Marina is a world traveller, instructor, proud parent and one of the leading Pediatric Dentists providing cleft care in Latin America. She’s an integral part of the team of experts at Fundación Gantz, our Chilean partner, who are providing some of the best comprehensive care in the region.

Fundación Gantz: A Team of Experts, A Centre of Excellence

Marina joined Gantz early in her career, and spent her first ten years volunteering her time as the team’s dentist (while also working full-time elsewhere).

She explains that “every time I worked at Gantz and I had a problem in my personal life, the problem disappeared. Working with these patients, you begin to look at the world in a different way.”

Fundación Gantz is known for being a centre of excellence. Once a month, the entire team conducts patient assessments, ensuring there’s an interaction between all specialties so that patients receive the best care. Teaching parents and caregivers about long-term cleft care is a priority, especially since many children require support for up to the first 20 years of their lives! “When you work with a baby, it’s not just the baby you get,” she tells us. “It’s mom, grandma, the aunties – all invested and asking questions.” Marina and her colleagues educate and involve parents, patients and family members every step of the way, ensuring that everyone is fully invested in the treatment plan.

When Marina first joined, Gantz already had a multidisciplinary cleft care team established. “Today, it is more of an interdisciplinary team. We interact more. We know what each other is doing.” 

The successes of the experienced team has created a high demand for their comprehensive services, beyond Gantz’s current capacity to deliver. Last year, Marina was seeing up to 40 patients a day! Sometimes, she says, they would travel from over 1,000km away to reach the centre, “so it’s difficult to send them away! I try to fit them all in.”

Their stories of resilience inspire her, and she tells us that “it’s never been a burden. I look at what I can do, how I can help, and how I can support the parents.”

Bringing Love to the Job

When asked what inspired her to work with cleft patients, Marina’s face instantly lights up. “The work with babies is very rewarding,” she smiles. “I think they know something we don’t. They know I’m doing [my work] with love.”

In fact, she’s known as the “baby whisperer” in her networks. Once, after teaching a course for health minsters in Chile, a prominent official approached her and said “I need to talk to you about something serious!” Marina’s heart stopped for a moment. She was surprised by what she heard next: “What is the name of your perfume? These babies are crying all the time, but when you pick them up – they stop!”

Many medical professionals struggle to work with young patients. “They feel so concerned and affected when they see a baby with a cleft,” Marina notes. “They are only able to connect with the sad part. I’m looking to the results. I know the baby has a cleft, but I’m looking to the result that can come if I do my work properly.”

Advancing Comprehensive Care in South America

Today, Marina is one of Latin America’s foremost experts on nasoalveolar moulding (NAM), a technique used to help reshape a young patient’s nose, gums and lips  before surgery. In fact, she’s delivered NAM treatments to over 500 patients in her career, and gets calls from specialists around the world asking for her advice.

Her passion and warmth shine through in her work, and some of the most consistent feedback she receives after leading a workshop is that the participants can see the knowledge she shares comes from her heart.

Marina is committed to passing her expertise to the next generation, and is currently training Patricia, an up and coming young dentist. “It’s important to share this knowledge,” she says, and for the person who takes over one day “to be really passionate. Patricia can also see the results – when I began working with her, I felt like she was me 20 years ago!”

Marina’s Message to Us

We asked Marina what she wished people around the would could know about cleft lip and palate. She thinks for a moment.

“If people from other countries could visit our centre, that would be the best thing! Cleft lip and palate can feel so far away when you hear about it. I wish more people could see it. It’s one of the most common birth defects! And people don’t know that it’s not just affecting the face. It’s the voice. It’s the hearing…

And it’s not just about the surgery. We really try to give patients support in all areas. It’s important that they have follow-up care, and support from professionals in different areas. That’s the great thing about Gantz. We have support in all the areas. We have great professionals here, not just putting in their hours, but really committed to the work they do. They’re all trying to do what’s best for the patients.”

She adds, “TF has been really support of Gantz, it’s a very good partnership.” Reflecting on her time working with Gantz and Transforming Faces, she notes that it’s been “an opportunity to see so many patients, teach NAM across the country, learn all that I have learned, work with many professionals. I hope it makes a difference for the patients.”