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History of The International Congress on Cleft Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies




The first International Congress on Cleft Palate was held in Houston, Texas, USA on April 13-17, 1969. Since then the Congress has grown steadily in stature to become the premier international meeting on Cleft Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies.

It has been the platform not only for authors to discuss their long-term results but for global issues such as education in Cleft Palate Surgery, establishment of Cleft Palate Centers and Volunteer missions to be raised and discussed at an international level.

Over the years different centers around the world have showcased their techniques and results at this conference and this has stimulated their international colleagues to examine their own programs and ultimately to collaborate on long-term projects that bring together a larger pool of patients for analysis and study. From such collaboration has been born intercenter studies such as Eurocleft and also the Volunteer missions which combined the skills of surgeons, orthodontists and speech pathologists from different countries in an effort to render cleft aid to less fortunate nations.

The Congress has always retained a multidisciplinary flavor with separate sessions for the different specialties while at the same time emphasizing the need for these specialties to understand what each is doing in their care of the cleft patient.

Every Congress has had its fair share of controversy with the different specialties arguing their case and making their points known. In the end this had made us all aware of the problems that different specialties face and how multiple disciplines can work together to achieve the ideal result for the cleft patient.

A significant change during this period has been the transition of the Congress from a Congress on Cleft Palate alone to a Congress on Cleft Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies. This has reflected the important growth of the field of Craniofacial Surgery and indeed the recognition that the cleft lip/palate condition is itself a craniofacial disorder.

Paul Tessier’s pioneering work on craniofacial work was highlighted and praised at the 2nd Congress in 1973, and perhaps this spurred subsequent Organizing Committees to include the theme of Craniofacial Anomalies in the title of the Congress.

The 7th Congress held on the Gold Coast under the Presidency of Harold McComb was very significant in the history of the Congress. For the first time, ten scholarships were awarded to trainees in order to encourage their attendance and present their research. Hopefully, this tradition will be continued with all subsequent Congresses. Even more significantly, the Constitution of the International Confederation for Cleft Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies was drawn up and passed by the general body. This will allow a constitutional framework to guide the Congress in its future deliberations.

The 8th International Congress on Cleft Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies inaugurated the Owen Cole Memorial Award for the best scientific paper by the ten scholarship recipients. For the first time in the history of the Congress, the Transactions of the Congress has been published. It is timely as the Congress attracts specialists who are pioneers in their respective fields and the Transactions will be able to record these achievements. As an introduction to this first Congress Transactions the history of the International Congresses was presented and the Committee requested a representative from each of the past Congresses to write a short summary of the Congress to allow these pioneers who are all still very much with us and active in cleft care to share some of the special moments of their Congress with us.

At the 9th Congress the Internet was used for registration and PowerPoint became more common for the presentations.

Long-term follow-ups were discussed and teams that had followed their patients more than 18 years after using one protocol presented their results.

Since then every congress organizing committee has contributed to some aspect of cleft and craniofacial specialty. Every congress has increasing attendance and more active participation from various specialties. 12th International Congress 2013 revived the Task force with huge enthusiasm. The Task Forces were an important agenda item on the 13th International Congress held in Chennai/Mahabalipurum.