Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

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The History Of Plastic Surgery At McGill University


The development of Plastic Surgery at McGill University closely paralleled the rapid expansion of reconstructive surgery in Canada and other countries throughout the world. For the past three decades, McGill has been in the forefront of new developments in Plastic Surgery teaching, in basic laboratory research, in the care of children with congenital anomalies, in hand surgery, in the care of patients with facial and spinal injuries, in burn treatment, and in the rapidly developing exciting area of microsurgery.

The Early Days.

Plastic Surgery at McGill University was recognized as a definitive specialty in the early 1930s. The first fully trained Plastic Surgeon was Dr. John W. Gerrie who entered practice in 1935 at the Montreal General Hospital with affiliate appointments at St. Mary's Hospital, the Queen Mary Veterans' Hospital, and the Montreal Children's Hospital. Dr. Gerrie was a graduate in Dentistry from McGill in the early 1920s and in Medicine in 1931. His internship at the Montreal General Hospital was completed in 1933 and he then practiced for nine months in Cadomin, Alberta. His early interest in Plastic Surgery stimulated his visits to the few Plastic Surgery Centers at that time in St. Louis, Missouri where he spent three months with Vilray Blair and James Barrett Brown and then he proceeded to spend time with Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald MacIndoe at Bart's Hospital in London. He became an Otolaryngology Registrar at the Golden Square Hospital in London and following his return to Canada, he spent some time with Fulton Risdon, A. W. Farmer, and Stuart Gordon in Toronto. Dr. Gerrie was thus trained in Dentistry, Otolaryngology, and Plastic Surgery and at that time, there were very few, if any, procedures carried out in Plastic Surgery as we now know it. The taking of skin grafts was very rare and cleft lip and cleft palate surgery was performed by Dr. Dudley Ross at the Montreal Children's Hospital and by Dr. Ralph Fitzgerald at the Montreal General Hospital. Dr. Gerrie brought home the first dermatome from Kansas City in 1936 during one of his visits to that area where he had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Earl Padgett. Dr. Gerrie continued his long interest in facial surgery and he became President of the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons.

The second Plastic Surgeon to arrive in Montreal was Hamilton Baxter who started practice at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Montreal Children's Hospital in 1937. Dr. Baxter trained at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and he also trained under the outstanding group in St. Louis. Dr. Baxter was an enthusiastic, well trained surgeon with many new ideas and techniques for development of the specialty. Dr. Baxter quickly became an influence in Plastic Surgery in North America at that time and he wrote several key articles, particularly in burn treatment and in repair of cleft palate defects. Drs. Gerrie and Baxter represented the specialty of Plastic Surgery for nine or ten years until the end of the second Great War. At that time, Dr. Gerrie was actively engaged in a busy practice at the Queen Mary Veterans' Hospital where there was a 70 bed unit and he was in desperate need of assistance. About this time, Dr. Frederick M. Woolhouse accepted a position at the Queen Mary Veterans' Hospital, directly from active service in the navy and Dr. Georges Cloutier, who had trained with Sumner Koch in Chicago was similarly secunded from the air force. Dr. Woolhouse graduated from McGill University Medical School in 1936 and after completing his General Surgical Residency, he entered the service of the Canadian Navy serving from 1940 to 1946 as the Medical Officer on the H.M.C.S. Assiniboine and then as Surgeon at the Royal Canadian Naval Hospital in Halifax. He trained with Dr. Farmer in Toronto and then visited Plastic Surgery Clinics at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and the Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia. He and Dr. Farmer treated a large number of burn patients following a disastrous Knights of Columbus Recreation Hall fire in St. John's, Newfoundland, and then he proceeded to further his studies at Basingstoke Neurological and Plastic Surgery Hospital in England and then to East Grinstead with Sir Archibald MacIndoe, at St. Alban's with Rainsford Mowlen, and at Rooksdown House with Sir Harold Gillies at Stoke Mandeville in England. He returned to Montreal in February, 1946, and became a Consultant in Plastic Surgery at the Queen Mary Veterans' Hospital and Director of Plastic Surgery at the Montreal Children's Hospital and a member of the Plastic Surgery Division at the Montreal General Hospital. Dr. Woolhouse was one of the founding members of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons and a Past President of the organization. He has been a great influence on the teaching of Plastic Surgery residents and an annual prize in his name is awarded to the resident who presents the best paper at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons.

