cleft palate

University of Vermont Children’s Hospital is happy to announce our new cleft & craniofacial program, led by pediatric plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Willson and clinical coordinator Kristen Daniels, PA-C. The clinic was previously run by the state of Vermont, and is transitioning care to our team. The program has been many months in the making and will start in January 2019.

What is a cleft & craniofacial program?

Cleft & craniofacial programs are team-based clinics that focus on treating cleft lip and palate, a separation of the lip and roof of the mouth, and other conditions of the head and face, such as:

  • Velopharyngeal Insufficiency (VPI)
  • Speech disorders
  • 22q Deletion
  • Craniofacial Microsomia
  • Pierre-Robin Sequence
  • Mandibular Hypoplasia
  • Microtia and Anotia/Congenital Ear Conditions
  • Facial Clefts
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Goldenhaar Syndrome
  • Treacher Collins
  • Apert Syndrome
  • Crouzon Syndrome
  • Moebius Syndrome
  • Parry-Romberg Syndrome

Our team is made up of pediatric plastic surgeons, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), a speech pathologist, orthodontists, a geneticist, social workers, nurses, dental hygienists, a clinic coordinator, and support staff, who work together with other specialties throughout the community to care for cleft lip and palate. Patients see some or all of the providers at each visit depending on where they are in their care plan.  Each annual visit allows the team to check in and design a plan together with the patient and their family.

Who is on the team?

Thomas Willson, MD – Director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Program: Dr. Willson is a pediatric plastic surgeon at the University of Vermont Medical Center and assistant professor of surgery and pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. He specializes in cleft lip and palate repair, jaw surgery, rhinoplasty, cranioplasty, ear reconstruction, microsurgery, speech surgery, and more. He did his training in craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgery at University of California Los Angeles.

Donald Laub, MD: Dr. Laub is a long-standing member of the cleft program run through the state of Vermont and is continuing to provide care to patients with cleft lip and palate in the new clinic at UVM Children’s Hospital. He specializes in pediatric plastic surgery, hand surgery, and cleft lip and palate repair.

Leah Burke, MD: Dr. Burke is a pediatric geneticist and professor at the Larner College of Medicine. She has also been a long-standing member of the Vermont cleft team and provides genetic counseling and diagnosis to patients with cleft lip and palate and other cleft and craniofacial-related genetic conditions.

Nancy Gauvin, Ed.D., CCC-SLP: Dr. Gauvin is a speech pathologist, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Vermont. She works with our patients to identify speech issues and provide therapy guidance to our community speech pathologists.

Heather Herrington, MD: Dr. Herrington is an otolaryngologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and assistant professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM in Burlington, VT.  Children with cleft palate often need to have tympanostomies (ear tubes) placed early in life. Additionally, Dr Herrington works together with our speech pathologist and plastic surgeons to evaluate speech disorders related to cleft palate.

Kristen Daniels, PA-C, MSPAS, Cleft & Craniofacial Coordinator: Our patients require coordination of care among the different specialties they see throughout their treatment. Kristen is in contact with the patient’s and families as soon as possible after birth to help navigate and answer questions, and get them connected with the appropriate team members if they have any concerns.  

Chris Lundberg, DDS, MS, Matthew Rogers, DDS, and Fred Ziegler, DMD – Orthodontists.

Children with cleft often have teeth that are out of alignment and can have a small or collapsed upper jaw. The orthodontists on the team work together with our plastic surgeons to align the teeth with braces, perform palate expansion, and plan for jaw surgery if needed. Our orthodontists join us from their practice at Timberlane Dental.

How do I contact the clinic?

The clinic meets monthly at the University of Vermont Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery office located at 354 Mountain View Drive, Colchester, VT.  If you have questions regarding the clinic you may call our cleft & craniofacial coordinator Kristen Daniels, PA-C at 802-847-3340, or by email at

Kristen Daniels, PA-C, MSPAS, is a physician assistant in Plastic Surgery at the University of Vermont Medical Center, and is the Cleft & Craniofacial Coordinator. Prior to joining UVMMC she worked exclusively in pediatric plastic surgery, seeing patients with cleft lip and palate, craniofacial conditions, traumatic injuries, and upper extremity anomalies. She is a member of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, and President of the Association of Plastic Surgery Physician Assistants.

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