Craniofacial Fellowship


The Craniofacial Fellowship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill selected its first Fellow in 2007. Each year, applicants for the Fellowship are encouraged to apply through the San Francisco Match (  Previous applicants and their biographies can be found at the following URL: UNC Plastic Surgery/Education /Craniofacial Fellowship.
The UNC Craniofacial Fellowship focuses on all aspects of care for children with craniofacial deformities such as cleft lip and palate, Tessier Clefts,  isolated craniosynostosis, syndromic conditions associated with synotosis; ear abnormalities, including microtia, hard tissue anomalies including Craniofacial Microsomia, Pierre Robin anomalies, and unusual conditions such as arhinia and micropthalmia.
Fellows will provide multidisciplinary care for these patients and participate actively in the planning and execution of all surgical procedures. Fellows are expected to participate in the care of these children on a junior-attending level. By the close of the fellowship, fellows should have a solid surgical foundation in the primary repair of cleft lips and noses, palates, revisional surgery of the lip and cleft nose; alveolar bone grafting, open rhinoplasty, and orthognathic surgery. At the end of the training year, the Fellow is encouraged to go on an overseas cleft surgical trip either to the Middle East or to South America.
Requirements for the Fellowship:
Completion of an ACGME Residency in Plastic Surgery, Oral Maxillofacial Surgery, or Otolaryngology is required.
Three letters of recommendation, curriculum vitae, and a personal statement should be sent to Dr. John van Aalst (
Craniofacial Fellowship Faculty:
John A. van Aalst, MD (UNC)
Earl A. Gage, MD (UNC)
David Matthews, MD (Charlotte, NC)
Additional Faculty:
David Zajac, PhD (Director Speech and Language Center)
Scott Hultman, MD (Chief Plastic Surgery, Pediatric Burns)
Kamil Erfanian, MD (Director of Hand Center, Pediatric Hand)
Amelia Drake, MD (Chief, Pediatric Otolaryngology)
Pedro Santiago, DMD (Orthodontics)
Dean Morrell, MD (Chief, Pediatric Dermatology)
We look forward to receiving your application.
John A. van Aalst, MD, MA, FACS

Integration of the Fellowship into the Plastic Surgery Program

Because of UNC’s long-standing commitment to the Plastic Residency Program, a great deal of thought went into avoiding disruption of the Residency when the CF Fellowship was inaugurated. In order to protect the case numbers for the Plastic Surgery residents, the CF fellow is responsible for cases on an alternating basis with the residents. Craniofacial surgery is performed regularly on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. On a given week, the CF fellow is the first assistant on Mondays and Fridays, and then the following week on Wednesdays. The Plastic Surgery residents are the first assistants on alternating days. In this way, the fellow is able to meet his/her obligations, and the residents likewise meet their obligations for case numbers. The CF fellow attends weekly conferences, including Plastic Surgery Grand Rounds, Indications, and Morbidity and Mortality. He/she presents surgical complications in which he/she was the first assistant. The Plastic Surgery residents present the cases in which they were principally involved. The CF fellow takes craniofacial trauma call every 4th day, while the residents are on call every third day. The CF fellow only covers craniofacial issues, while the residents cover the full gamut of Plastic Surgery. The fellow therefore focuses on his/her area of expertise, and the residents cover all other cases.

In addition, the CF fellow travels to Charlotte, NC to work with Oral Surgery and Plastic Surgery attendings one in every five weeks. During this time period, the Plastic Surgery residents cover all craniofacial cases at UNC, Chapel Hill.

How the CF Fellowship strengthens the Plastic Surgery Program

UNC has one of the longest standing Craniofacial Teams in the United States. There are two multidisciplinary clinics and the multidisciplinary team conference on a weekly basis. The Plastic Surgery residents have historically not had the time to attend theses clinics or conferences; the Craniofacial fellow attends regularly. The fellow is therefore able to establish a presence for the Division of Plastic Surgery in a way that the residents are not able.

The CF fellow is also able to strengthen the Residency program by being an active teacher, both to junior residents rotating on the Plastic Surgery service (including residents from General Surgery, Otolaryngology, as well as Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery), and among the Plastic Surgery residents themselves. He/she is able to teach protocols for cleft and craniofacial care that supplements the teaching of the attendings.

For more information about the Plastic Surgery Craniofacial Fellowship, contact either John van Aalst, MD or Earl Gage, MD at (919) 843-1087 or email them at and