Plastic surgery lost one of its really heavy hitters last week, Dr. D. Ralph Millard. It’s a little hard for me to explain his significance to our field of medicine, but it’s probably not a stretch to say that he was the Babe Ruth of plastic surgery.
He began his career in plastic surgery by studying with Harold Gillies who was the person who really established modern plastic surgery through his work with the wounded from World War I. During the Korean War, Dr. Millard worked on a lot of Korean children with cleft lips. And, he developed the technique of cleft lip repair which is now used, with some variations, for virtually all cleft lip repairs. Certainly for all the cleft lips that I have done.
During my plastic surgery residency in Philadelphia, I had the privilege of spending time with Dr. Millard who was our visiting professor. It was a great two or three several days. But one of the things I remember most, was when he asked us all what we were doing when we were done. I told him, a bit sheepishly, that I was coming to Knoxville — not a common destination from Philadelphia (although US Air does fly there direct). He responded that Knoxville was a great choice and a great area of the country. Turns out he had a mountain home in Grandfather’s Seat, North Carolina!
But his contributions to my field are profound. Anyone who has had a good result from a cleft lip repair has Dr. Millard to thank, more than me. He may no longer be with us in body, but his contributions will live forever, at least in plastic surgery. All I can say is “Thank you, Dr. Millard.”
All the best,