Doctor is all smiles helping kids with cleft lips, palate problems
October 19, 2012 | Mike Cohen - Correspondent
TORONTO - Dr. Ronald Zuker, the man they call Dr. Smiles, was indeed grinning ear to ear recently when on World Smile Day (Oct. 5), VisitOrlando (www.visitorlando.ca), a destination responsible for making millions of people smile, teamed up with The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) in Toronto to help bring more smiles to children with cleft lips and/or palates.
On World Smile Day, the vacation destination famous for its smile-inducing, family-friendly attractions, including seven of the world’s top theme parks, donated $10,000 to help fund smile surgeries in the highly regarded Toronto hospital’s Facial Paraalysis Program. One lucky patient of the program, Josh Storey, also received a trip for four to visit Orlando.
“What a wonderful gift for Josh,” Dr. Zuker shared with the Jewish Tribune. “I have operated on him once for facial paralysis and we have one more surgery to go. His paralysis is on one side of the face so he is able to smile a bit.
“This donation will help families who come to Sick Kids for this surgery every year. These funds will also allow us to further our research into the movement and coordination of smiles, to help make these surgeries more effective in the future.”
Dr. Zuker conducts a dozen or more smile surgeries a year and consults with 50 children each year with various forms of facial paralysis. He is the former medical director of Sick Kids Cleft Lip and Palate Program for more than a decade and the co-director of the facial paralysis program at Sick Kids.
The Cleft Lip and Palate Program is recognized worldwide for providing excellence in cleft care. It is the largest program of its kind in North America. The program helps about 120 newborns a year and provides regular comprehensive follow-up for 3,500 children with cleft lip and/or palate.
“It is difficult work,” Dr. Zuker conceded, “but it is such a wonderful feeling to put a permanent smile on a child’s face. It is perhaps something most of us take for granted. I have found it very heartwarming to see my patients grow up, have families of their own and many of them still keep in touch.”
Dr. Zuker was born in Niagara Falls and received his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1969. His father was the president of B’nai Jacob Synagogue in Niagara and presided over the congregation’s expansion.
“My youngest son had his bar mitzvah there,” said Dr. Zuker.
After a rotating internship in Vancouver and a brief period of family practice in Scarborough, Dr. Zuker pursued his interest in anthropology and jungle medicine, spending one year working with the Shipibo Indians in the Amazon Basin in eastern Peru. He then entered the McGill University training program in surgery and completed the FRCSC in Plastic Surgery in 1976 through the Gallie Programme at the University of Toronto.
He received a one-year McLaughlin Travelling Fellowship to study micro vascular surgery and paediatric plastic surgery in Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Europe.
In 1978 he joined the staff of The Hospital for Sick Children as a consultant in plastic surgery. He was appointed as a lecturer in surgery in 1978 in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. Dr. Zuker was promoted to assistant professor in 1982, associate professor in 1987 and full professor in 1994. He served as chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Sick Kids from 1986 to 2002.
As a paediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeon, his primary interest is in facial reanimation and is the recognized worldwide authority.
To learn more about how to support the Facial Paralysis Program at SickKids, visit sickkidsfoundation.com.