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Historical Perspective: The Plastic Surgery Research Council

The following is compiled largely in part from Peter Randall's Thirty-Five Year History of the Plastic Surgery Research Council
-Thomas S. Davis, MD, Historian

In the early 1950's there was a "feeling" among "younger" plastic surgeons (those recently boarded or not yet boarded) of a need for an arena to discuss research in plastic surgery, including works in progress. The major plastic surgery organizations were perceived as forums for politics and jousting fields for the political giants of the day. The American College of Surgeons initiated the Surgical Forum in 1949, and later the plastic surgeon section in 1953 under the direction of Joe Murray, MD. Still, the impression among the younger plastic surgeons was that research was "taking a back seat" in the mainstream plastic surgery organizations.

An informal meeting was held in San Diego, California in 1954. The "young bucks" enlisted the advice of trusted and more senior advisors. Drs. Lewis T. Byars (St. Louis), Brad Cannon (Boston), and Truman G. Blocker (Galveston) listened and lent encouragement. Their recommendations were to hold these meetings in a university setting and to include the local university talent in discussions in the field of research. Caution was also given regarding the possible considerable opposition to the formation of such a group. It was agreed that they would meet the following year. Sixteen individuals were picked to be invited to an "Organizational Meeting" held in Baltimore in the fall of 1955. The world "picked" implies selecting a few from the many, whereas actually this was more a search for the "any" from the "few."

At the time of the founding meeting of the Plastic Surgery Research Council, 1955 at Johns Hopkins, called by Drs. Milton Edgerton and Robin Anderson, Dr. Richard Stark submitted the drawing of Baronio's Sheep (1804) with auto and allografts in situ as a possible logo for the council. Searching for a form other than the logo cliche of the circle, the design was made into a rectangle with rounded corners. It was accepted and has been the logo of the council since that time.

Following this first official meeting, Dr. Robin Anderson was asked to compose a Constitution and a set of By-Laws. A major objective of this Constitution and By-Laws was to maintain "a pure and virtuous" society "by avoiding the hierarchic pitfalls and elitist attitudes of the established societies." The members also decided not to align this meeting with any other plastic surgery organization. This two-page document was approved at the second meeting (1956) in Jackson, Mississippi, hosted by Jim Hendrix, MD. The name of the organization was debated. One suggested the name, "Plastic University Surgeons" ("P.U.S."). However, the word "University" itself implied restriction and was ultimately discarded. The word "Council" was eventually (but not initially) chosen, and had literally been taken from the Indian usage of the word to indicate an open gathering of all those concerned.The name of the organization, "The Plastic Surgery Research Council," was officially adopted at this meeting. It has served this purpose well.

In 1981, The Peter Gingrass, MD Memorial Award was established by Dr. Ruedi Gingrass on behalf and in memory of his brother Peter. The award recognizes the medical student or non-plastic surgery resident presenting the best paper at the annual meeting of The Plastic Surgery Research Council. In 1982, The John F. Crikelair, MD Research Award was funded by George Crikelair in memory of his son to recognize the best paper at The Plastic Surgery Research Council by a high school or college student. The Clifford C. Snyder, MD Past-Chairman Award was established in 1983 by Cliff Synder and funded in part by various past chairmen to recognize the best paper presented by a Plastic Surgery Resident or Fellow at the Plastic Surgery Research Council annual meeting. In 1997, The Best Poster Award was established by Bob Hardesty to recognize the value and contributions of Poster Presentations at the annual meeting of the Plastic Surgery Research Council.

As time passed, the Research Council not only grew in numbers but also in respect among the "other societies and associations." The Research Council was formally asked to elect representatives to the American Association of Medical Colleges, Council of Academic Societies, Plastic Surgery Academic Advisory Council, American College of Surgeons (Plastic and Maxillofacial Council), American Association of Plastic Surgeons, the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation Research Grants Committee, and the Council of Plastic Surgery Organizations. We are asked to nominate candidates for the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

It is interesting to note the basic tenants set down in the formative years of the Council have been maintained as guidelines for The Plastic Surgery Research Council over its existing forty-three years. The original goals and concepts of an open forum with free discussion of work completed and work in progress continue, and the suggestions of "keep it young" and meet independently at research institutions continue. Specifically, at age 45 active members become senior members (with corresponding loss of voting privileges and inability to hold elected office) assuring a youthful and progressive leadership. "Of the sixteen founding members of the Plastic Surgery Research Council, five have become Presidents of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ASPRS); four have become Presidents of the American Association of Plastic Surgery (AAPS); thirteen have been training program directors; three have been 'Clinician of the Year' of the AAPS; and two have received a Special Achievement Award of the ASPRS. Eleven have become Directors of the American Board of Plastic Surgery; four have been Chairmen of the Board; and three have been Vice-Chairman of the Board"; one received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research on transplantation... what a magnificent heritage.