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New Countway Exhibition — "Plastic surgery in Boston: Then and Now"

A new exhibit entitled "Plastic Surgery in Boston: Then and Now" is on display at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine—home of the National Archives of Plastic Surgery—through September. Though Boston is a major center of American medicine, it is less widely known for its contributions to plastic surgery. In fact, Boston is the location of many "firsts" in plastic surgery.

Drs. John Collins Warren and his son, J. Mason Warren, were early pioneers in cleft lip and cleft palate surgery. J. Mason Warren performed the first rhinoplasties in North America. The aesthetic talents and surgical skill of George Monks, MD, for whom Boston's annual Monks Lecture in Plastic Surgery is named, enabled him to perform corrections of deformities and disfigurements of the face and neck. Varaztad Kazanjian, MD, a critical figure in the development of plastic surgery as a separate specialty, pioneered new techniques in the repair of maxillofacial injuries. Dr. Bradford Cannon's research changed the way the American military medical establishment treated burns during the Second World War. Robert Goldwyn, MD, was the driving force behind the creation of the National Archives of Plastic Surgery as the first major collection devoted to the documentation of the history of plastic surgery in the United States. These are but a few samples of Boston's contributions to the field. Plastic surgery has been a significant part of the city's rich medical history and has helped to establish Boston as a vital center of American medicine.

The current exhibit, mounted by Peter Rawson, archivist of the collection, and Anne Woodrum, manuscripts assistant, includes photographs, instruments, correspondence, and medical records that illustrate the work of Drs. Kazanjian, Cannon, and Murray. Of particular interest will be a sample of the plaster "moulages," or impressions, that Drs. Kanzanjian and Cannon used to chart the progress of recovery from devastating and disfiguring injuries in both World Wars.

The careers of Drs. Kazanjian, Cannon, Murray, and Goldwyn represent a part of a continuous thread of plastic surgeons in Boston that dates back to the early nineteenth century. These physicians have also been involved with the establishment of plastic surgery as a vital medical specialty in the twentieth century. In addition to the traditional reconstruction and repair of the nose, cleft lip and palate, treatment of burns and facial injuries, today's plastic surgeons are also involved with organ transplantation, microsurgery, surgery of the hand and reconstruction following surgery for cancer, as well as aesthetic surgery and cosmetic procedures.

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Last modified on Thursday, April 18, 2002.