Pioneers in Plastic Surgery: Doctors

Susan Anderson

by Susan Anderson | September 4, 2012 @ 03:00PM

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There have been many significant advancements in the field of plastic and cosmetic surgery since the very first skin graft was performed in 2000 BC or since the first major plastic surgery was performed in the western world in 1815. Often, it is the procedure that is significant, but today we look at the people behind the movement who have made headlines and brought positive attention to this ever-expanding specialty.

Sir Harold Gillies

Sir Harold GilliesWidely known as the father of plastic surgery, Sir Harold Gillies' curiosity for facial repair inspired the establishment of the first facial injury ward at the Cambridge Military Hospital during World War I. It was during this war that Gillies and his colleagues developed numerous plastic surgery techniques and performed over 11,000 operations on over 5,000 men. His early techniques involved taking casts of the men’s faces to aid in the reconstruction. It was for these many efforts that Gillies was knighted in 1930.

His accomplishments went on to include one of the first gender reassignment surgeries (female to male) in 1946. In 1951, with the  assistance of colleagues he completed one of the first modern sex reassignment surgeries from male to female using a flap technique which became the standard for 40 years.

Franklin L. Ashley

Franklin L. AshleyFranklin L. Ashley is quite likely the very first plastic surgeon to the stars. In a time when it was frowned upon to undergo “work” several famous faces were stepping into the limelight to sing the praises of Dr. Ashley. After actress Ann-Margret experienced that 22 foot fall from the stage at the Lake Tahoe nightclub in 1972, she turned to Dr. Ashley to repair the damage to her face and when John Wayne needed a fresh face, he turned to Dr. Ashley for a face lift. Actress/Comedian Phyllis Diller is perhaps one of his most outspoken clients having undergone 15 procedures in all.  Four were performed by Dr. Ashley including a complete face lift with rhinoplasty and neck job (1971), breast reduction (1974), tummy tuck (1976), mini face lift (1981).

Phyllis DillerBefore Dr. Ashley became Hollywood’s top doctor, he was in the Navy. He was aboard the Hornet during the Japanese attacks in 1943 during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Of that experience, Dr. Ashley said he became an instant expert in reconstructing bodies which led to his concentration on plastic surgery following the war.

"Our lives should not be run by vanity. Still, it's important that we look as good as we can, as long as there is no danger involved. And if a person's general condition is good, if his heart and lungs are okay, there's no reason why he or she shouldn't have plastic surgery." --Dr. Ashley

Dr. Ralph Millard

Dr. Ralph MillardDr. D. Ralph Millard is considered the founder of modern reparative surgery and the father of modern plastic surgery and is best known for developing a method of correcting cleft lips that has saved children all over the world. During his lifetime he served in the US Navy as a plastic surgeon, Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and received numerous awards, appointments and positions at esteemed universities and institutions including Harvard Medical School, Yale University School of Medicine and Miami Children's Hospital to name a few.

Millard was a tough teacher, but a generous physician. He often would only charge patients the bare minimum. He spent decades treating the poor and underserved around the world and set up funds to help those families with surgeries, with food and with transportation. In 2000, Millard was nominated by the American Society of Plastic Surgery for “Plastic Surgeon of the Millennium” as one of ten recipients.

“I pay for my fine wines and cruises with fees on elective surgery. When someone absolutely needs me on something that is very difficult, I charge the minimum.” --Dr. Millard

Dr. Robert Rey

Dr. Robert ReyDr. 90210 made his mark in plastic surgery history when in 2004 he became the star of the reality television series Dr. 90210. Already a national correspondent for The View, The Today Show and Good Morning America, Dr. Rey’s fun personality and boyish good looks had Hollywood’s attention much earlier. In 1980, Dr. Rey became a member of the Screen Actors Guild after starring in television commercials and acting as a consultant for the film, Se7en. He isn’t all beauty, though, as he has some serious credentials from leading medical programs including Harvard University and Tufts University School of Medicine.

Dr. Rey is credited with bringing positive media attention to the cosmetic surgery industry and being one of the leaders of minimal scar plastic surgery.

“You don't know the meaning of the word 'stress' until you are asked to take a knife to a perfect-looking face to make it even more perfect.” --Dr. Rey

Dr. Grant Stevens

Dr. Grant StevensDr. Grant Stevens, founder and Medical Director of Marina Plastic Surgery Associates, famously coined the term “gummy bear” implants in 2012. Referring to Sientra breast implants, Stevens noted how the implants retained their shape and stability even after being cut in half much like the popular gummy bear candy.  

Stevens is also the developer of the Stevens Laser Bra. This pioneer breast lift procedure is designed to help create a beautiful, more effective and long lasting breast lift for today’s active lifestyles.

“If you removed the shell covering, the silicone inside would retain its shape. I got tired of explaining to patients that they’re sort of like Jello-which, when you cut in squares, holds its shape. One day I just said, ‘they’re like gummy bears.’” --Dr. Stevens

Do you know of any more present-day plastic surgery pioneers?  Let us know in the comments!

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