Howard Stevenson’s Job-Talk – 4 Jan ‘22

Recent new member, Howard Stevenson, delivered the customary job-talk to a virtual audience which was enthralled by his description of the Scope of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Howard was a consultant plastic surgeon at Ninewells Hospital in NHS Tayside before he and his wife retired to Ayr. His attraction to this highly specialised branch of medicine began, he told us, while working in Ireland as a junior doctor during the “Troubles” of the 1970’s. The horrendous injuries suffered by bombing victims encouraged Howard to do something to help these people.

After outlining the range of techniques available to modern-day plastic surgeons, Howard explained that his main interest lay in skin-flap surgery which involves the transfer of a living piece of tissue from one part of the body to another, along with the blood vessels that keep it alive. In most cases, the skin remains partially attached to the body, creating a “flap”. The flap is then repositioned and stitched over the damaged area. The technique may be used for a variety of conditions including open fractures, large wounds, and, in some cases, for improving a cleft lip and palate. It is also used in cosmetic surgery such as breast reconstruction.

Howard acknowledged the pioneering work in plastic surgery by Harold Delf Gillies, an ears, nose and throat specialist from New Zealand, who campaigned for the specialised treatment of facial injuries after working at hospitals along the Western Front in 1915.

After showing a series of slides illustrating the range of problems grafting and flap surgery can deal with, Howard moved on to the specific difficulties presented by severe burn injuries. This is a big problem, particularly in developing countries, and Howard described the setting up in 1993 of a Burns Unit in Blantyre, Malawi. More generally, major explosions and large fires such as the Bradford football club disaster can all have tragic affects which require specialist plastic and reconstructive surgery to treat effectively.

Neil Beattie thanked Howard for his riveting presentation and complimented him on his career achievements.