The Latymer School History Magazine - page 39

Sir Howard Gillies painted by
Howard Barron
evenings and offering the
patients champagne and
oysters. This fondness for
dressing up did not fade with
time; after the Second World
War Dr. Denis Sugrue
attended an interview for a
place in Gillies’ team and
struck up a conversation with
the porter, in which they
discussed fishing, golf,
rowing and medicine. The
porter turned out to be
Gillies in disguise, and
Sugrue got the job without a
formal interview.
Gillies abandoned facial
reconstruction after the war,
and returned to his pre-war
career as an ear, nose and
throat surgeon; he did not
see a clear future for himself
in plastic surgery. He
devoted some of his time to
writing “Plastic Surgery of the
Face”, his first textbook,
published in 1920, which
became a key source of
information for many plastic
surgeons later in the century.
He was belatedly
commended for his
pioneering work during the
war and was awarded a
knighthood in 1930. He went
on to be indispensable to
the organisation of plastic
surgery services in the
Second World War, as one of
only four plastic surgeons in
the UK at the time. He was
extremely influential in the
education of surgeons
beginning their careers in
the rapidly expanding field
of plastic surgery. He
established the British
Association of Plastic
Surgeons in 1946, and
became its first president. In
1960 Gillies died from
arterial disease, and a fund
promoting education and
research in plastic surgery
was dedicated to his
memory. Even in death,
Gilles shaped the field that
he had dedicated his life to.
Gillies’ pioneering work in
plastic surgery has shaped
the development of the field,
and medical practice in
general. Neither his detailed
medical record keeping, nor
his development of
innovative new techniques
were commonplace at the
time, let alone his cheerful
relationships with his
patients, but Gilles did not
allow the disapproval of
others to stop him. His
relentless work to improve
patient care and constant
search to discover newer
and better ways to
reconstruct faces personifies
the ethos that medical
professionals today seek to
emulate – the tireless,
dedicated and skilled doctor.
His efforts during both the
First and Second World War
gave hope to survivors who
had to keep living despite
the terrible injuries inflicted
upon them. Their bravery,
and Gillies’ tireless work to
help them, are achievements
which should never be
forgotten.
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