You may have heard about Archibald McIndoe, famous historical surgeon, and pioneer of plastic surgery. But there probably is not a lot that you know about his personal or professional life.
We may all know the great Archibald McIndoe as the founder and father of plastic and facial reconstruction surgery, but most people do not know much else. Nor do they know his motivations for pioneering the field of plastic surgery. Unlike today, where the main reasons for getting plastic surgery done is self-improvement. Dr Archibald McIndoe actually pioneered the field for more altruistic reasons.
Let us start at the beginning to where and when he was born. Archibald McIndoe was born in New Zealand on May 4, 1900. Archibald McIndoe was not actually born to a family of scientists or doctors. Instead, his parents were artists. He was the second of four children between a printer, father and an artist, mother.
The first hospital he served at was at Walkato Hospital in New Zealand. Shortly after that, he was awarded to go on a scholarship program to study anatomy at the world famous Mayo Clinic in the United States. To go on the trip, he had to keep his marriage secret with his new wife Adonia Altkin. He had to keep his marriage secret because the scholarship program was only for single men.
After he impressed his professors at the Mayo Clinic, some senior doctors of his suggest that he move to further continue his studies. He then moved to London on following his advice.
He actually could not find proper work in London, and this may have been a good thing for the medical world in general. Unable to find employment as a doctor of anatomy, he joined his cousin who worked as a plastic surgeon. His cousin, Harold Giles, ran a private practice for medicine and plastic surgery. First working as a medical assistant to his cousin, Archibald eventually climbed up the ranks. In a few years, he was awarded as the Surgeon General of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He also became the consultant for the Royal North Stafford Infirmary; he was their consulting plastic surgeon. And then a few years later, he was then awarded again as a plastic surgeon consultant for the whole Royal Air Force.
When World War II rolled around, he was then appointed as the head plastic surgeon for the whole country of Britain. This was a busy time for McIndoe, as there were many patients who had to undergo some form of reconstruction surgery because of the war. He even opened his own plastic surgery hospital and named it the Centre for Plastic and Jaw Surgery. He was known as a brilliant and capable plastic surgeon, where he worked on patients who had bad burns and even was able to reconstruct some form of eyelids.
While at the hospital he managed to invent new techniques for plastic surgery. He had many famous patients treated at his hospital, such as Geoffrey Page, Jimmy Edwards, and Richard Hillary. These famous patients jokingly called themselves the Guinea Pigs Club.
His work at the Centre of Plastic and Jaw Surgery was famous at his time. He discovered that saline solution immersion promoted healing when used to treat burns. He also invented a new form of skin graft techniques. These new pioneering and ground-breaking forms of plastic surgery were used on many World War II veterans, which vastly improved hundreds of people’s lives.
Archibald died on April 1960, just only at 59 years of age. Today he is still honoured for the work he did with war veterans and burn victims. Many health institutes and hospitals are proudly using his name!