These were the busy years of reconstructive surgery at McGill with new advances in maxillofacial surgery, in burn treatment, and in local and pedicle flap development. It was common to see many veterans who were undergoing reconstructive surgery at the Queen Mary Veterans Hospital with tubed pedicles on various parts of their body during these staged procedures. This rich and rapid development of the specialty stimulated other surgeons to further their training in Plastic Surgery and to join the staff at McGill University -- Dr. John Drummond, Dr. Martin Entin, and Dr. Albert M. Cloutier.

Dr. John A. Drummond graduated in Dentistry from the University of Toronto in 1934 and practiced dentistry in Sarnia until 1939. When World War II broke out, Dr. Drummond entered medical school at McGill and graduated in 1943. He served in the navy during the war and joined the staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Plastic Surgery in 1951 and became Chief of the subdepartment in 1966. Dr. Drummond was a kind and thoughtful surgeon with great consideration for others. He was President of the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Quebec Society of Plastic Surgeons. He died in 1970 at the age of 59 after a prolonged illness with heart disease.

Dr. Martin Entin graduated from McGill University Medical School in 1945 after receiving his B.A. from Temple University and a M.Sc. from McGill. His postgraduate training in hand surgery was under the tutelage of Sterling Bunnell in San Francisco and Dr. Entin has maintained a life long major interest in hand surgery. After training, he joined the attending staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital and obtained a consultant's position at the Shriners' Hospital.

Dr. Entin became the Surgeon-in-Charge of Plastic Surgery at the Royal Victoria and his major interest in basic research was devoted to thermal injuries, wringer injuries, and hand surgery. He is a major contributor to the specialized area of congenital anomalies of the upper extremity with many publications in this field including a landmark paper on "The Classification of Congenital Hand Anomalies". Dr. Entin is a Past-President of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. He continues to be a major influence and support at the McGill Plastic Surgery Interhospital Rounds and in other aspects of surgical teaching. He received the Distinguished Service Award in November, 1994, from the Royal Victoria Hospital and he is the President of the Canadian Authors Association.

Dr. Albert M. Cloutier was born in Quebec City and graduated from McGill University in 1951. He completed his General Surgical component years at the Montreal General Hospital and then his Plastic Surgery Residency was divided between the Montreal General, the Montreal Children's, and with one year training at the University of Toronto with Drs. Farmer, Gordon, and Robertson. Prior to medical school, Dr. Cloutier served as an Officer in the Canadian Armoured Corps with numerous exploits in the front-line battles. Dr. Cloutier was awarded a McLaughlin Traveling Fellowship and he visited centers in England in 1957 following which he returned to the Montreal Children's Hospital and he also has an appointment at the Reddy Memorial Hospital. Dr. Cloutier has always been rich in new and innovative techniques and he developed his personal operation for repair of hypospadias and for the correction of prominent ears. His contributions to the McGill Interhospital Rounds continue to be legendary.

Dr. Frederick V. Nicolle joined the attending staff of the Montreal General and Montreal Children's Hospitals in 1962. He was a graduate of Cambridge University in 1956 and he completed his Plastic Surgery Residency within the McGill Hospitals. His early career involved research into silicone tendon rods and implants for small joint arthrodeses. He and Professor Calnan of England developed a silicone and stainless steel joint implant for treatment of rheumatoid arthritic deformities in the hand. Within a few years, Dr. Nicolle returned to London, England, and he is currently practicing in that city. He continues to be a major contributor to our specialty and he has been active in the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Dr. H. Bruce Williams, M.D.C.M., F.R.C.S. (C), F.A.C.S.

Program Director, Plastic Surgery

McGill University