As renowned authorities in their respective fields, pediatric plastic surgeon Russell Reid, MD, and pediatric neurosurgeon Sandi Lam, MD, are used to presenting research on complex topics in front of national and international audiences. But the surgeons served as guest speakers for a particularly special occasion earlier this month.
After reading R.J. Palacio's debut novel Wonder, a fourth-grade class at Americana Elementary School in Glendale Heights, Ill., was compelled to learn more about craniofacial anomalies. Wonder follows the life of fictional fifth-grader Auggie Pullman, who was born with a facial deformity and must face his first year in a mainstream school after years of being home-schooled.
As part of the class's educational efforts, Reid and Lam were invited to speak to the class, where they gave a basic overview of the different craniofacial anomalies they treat, including cleft lip and Crouzon syndrome, and discussed the role of genetics in craniofacial anomalies. During the presentation, the surgeons passed around a skull model to show how the skulls of children with facial anomalies are different than other children.
Reid and Lam also discussed their work to treat these special cases through the University of Chicago Medicine's Craniofacial Anomalies Multidisciplinary Program (CAMP). The program, one of the largest craniofacial programs in the region, is designed to provide a team approach for the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of children with craniofacial anomalies.
The class has started a fundraiser to benefit children with craniofacial anomalies. The students made flower pens, which they plan to sell, with proceeds benefiting the University of Chicago Medicine's CAMP clinic.
"We were touched and honored by the children's genuineness, compassion and dedication to help our children who suffer from craniofacial differences," said Reid. "This class effort is a wonderful demonstration that everyone can make a difference."
The classroom teachers, Amy Aydoner and Angelica Selvaggio, added the surgeons' visit served as both an educational opportunity as well as a lesson in life for compassion and giving. "The kids felt honored to have been visited by such important medical 'heroes,' as some called them. They really felt that they were amongst someone famous because of the work that they do with children," Aydoner said. "Everyone gained so much by just a short visit and this prompted the students to go out and sell their flower pens even more aggressively. At this point we have about $85 dollars and the orders for more pens keep coming in! Supply and demand at its finest!"