A week of connections

I love Round Britain Quiz but frustratingly rarely get all the connections.

Here’s a conundrum for you:

“What links a sculptor from Oxford, a speaker at a conference in Gdańsk, an actor in EastEnders and Dr Scroggy?”

The answer is…

Last weekend, I met Martin Jennings who sculpted Sir Archibald McIndoe’s statue in East Grinstead to commemorate his outstanding work with the Guinea Pigs – and I was struck by the similarities of those who sculpt and plastic surgeons. In Greek, ‘plastos’ means ‘to mould’ and that is indeed what sculptors do.

Years ago, a plastic surgeon called Brian Morgan instigated courses for surgeons to learn the sculptor’s art – and there are now regular courses. The Guinea Pigs came from all around the world – and on Wednesday evening last week in Gdańsk in Poland, I met Peter Neligan, now a Professor of Surgery in Seattle, who used to be a surgeon in Toronto and was the co-ordinator of the Canadian chapter of the Guinea Pigs.

Peter and I were in Gdańsk to speak at a fascinating symposium on vascular anomalies – and I left England on Tuesday to get there, which meant that I missed the EastEnders episode which so traumatised the viewers. Kat was caught in a house fire and sustained major burns.

This is an important storyline because it could open up questions of how patients and their families are treated in the British burn care system – including to address their emotional and social needs – and how Kat will be received back in Albert Square, Walford… and the nation may have to witness how prejudiced and uncomfortable we are towards people who look different.

Going back to McIndoe: he was famous not just for his surgery on the fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain but for speaking up for the fair treatment of his patients with all their scars and disfigurements in the pubs, clubs and shops of East Grinstead. A public health doctor par excellence and one of the first to support face equality, like race equality.

I learned a lot in Poland and I heard from Peter Neligan of his latest edition of the six-volume tome Plastic Surgery, the state of the art book that stems back to the version in 1964. The history of facial surgery goes back the First World War and the work of Harold Gillies and his seminal textbook Plastic Surgery of the Face published in 1920.

And I have two more weeks to see the latest play about Gillies: Dr Scroggy’s War.

Bring on this week!

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