and my life. As my faith in God has intensified and my contemplation of spirituality and the universe has deepened, the aspects of love and caring in each case have become paramount. I went into the medical field to pursue the science and the challenge of what could not be done. Having mastered the technical aspects and performed more than 17,000 surgeries, I have not only transformed my patients, but I have literally transformed myself. I have embraced a deeper meaning and only recently discovered my core sense of purpose - not just to cut and sew but to unleash the spirit - allowing the souls I touch, once obscured by deformity, to soar through the miracle of craniofacial surgery.
The peculiar irony I have observed, however, is that many who manifest these syndromes, such Crouzon's or Apert's, often possess a treasure trove of special gifts not readily visible unless you come to know them as I have. For the most part, they exude a sense of joy and self-confidence not frequently found in the most classically beautiful patients I treat in my regular plastic surgery practice. Those individuals whose breast size is the measure of their self-esteem serve as a striking foil for those young souls whose faces are so disfigured that they are treated as freaks. Their lively personalities and perseverance inspire and renew me - and the lives of all they encounter.
The other striking paradox I have observed is though these children are often ostracized as complete aberrations, they are fundamentally brothers and sisters in facial difference across the globe. A particular syndrome presents certain set of characteristics, so all of the kids around the world who share an individual syndrome do look very much alike-whether they are red, yellow, black or white. Each child belongs to the international family of that syndrome. But when they are reconstructed with craniofacial surgery, they transform and take on the characteristics of their parents and often blossom in new ways.
Perhaps this accounts for the remarkable dedication of many of my patients to others struggling with craniofacial abnormalities and often to pursuing a medical careers in craniofacial surgery or related specialties. Regardless of the individual course each patient takes, I believe each and every individual is here on earth for a purpose, and each person deserves the chance to not just exist - but thrive. To value the individual is to value one's self - and all of humanity.