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Through the Eyes of the vonDeilen-Curtis Fellow in Craniofacial Surgery

Dr. Michael Friel was the vonDeilen-Curtis Fellow in Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery for 2012-2013. Here are his thoughts as he completed his year of training at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

In selecting a program for subspecialty training in craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgery, I focused on a few key critical elements. First and foremost, the people involved in my training was the single most important factor in choosing a program. Dr. Robert Havlik and Dr. Roberto Flores were the plastic surgeons on staff when I was interviewing. Both men have a passion for all facets of pediatric plastic surgery and craniofacial surgery, with particular interest in cleft lip and palate care. Both being nationally recognized surgical educators with training from some of the masters in the fields of craniofacial surgery and pediatric plastic surgery. It was evident from my initial meeting with both that they would push me to succeed. Further, the cleft and craniofacial clinic coordinator, Trish Severns, has been here for over thirty years. The nurse practitioner, Pat Terrell, has been here for over thirty years. The supporting staff of nurses in the office setting, Carol Ritter, Marilyn Price, and Lou Ann Epperson collectively have over 75 years of experience. By those figures alone, I thought, "this it has to be a great place to work!"

The clinical volume of patients and the variety of conditions was an equally important consideration. Riley has consistently been in the top tier among the Children's Hospitals in this category.

My third criteria was job placement. The graduating vonDeilen-Curtis Fellows have all gone on to successful careers with the majority involved in academic medical centers, here and abroad.

Finally, the research drive of the program was important to me. Routinely, the pediatric plastic surgery unit at Riley at IU Health presents at national and international meetings, and their research is published in multiple plastic surgery journals.

It was one of my highest professional honors when I found out I was selected as the vonDeilen-Curtis Fellow in Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at Riley Children's Hospital/Indiana University when the fellowship matching results were released.

My year at Riley at IU Health has been nothing short of spectacular. I assisted in over 400 operative procedures this year, expanding my knowledge base and learning from true masters in the field. The most common operations were related to cleft lip and palate care, with all spectrums of oral clefting evaluated and treated. Having gone through the repair of a bilateral cleft lip and palate as a child and adolescent, it was personally very rewarding for me to be a part of the care given to the cleft lip and palate patients. Additionally, I expanded my understanding of Pierre Robin Sequence, mandibular distraction, craniofacial trauma, ear reconstruction, and cranial vault reconstruction. Our research group presented new information on the nasal deformity and airway obstruction in patients with cleft lip and palate at local and international plastic surgery meetings. Our work in Pierre Robin Sequence has been published in plastic surgery journals.

One of the clinical highlights of the year was being selected as a Stryker Fellow with Operation Smile and spending time at the Comprehensive Cleft Care Center in Guwahati, India. I would not have been able to do this without the training I received at Riley. In April of this year, Dr. Havlik accepted a promotion as the Chairman of Plastic Surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He left such a tremendous imprint on all of us and will be a lifelong friend.

Midway through my 1-year fellowship, I accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Surgery, in the Division of Plastic Surgery at the University of Mississippi, located in Jackson, MS. My position as the the vonDeilen-Curtis Fellow in Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery ends in June and I will join the faculty at the University of Mississippi this summer. The position is based at Batson Children's Hospital and it is the only Level One children's hospital in the state. I will leave Riley with fond memories of the people I worked with and the lives that I was able to help. Think of me down south when you are digging out of the snow next December!

Michael Friel, M.D.

Trish Severns, MA

Author of this Article

Trish is the Cleft and Craniofacial Program Coordinator for Riley at IU Health. She is active in the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association where she serves on the Cleft Palate Foundation Leadership Award Committee.

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