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News, Santa Monica

Memorial Mass Thursday For St. John's Plastic Surgeon Dr. Janet K. Salomonson

Janet Salomonson M.D, FACS
Courtesy Photo
Janet Salomonson M.D, FACS

Posted Sep. 25, 2013, 8:35 am

Susan Cloke / Mirror Columnist

St. John’s announced with great sadness the death of Dr. Janet K. Salomonson earlier this month. A memorial mass will be held at Saint John’s this Thursday, Sept. 26 at 12 pm in the Sister Marie Madeleine Chapel.

“Our beloved Medical Director of the Cleft Palate Services and gifted plastic surgeon, passed away Sept. 10 after an illness," St. John's released in a statement.

"While an intensely private person, she was known throughout Saint John’s and the surrounding community, and internationally, for her deep devotion to her patients, their families and her associates.

“At Saint John’s, she held the position of Section Chief of Plastic Surgery and served as a member of the Surgery Committee, the Pediatric Committee, and the Surgical Value Analysis Team.”

Donations may be made in honor of Dr. Salomonson’s work to the following organizations:

Faces of Hope:


In 2011 Dr. Salomonson agreed to be interviewed for the Hometown Hero column. She wanted people to know about the problem of cleft palate, that it was a solvable problem, and the work of the organizations Faces of Hope and Rotoplast.

What follows is the reprint of the 2011 column:

Santa Monica plastic surgeon Janet Salomonson will be in Guatemala this coming summer performing operations to correct the birth anomaly of cleft palate. “We never turn away any child who is healthy enough to go through the operation. I stay for one or sometimes two weeks in the host country and typically perform about five operations every day. We work until the work is done,” said Dr. Salomonson.

“For reasons we still don’t know, even though the human genome has been mapped, normal structures don’t form in the lip and palate and children are born with cleft palate. Not only is cleft palate disfiguring, it’s important to have the structures in place as early as possible so the child can learn to speak correctly. It’s best to do the operations in stages. We do the lip first, especially with a child under 10 months and then return to repair the palate.

“If the cleft palate is not corrected when they are very young the child can still learn to speak, but often they can’t speak clearly and can have difficulty being understood.”

Salomonson has been to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and the Philippines to perform cleft palate surgeries. This is her tenth year of working with Faces of Hope and Rotaplast, two Rotary sponsored groups, which arrange trips for teams of medical professionals to work internationally donating their much-needed medical skills.

“We go with a spirit of humility and with respect for the local culture. We work with the local people. Their knowledge is helpful to the success of our work. We partner, whenever possible, with local physicians and are always on the look out for local physicians who want to be trained in cleft palate surgery.

“We bring the supplies, everything from sutures to anesthesia,

our own scrubs, antibiotics, so that we are not taking from the local facility.” Doctor Salomonson noted.

The visits of the medical teams are announced on the radio, in the newspapers and on banners and flyers. The radio seems to be the way most people learn about the program.

The organizing group goes ahead of the medical team and scouts out the situation in the host country to make sure that the basic requirements for operating and achieving good surgical outcomes can be met. They also make the arrangements for lodging and meals for the medical team members.

The daughter of Swedish immigrants to Minnesota she has the famous Midwestern straightforward manner and self –deprecating style. Her mom was a stay at home mom and her dad worked on road construction. They wanted the American dream of education and a better life for their child.

Her parents had originally met when her mom was a ‘summer child’ on a farm. It is a typical Swedish custom, kind of the Swedish equivalent of sending your kid to camp, for city children to go to farms in the summer. On the farm she was given a kitten, the food was great and she had a wonderful time. She liked the entire farm family, including the older son. Years later, they met again and decided to marry.

Salomonson’s path to studying medicine was incremental. She knew when she was in Maplewood High School in St. Paul, Minnesota that she was drawn to math and science.

This took her to the University Of Minnesota as an undergraduate to study Chemical Engineering. Many of her professors worked in the field of bioengineering and medicine. Salomonson admired their work and decided she would apply to medical school and become a medical researcher.

In Medical School, also at the University of Minnesota, she fell in love with the clinical work and decided that, as much as the research meant to her, it would mean more to work with patients. One more incremental move took her to UCLA for a surgical residency, starting in general surgery and then specializing in plastic surgery.

Now she has the hard earned and well deserved prestigious title, Janet Salomonson, MD, FACS, Plastic Surgeon/Medical Director of the Cleft Palate Center at Saint John's Cleft Center.

At the invitation of a beloved former teacher, Salomonson went back to Minnesota to give the commencement address at her old high school. She told the graduates, “You won’t remember for long who won the super bowl or even the Nobel Prize, but you will remember the teachers who taught you about the world and the people who were important to you. Fame is not what is important. What is important are the people in our lives.”

Post a comment


Sep. 25, 2013, 10:37:55 am

Kit Dreyfuss said...

