A Legacy of Leadership: John M. Converse, Joseph McCarthy, and NYU Plastic Surgery

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The rich tradition of a comprehensive approach to all aspects of plastic surgery at New York University (NYU) can be traced to the formative years of John Marquis Converse in several theaters of the Second World War. Having trained under Varaztad Kazanjian, whose knowledge of prosthetic dentistry and plastic surgery blurred the lines between the 2 distinct specialties,1 exposure to the multidisciplinary care of military personnel convinced Dr. Converse to transfer this unique model to university hospitals treating civilians. Tireless fundraising efforts soon resulted in the creation of the Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, initially operating at Bellevue Hospital and the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital (MEETH). The Institute would follow an academic medical model, and emphasize the development of research and educational programs. Staying true to his multidisciplinary vision, Dr. Converse not only recruited plastic surgeons but also established a close relationship with dental specialists with expertise in maxillofacial anatomy, orthodontics,2 oral surgery, and prosthodontics. The addition of an oculoplastic surgeon, medical photographer, and outstanding nursing support culminated in a remarkably complete and collaborative center focused on craniofacial reconstruction.
Dr. Converse's commitment to plastic surgery research and education became apparent as he and Blair Rogers organized the historic International Tissue Homotransplantation Conferences.3 Held biennially with the aim of understanding the immunologic challenges of transplantation, these multidisciplinary meetings inspired a flurry of research activity at NYU, and were central to boosting early progress in the field.4 The VH Kazanjian Lectureship was established in the early 1960s with Kazanjian himself the inaugural presenter, which coincided with the Institute's new physical and academic affiliation to NYU Medical Center. In addition to publishing Dr. Converse's renowned multivolume Reconstructive Plastic Surgery text,5 the NYU plastic surgery residency program was founded involving 5 different clinical teaching sites. At this time, Dr. Converse occupied the Lawrence D. Bell Professorship, probably the first endowed plastic surgery professorship in the world.6 The scope of NYU plastic surgery quickly broadened through the integration of a hand surgery service and recruitment of head and neck oncologists. A strong advocate for continuing education,7 Dr. Converse hosted the world's first craniofacial conference in 1969, and a second meeting in 1971 included operative demonstrations by Dr. Converse and Paul Tessier to an audience representing at least 8 different specialties involved in craniofacial care.
Joseph G. McCarthy joined NYU Plastic Surgery in 1973 as Associate Director. Colleagues closer to McCarthy will surely share fascinating details of his relationship with Dr. Converse in this special edition of The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, but it is well known that his role as assistant editor to the second edition of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery8 may have been vastly understated. Dr. McCarthy led efforts to reorganize and reinvigorate the residency program in the 1970s, in addition to establishing postresidency fellowships9 in craniofacial and esthetic surgery. A large-scale, long-lasting research grant from the National Institute of Dental Research was secured during this time by both Dr. Converse and Dr. McCarthy to support staff, equipment, technology development, and basic science and clinical research at the NYU Craniofacial Center. This award also supported the pioneering application of craniofacial surgery techniques in infants,10 expanding the spectrum of the subspecialty. In 1979, the Microsurgery Training Program was developed at NYU. Always embracing innovation, Dr. Converse used his influence6 to stimulate William Shaw's and Daniel Baker's interest in this burgeoning specialty, resulting in the New York Regional Replantation Service at Bellevue Hospital. Dr. Converse was also pivotal to the organization of the International Conference on Microsurgery at Leeds Castle, in which contemporaries came together to define the future of microsurgery.
Upon Dr.
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