When World War I ended in 1918, Plastic Surgery was a little known surgical specialty. Besides a few physicians who treated soldiers suffering from battlefield wounds and burns, and a few surgeons in Europe who performed cosmetic procedures, plastic surgeons were a small number.
Shortly after the war, Dr. Robert H. Ivy began a plastic surgery practice and a training program in plastic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. At that time, Dr. Ivy was one of the best known and revered plastic surgeons in the United States. He restricted his practice to plastic surgery, and perhaps was the first in the country to do so.
He worked mainly at the Graduate Hospital, then home of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Medicine, and at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Presbyterian Hospital, affiliates of the University Medical School. With his unique appointment as Professor of Plastic Surgery, he was able to begin Penn’s first preceptorship training program.
During World War II, plastic surgery was developing as a specialty because of the reconstructive surgery performed for injured and burned soldiers. Dr. Henry P. Royster served in India and Burma with the University of Pennsylvania Base Hospital. When he returned to Philadelphia, he was appointed Chief of Plastic Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. With Dr. Ivy still practicing at Graduate Hospital and Presbyterian Hospital, plastic surgery was becoming a presence in Philadelphia medicine.
In 1953, Dr. Peter Randall joined Dr. Royster, and together they constructed a new plastic surgery residency training program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In 1957, its first year, the program trained only one resident in the two-year program.
In 1969, Dr. Herndon B. Lehr, the very first plastic surgery resident, became Chief of the Division, and was followed in 1979 by Dr. Peter Randall. Eight years later, in 1987, Dr. Linton A. Whitaker took the helm. As early as 1975, Dr. Whitaker, as one of the few plastic surgeons in the United States specializing in the developing field of craniofacial surgery, instituted a Fellowship in Craniofacial Surgery. This program was followed by a Craniofacial Research Fellowship in 1997. Dr. Whitaker remains actively involved in the Division and is the Director of the Center for Human Appearance.
In 2005, Dr. Joseph M. Serletti, an internationally renowned microsurgeon, was recruited to lead the Division. Under his guidance, the plastic surgery program at Penn has reached new heights. Now the premier institution in the nation for autologous breast reconstruction, Penn has become a national and international name in the field of microsurgery. A microsurgery fellowship program was introduced in 2006, and is considered one of the best in the nation. Meanwhile, our program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia continues to build on a long history of excellence in pediatric and craniofacial plastic surgery.
One hundred thirty-one plastic surgery residents have completed the residency training program since 1957, over twenty of whom are, or have been, a chief or program director of a plastic surgery program. Forty-three fellows have completed the craniofacial fellowship, fifteen of whom run, or have run, craniofacial programs. Sixteen fellows have completed the microsurgery fellowship.
At present, there are twelve full time plastic surgeons practicing at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, fifteen plastic surgery residents, three microsurgery fellows, and one craniofacial fellow.