Plastic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh began in the early 1940s with the arrival of S. Milton Dupertuis. Having just completed his training as Jerome Webster’s first resident at Columbia University in New York City, Dupertuis was recruited to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP) and Presbyterian University Hospital (PUH) to serve as their sole plastic surgeon. John C. Gaisford, assistant chief surgery resident at CHP and PUH, was assigned to assist Dupertuis. After several months of operating with Dupertuis and admiring his work, Gaisford asked Dupertuis if he would consider starting a plastic surgery program at the University of Pittsburgh. Dupertuis replied, “Nobody’d be interested in that. Nobody.” Wishing to train under Dupertuis, Gaisford became Pitt’s first plastic surgery resident, starting July 1, 1948, at a salary of $34 a month.
William L. White came to the University from Philadelphia Naval Hospital to work with Dupertuis, who he had met in Valley Forge during World War II. Gaisford and White recruited Ross H. Musgrave as the second plastic surgery resident.
Musgrave came on board as staff and continued to recruit the very best candidates, such as Salvadore Castanares, Dwight C. Hanna III, Herb Lipshitz, Hank Shimuzu, Philip Antypas, and Robert Chase. The Pitt plastic surgery founding team of Dupertuis, White, Gaisford, Musgrave, Hanna, and James E. Conklin played a significant role in developing cleft lip and palate, head and neck, and hand surgery. Dupertuis died in 1959 at the age of 53 and at the pinnacle of his career, serving as chair of the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) and president of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. White became the second chair of the division, a position he would hold for 20 years.
White became chair of the Plastic Surgery Research Council (PSRC) and hosted the PSRC annual meeting in Pittsburgh in 1962. The program continued to flourish, attracting excellent surgeons such as Garry Brody; George Richardson; Timothy Miller; and Libby Wilson, who was also the program’s first female doctor. Gaisford, Hanna, and Richardson left PUH for Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), where they practiced for two years before moving to West Penn Hospital and establishing a second plastic surgery residency program in 1967.
J. William Futrell became the division’s third chief and first full-time professor. He recruited William M. Swartz, who brought his experience in hand and microvascular surgery from Brown University. The program’s headquarters moved from White’s office at 3500 Fifth Avenue to Scaife Hall. Skin grafting and random flaps evolved into the use of myocutaneous flaps. A replantation program was created. Gaisford established the burn unit at West Penn.
In 1982, Frederick R. Heckler came to AGH from Mississippi to start a private practice and work with the trauma service, later joined by Michael White, upon his graduation from the Pitt Plastic Surgery Residency. In 1983, Hanna and Futrell consolidated the West Penn and Pitt plastic surgery training programs. At that time, Hanna was chair of ABPS and was determined to take the total number of residents from six to five to reduce the competition in the market.
Microvascular surgery expanded with the arrival of E. Douglas Newton, and breast reconstruction using muscle flaps and tissue expansion became standards of care. Kenneth C. Shestak, a graduate of the Pitt residency program, joined the faculty. Pitt plastic surgery took on a citywide presence, with a strong “town and gown” collegial interaction. Resident experience expanded with the creation of weekly grand rounds for all citywide faculty. The pediatric plastic surgery program expanded when Wolfgang Losken came to Pittsburgh, bringing craniofacial reconstruction and research to Children’s Hospital with a gentle hand. Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering became hot research topics.
James M. Russavage joined the faculty after completing his training at Pitt in 1993. In 1997, Ernest K. Manders came to Pitt from the Hershey Medical Center, bringing to the trauma service a great wealth of experience in scalp reconstruction, tissue expansion, and major reconstruction. Peter C. Johnson hosted the PSRC annual meeting in Pittsburgh in 1999. Pioneering work in adipose stem cell biology was championed by Futrell. In the new millennium, Shestak became interim chief until the arrival of W. P. Andrew Lee, who became the fourth full-time division chief. Lee brought his lab group with him, strengthened the hand fellowship, and enhanced collaborations with orthopaedic hand surgeons. He developed an internationally recognized Composite Tissue Allotransplantation (CTA) program. During this decade, volunteer clinical faculty continued to convert to full-time faculty based out of Scaife Hall.
Under Lee, research became a major focus. Research on immunosuppression and CTA became an established line of investigation. Kacey G. Marra joined the faculty as laboratory director and brought new expertise in tissue engineering. Stem cell research, especially adipose-derived stem cells, was strongly emphasized in laboratory studies and clinical trials. Pitt plastic surgery was noted for performing the nation’s first bilateral hand transplant, above-the-elbow transplant, and first female hand transplant. Joseph E. Losee came to Pitt from Rochester to serve as director of the pediatric and craniofacial plastic surgery program at CHP. He established the Cleft-Craniofacial Center within the Division of Plastic Surgery. Under his direction, the pediatric plastic surgery section grew to six full-time faculty members at the new Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Losee was also named director of the residency program, which he expanded into one of the largest independent and integrated plastic surgery residencies in the country. J. Peter Rubin, who followed Lee to Pitt, developed nationally recognized programs in body contouring and stem cell research. He hosted the 2009 PSRC annual meeting, marking the third time the event was held in Pittsburgh, a feat rarely accomplished by any institution. Rubin was instrumental in creating the body contouring fellowship and the UPMC Life After Weight Loss program. Shestak and Rubin founded the UPMC Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Center. The faculty expanded with the arrival of Carolyn De La Cruz, Michael L. Gimbel, Vu T. Nguyen (associate program director), and many other talented surgeons.
July 1, 2012
The University of Pittsburgh Division of Plastic Surgery earns departmental status under the leadership of Rubin as chair and Losee as executive vice chair and program director.