What an inspiring story. Thanks.

Sep. 25, 2013, 1:28:31 pm

Patti A said...

Dr. Salomonson will be greatly missed by all those who were fortunate to know her. She was a gifted surgeon who had great compassion for her patients and who dedicated her life to improving the quality of life of others. God bless you Dr. Salomonson.

Sep. 25, 2013, 4:14:46 pm

Julie Medina said...

My son and I will always carry the memory of her in our hearts. She was there the first day of my son's life and remained an important person in our lives for over fifteen years. We will miss her dearly.

Sep. 25, 2013, 11:02:41 pm

Nuesca Family said...

We were so blessed to have Dr. Salomonson in our lives. Our son's smile will be our constant memory of what an amazing, dedicated and compassionate surgeon and person she was. We were really shocked and saddened by the news of her passing.

Sep. 26, 2013, 8:00:51 am

Dr Barnouti said...

really painful,,,,,i heard her name in my college days,,,,great loss

Sep. 26, 2013, 10:16:37 am

Marshall Ismail Family said...

My son and my family will always remember her and be grateful and blessed that her amazing hands touched our lives. She has been a part of our family for over 10 years . She will be greatly missed. God bless you Dr. Salomonson.

Sep. 27, 2013, 4:53:13 pm

Laurel and John Inferrera said...

We will always cherish the important role Dr. Salomonson played in our lives. She will have our affection, gratitude, and respect always.

Sep. 29, 2013, 12:59:29 pm

Marie Magnusson said...

We are some of Janets relatives from Sweden, and we are so happy that we had the oppurtunity to visit Janet in LA in May. We know she was delighted too. We miss her so much! Marie, Göran, Astrid, Leiah.

Sep. 30, 2013, 9:07:12 pm

Tim Wall said...

I was sorry to hear of her passing. I am her next door neighbor here in Minnesota. She would usually come twice during the summer to spend some time taking care of her family home her father built.

Oct. 5, 2013, 10:20:20 pm

Barbara McLoughlin said...

What a wonderful honor knowing Dr. S. She is the most personable physician i have ever met. Her skills are not to be matched. She will be missed so much, but memories of her will always warm my heart.

Oct. 8, 2013, 9:51:38 am

Nancy said...

I was referred to Dr. Salomonson by my dermatologist over a year ago. She was so personable with me that I felt I had made a new friend in the medical field. She had such a beautiful spirit. She will be sorely issed.

Oct. 11, 2013, 10:07:08 pm

L. Aguilar said...

Our family was devastated hearing of Dr. Salomonson's passing. We known her for more than 20 years and she was truly an angel on Earth.

Nov. 11, 2013, 12:38:41 am

barbro ericsson said...

A few days ago i received the tragic news that Dr Janet Salomonson has passed away. Janet past away far too early and she had so much more to give. In my mind Janet was a strong person whom i have many fond memories of. Thank you Janet for being a part of my life. Barbro Ericsson cousin in Sweden.

Nov. 11, 2013, 2:14:00 pm

agneta karlsson said...

jag har också många trevliga minnen när janet var i Sverige Min Mamma Eva karlsson är kusin med Janet. Agneta Eva och Birger som också är kusin till Janet.

Nov. 12, 2013, 10:13:04 am

Sven-Eric Söderberg said...

Ha de bra där du är. KRAM Kusin Svenne Sverige

Nov. 12, 2013, 11:55:36 am

maria östergren said...

I am happy to get to know you.. You are missed by many, even by me. A final message from your cousin Maria in Sweden.

Nov. 13, 2013, 9:58:04 pm

Joyce C. Curtis said...

Dearest Janet, my friend for so many years. I remember meeting you about 30 years ago in Santa Monica. Stories of your dogs, Dr. Alexander Mueller, your trips back east and around the world providing skilled surgery for poor families. I love watching children pass through your office door playing and smiling. You had the gift of touching many lives with your miracle surgeries. I will miss you so much. I will never forget you.... All my love and sympathy to your family, Joyce A. Curtis in Torrance, California

Mar. 30, 2014, 2:36:31 pm

violet said...

She was such a wonderful doctor. Truly cared about her little patients. May she rest in peace

Dec. 3, 2014, 12:25:55 am

Arlee Oppenheim said...

I am so very sorry to learn of the passing of Dr. Janet Salomonson. She was a compassionate and very dedicated doctor. I had interviewed several surgeons when my daughter needed some reconstructive surgery, and Dr. Salomonson made me feel so at ease about what she could and would eventually do for my daughter. I immediately felt confident in her approach and abilities and knew I had made the right choice. As our family got to know Dr. Salomonson through my daughter's recovery time and other procedures, I began to realize how special she was and how special she made my daughter feel. We all loved her for many reasons and will miss her very much. It was an honor to know her as she touched our lives very deeply. May her memory be a blessing.

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