Born with a cleft lip and palate, 18-year-old Emily Keefner has undergone 34 procedures at the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center. Under the care of Craniofacial Clinic director and reconstructive plastic surgeon Janice Lalikos, MD, since 2002, Keefner’s travails haven’t slowed her down.
For her resilience and commitment to her community, Keefner is one of three reconstructive plastic surgery patients to receive the Plastic Surgery Patients of Courage Award from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. She and her family traveled to San Diego to accept the award at the association’s annual meeting on Oct. 12.
Now in its tenth year, the award program recognizes reconstructive plastic surgery patients who use their experiences, strength and determination to help others in need and give back to their communities through charitable work.
Keefner, a college-bound senior at New Lebanon High School in New York, is a member of the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York, a certified first responder and an excellent flutist—a particularly difficult instrument for a cleft palate patient. She volunteers for the clinic, her local food pantry, the fire department and the Berkshire Humane Society.
She also has already raised nearly $8,000 for the Craniofacial Clinic—but won’t stop until the fund reaches its $50,000 goal in order to purchase a comprehensive cleft palate database system . “After 34 surgeries, I understand how this database system can benefit the Craniofacial Clinic and its patients,” said Keefner.
Dr. Lalikos, professor of surgery and pediatrics, was on hand to celebrate with the Keefners and join Emily in a discussion, new this year, among the honorees and their plastic surgeons about cultivating the doctor-patient relationship.
“What has impressed me most about Emily is her genuine desire to make a big positive difference in the world in spite of the cards dealt,” said Lalikos. “Her stamina, determination and compassion literally take my breath away.”
Hear more from Keefner and Lalikos in the video, produced by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and learn more about Keefner’s fundraising efforts to support the Craniofacial Clinic.