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Harold Gillies, father of plastic surgery

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | June 01, 2013
From the June 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Besides practicing at the forefront of plastic surgery, Gillies also performed one of the first modern sex reassignment surgeries in 1946. Laurence Michael Dillon was born female, but identified as male from an early age. After receiving a mastectomy from another early plastic surgeon, Dillon was referred to Gillies for a phalloplasty, or penis construction. Gillies had performed the procedure on wounded soldiers and intersex patients with ambiguous genitalia, but had not done a reassignment surgery before. Dillon’s experience was successful, and he even went on to recommend Gillies to Roberta Cowell, the first person to receive male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.

Gillies left behind a legacy of satisfied patients as well as leagues of newly trained plastic surgeons. He inspired the most enthusiastic followers in the United States, where more than 2,000 people went to hear him speak when he was guest of honor at the American Congress of Ear, Nose and Throat in Chicago in 1941. Today, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery presents a Harold Delf Gillies Award for best science research paper every year. But despite his notoriety in the states, he ended his life in New Zealand, where he retired with his family to paint and golf in his home country.

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