Bonus Interview: Plastic surgery, war survivors and a visionary doctor

Listen 49:15
The Allied Relief Fund of America, which has supplied the Allies with many valuable gifts of hospital equipment, is presenting Britain with a number of valuable x-ray installations. Sir Harold Gillies, the famous surgeon, and Dr. Cochrane Shanks, chief radiologist to the Ministry of Health accepted this gift formally at Brookwood House, Basingstoke, and thanked Bertram Cruger, representative of the fund, warmly. Dr. Cochrane Shanks using the £10,000 x-ray apparatus on a patient in England  July 19, 1940. (AP Photo)

The Allied Relief Fund of America, which has supplied the Allies with many valuable gifts of hospital equipment, is presenting Britain with a number of valuable x-ray installations. Sir Harold Gillies, the famous surgeon, and Dr. Cochrane Shanks, chief radiologist to the Ministry of Health accepted this gift formally at Brookwood House, Basingstoke, and thanked Bertram Cruger, representative of the fund, warmly. Dr. Cochrane Shanks using the £10,000 x-ray apparatus on a patient in England July 19, 1940. (AP Photo)

The modern military weapons of the first World War killed millions of soldiers on battlefields and in trenches. They also left 20 million men maimed and disfigured, a fate many felt was worse than death. But a New Zealand surgeon, working on frontlines in France, would pioneer surgical techniques that, though often grueling, made many of these wounded men’s lives more bearable.

In her book, The Facemaker, medical historian and author LINDSEY FITZHARRIS tells the story of the young surgeon Harold Gillies, who worked for the Red Cross in France in 1915 and went on to transform the field of plastic surgery. First on the battlefront and then in a British hospital, Gillies reconstructed soldiers’ faces, which had been torn apart by bullets, shrapnel, and flames using innovative techniques.

Fitzharris joined Marty earlier this year to talk about Gillies, how his groundbreaking work grew out of the devastation he witnessed on the battlefront, and how this early form of plastic surgery transformed the lives of the countless soldiers.

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