The Duke of Edinburgh will unveil a commemorative monument at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire today to recognise the work of pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe, who died in 1960.
During the Second World War McIndoe worked at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, Sussex, where he founded a Centre for Plastic and Jaw Surgery to help members of the Royal Air Force who had been badly burnt during combat. One of only four plastic surgeons in the country at that time, McIndoe was a true pioneer of plastic and reconstructive surgery techniques.
He was a brilliant surgeon, who developed new techniques for treating badly burned faces and hands. He also recognised the importance of the rehabilitation of the casualties, founding The Guinea Pig Club to help injured service-men reintegrate into society.
Plastic surgery has progressed remarkably since the 1940’s, but many modern techniques, such as reconstructive procedures and skin grafts, have built on McIndoe’s pioneering work. McIndoe was working at a time when little was known about the treatment of severe burns and their complications, and his contribution to the field of plastic surgery is immeasurable.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the plastic surgery industry would not be as advanced today, were it not for McIndoe’s pioneering work. We owe a debt of gratitude to his genius and determination, and to his brave patients who gave so much for this country.
A few words from Bella Vou
Mr Amir Nakhdjevani, lead plastic surgeon at the Bella Vou Clinic in Tunbridge Wells said:
During my training I was fortunate enough to complete several fellowships at the McIndoe Surgical Centre, which is on the site of the former burns unit at East Grinstead. It was always clear that the spirit and inspiration of McIndoe continues to influence the clinic’s ethos and the plastic surgeons that work there to this day.
Meanwhile clinic director, Mr Roger Bigwood, said:
I grew up in East Grinstead during the 1970s and 80s and the legacy of McIndoe’s work was very apparent. I remember seeing many very disfigured men who were previous patients of McIndoe and had settled and integrated into the community.
McIndoe’s approach was to realise that the psychological and emotional reconstruction of his patients was as important as plastic surgery. By reintegrating his patients into the community, he helped to breed acceptance of their condition and the sacrifices they had made.
As well as pioneering new techniques in the field of plastics, he also brought about a change in the way patients were treated, using everything from beer and sport to a kind word and a smile from pretty nurses to inspire the men under his care and give them hope and courage to carry on.