History of the CSPS

Download by Dr. Leith Douglas:  “History of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons”. Text and Photos.

The first meeting of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons was held at Queen Mary Veterans’ Hospital in Montreal on November 7, 1947.

Fulton Risdon, then aged 67, was elected the first president. Risdon was the father figure, the first in Canada to practice plastic surgery as a specialty. He joined Gillies and Kazanjian at the Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup, Kent (southeast of London) in 1916 and did facial reconstruction on Canadian, English, Australian and New Zealand soldiers, repairing the devastation caused by war. He returned to Toronto in 1919 to establish the specialty in Canada and was the only plastic surgeon in Canada until Stuart Gordon and Alfred Farmer returned from training in England in the 1930s. Surgery then broadened from facial reconstruction to hand, burn, cancer and birth defect surgery.

When war clouds darkened again in Europe and around the world, plastic surgeons were ready for the second time in a generation. Alfred Farmer directed the entire Canadian surgical war effort. Ross Tilley went to East Grinstead and Battle of Britain surgery, resurfacing faces, noses and hands and restoring hope to young men whose lives had changed forever. He worked in the newly built ‘Canadian Wing’ donated by the Canadian government while civilian Archibald MacIndoe from New Zealand operated in the unit next door. They worked as a team with Tilley putting pressure on the military and MacIndoe on the politicians whenever they needed something.

At Basingstoke, Hoyle Campbell and Stuart Gordon did a great variety of plastic surgery, orthopedics and neurosurgery. Their work was filmed by anaesthetist Lloyd Hampson using a movie camera over the top of the table.

Wallace McNichol joined them at Basingstoke in 1944.

Fred Woolhouse was a medical officer in the Royal Canadian Navy during the war, with an interest in cold and burn injuries, and John Ord was in the Royal Canadian Air Force at the Christie Street Hospital and at St Thomas.

After the war the plastic surgeons in Canada were Jack Gerrie, Georges Cloutier, Fred Woolhouse and Hamilton Baxter in Montreal; John Ord, Stuart Gordon, AW Farmer, Ross Tilley, Lyman Barclay and Fulton Risdon in Toronto; and Wallace McNichol in Hamilton, Ontario.

Return to civilian life was not easy. The specialty had to be built again in an era when the general surgeon was dominant, despite the proven value of plastic reconstruction in both world wars. There was considerable pressure to practice generally but our founders didn’t. They believed that plastic surgery should stand on its own and began training programs while continuing to care for servicemen injured in the war.

They adjusted to the new era and established our specialty on a broad base across Canada.

It was Jack Gerrie’s idea to begin this society and he suggested it to Fulton Risdon in 1941. Many members – who had been founding members of other societies abroad – felt that it was now time for a Canadian society. The founders wanted to see plastic surgery through our Canadian perspective.

This society, over 50 years later, prides itself on the attributes of its founders: we are informal and friendly; we want to learn and teach the latest techniques from across the country and abroad; we want to know our colleagues personally; we enjoy ourselves and look forward to meeting each other’s families at our meetings.

My personal heroes are the founders of this society. All are optimistic and give hope to their patients when hope is sometimes gone.

All are dedicated and continue in the face of adversity. All have many talents and are inspired by their patient’s courage. I speak of our founders in the present tense since their spirit is with us in this, our 60th year.

— Dr. John R. Taylor, MD, FRCSC (2007)