HALIFAX -- A Halifax boy born with a cleft lip and palate got an unexpected visit from Dr. Robert Strang Wednesday. 

Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, was born with the same condition as seven-year-old Hughie Dauphinee.

After hearing that Hughie looked up to him, he decided to visit. 

“He had a little discussion with Hughie about his own surgeries, and how difficult they can be,” said Dawn Dauphinee, Hughie’s mother. “I know he’s a busy man, so to take the time and come see Hughie, it was a special event for us.”

Dr. Strang also gave Hughie a gift: a stuffed, cartoon version of a COVID-19 cell.

Hughie Dauphinee

Hughie with his stuffed COVID-19 cell, and Dr. Robert Strang Wednesday evening. (Photo submitted by Dawn Dauphinee)

“This stuffy is very special to me,” said Hughie, holding it tight with both hands. “At Christmas, I’m going to hang him on the tree.”

Hughie has even come up with a name for the stuffed toy.

“His first name’s COVID, his middle name is ‘nine’, and his last name is ‘teen’,” he said proudly.

Hughie and Dawn Dauphinee

Hughie and Dawn Dauphinee. (Photo: Cory McGraw)

Hughie was born with a cleft lip and palate, and has been in and out of the IWK Health Centre getting care. He also needed some other surgeries. 

“Hugh was also born with a cranial-facial difference, so he will have surgery to reconstruct his nose,” says Dawn before Hughie interrupts— “My name’s Hughie!” he says, whispering in his mother's ear.

Hughie adds that he’s had five surgeries on his spine, Dawn says the doctors at the IWK have been “wonderful” in caring for him.


“We were watching Dr. Strang address the province. I pointed out to Hughie that Dr. Strang also had a cleft lip and palate,” said Dawn. “Hughie started bouncing around the house, so excited that Dr. Strang had a cleft lip and palate just like him.”

Dawn texted her neighbour, a doctor who knows Dr. Strang, complimenting Strang’s work.

“So our neighbor, Dr. John Gillis, is good friends with Dr. Strang, and so I had sent him a text saying what a wonderful job he’s been doing, keeping our province safe and getting us back on track,” said Dawn. “And that Hughie was a really big fan.

That night, Dawn and Hughie got a knock on their door. Peeking over a mask was Dr. Strang. 

Hugh Dauphinee

Hughie hugs his gift from Dr. Strang. (Photo: Cory McGraw)

“I like that he uses kind words, and that he gave me this stuffy,” said Hughie, hugging it against his cheek with a smile. “There’s not many people out there that have a cleft palate.”

“It’s so important for Hughie to have a great role model like Dr. Strang,” says Dawn. “He’s doing such a phenomenal job and it just goes to show what a class act he is, and that he’s walking the walk as well.”