I am delighted and honoured to have been invited to take up the Chair of CLEFT International steering committee, having joined the expanded charity as a Trustee some 3 years ago. From the outset, I have been impressed by the generously outward facing nature of CLEFT, reflecting a commitment to widening access across the globe to high quality, locally delivered, fully comprehensive care for those with cleft and related conditions. The focus on capacity development, along with well targeted infrastructure and equipment support, aligns with the what many of us feel is best practice as we seek to foster partnerships in diverse settings.

The CLEFT community has been a great joy to join, bringing with it a vast range of experiences and expertise which all are committed to using to forge the most responsive and collaborative approach with our partner colleagues around the world. That includes some much-needed awareness of potential pitfalls in the use of scarce funds, and the distortion in health economies that can arise when asymmetry in resources between nations is not managed sensitively.

My background is that I am now a ‘retired’ (of sorts …) cleft surgeon from the Spires team in Oxford, having seen cleft care in this country move from an archaic ‘surgeon-centred’ system, with a legacy of very variable outcomes for children and adults, to a comprehensive multi-disciplinary service that offers what I am proud to say must be one of the better systems globally. I am a Londoner through and through, growing up and training in the big smoke, and only arrived in Oxford in 1991 having initially been a general surgical registrar. My wife and I took our little 1yr old to Tanzania to work for 2 years in the early 80’s, where I delivered my son as well as getting well and truly addicted to using surgery to reconstruct – or plastic surgery in other words.

We returned to England in 1985 where I began plastic surgery training – and spent the weekend of ‘Live Aid’ listening to the radio whilst operating all hours of day and night at Mt Vernon! As well as training there and at Roehampton, Charing Cross, and UCH, I visited the pioneering cleft teams in Sweden and Norway, as well as a cleft-career-changing visit to the late Dr Sam Noordhoff in Taiwan. Ever since returning from Africa, I continued to travel back to support plastic surgery development in Uganda, and have maintained those links over several decades now. My links have subsequently extended to Pakistan and East DRC (Congo), as well as cleft teaching visits to Ukraine in the 90’s, China lecturing on 3 occasions, and many contacts whilst chairing BAPRAS’s Overseas group and latterly the Global Affairs group of the RCS in London.

I remain passionate about improving the standards of cleft care wherever possible, and am delighted to have this role with CLEFT and alongside the incredibly committed team of student and trainee supporters, fund raisers, research active colleagues, Trustees and staff team. I would hope to see CLEFT become the ‘go to’ organisation for every cleft team in the UK and Ireland who want to have an outward facing element to their service as well as research. That might ideally be with the forging of longer-term twinning relationships between teams here and in low-Income nations, and the development of richly rewarding two way partnerships with colleagues of all disciplines. I hope that this might not be entirely with travel to and fro, but also with stimulating teaching programmes and mentorship of those with an interest in cleft care in whatever setting.

I always welcome feedback and communication, especially with constructive ideas if accompanied by offers of how to enact them!

On the home front I am married to Kate with 3 children and 8 grandchildren, and have far too many interests both sport-watching, musically, and art and travelling. I am fortunate enough to be a member of the MCC alongside a season ticket at Tottenham Hotspur, so have plenty of experience at enduring the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory! I am a keen opera-goer, as well as loving jazz, folk, and just about all genres of music other than C&W!

Tim Goodacre


July 2023