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Early Canadian Oculoplastic Surgeons
(Dr. Richard Reeve, Dr. Francis Bueller)

Ophthalmologists have been carrying out various plastic surgical procedures in the head and neck region for at least 130 years. An early Canadian pioneer, Richard A. Reeve M.D., an Ophthalmologist, Otologist, Rinologist and Laryngologist was the first specialist to join the staff of the Toronto General Hospital in 1872. He was a professor for 20 years, became the Chair of Ophthalmology and Otology and then in 1896, the Dean of the Faculty. In 1880 he read before the meeting of the Canadian medical Association, Ottawa, Sept 2, 1880 a paper entitled “Plastic Operations on The Eyelids” This was later published in one of Canada’s early medical journals (R.Reeve, Plastic Operations of the Eyelid, The Canadian Journal of Medical Science, vol 5;1;pgs 4-6, 40-42, Jan 1881). In 1888 he wrote about “Diseases of the Orbit” (The Canadian Practioner, formerly The Canaian Journal of Medical Science, Toronto, Sept 1988, 277-279).

Francis Buller M.D., an equally distinguished individual was the first sub-specialist at McGill in Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology in 1877. In 1882 he became the first Chair in Ophthalmology and Otology – with “no salary” because the faculty didn’t have any money. Dr. Buller wrote numerous papers in the field of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive surgery and Otolaryngology. One of his early papers, like Dr. Reeve was on “Plastic Operations of the Eyelid” ( F. Bueller. Miscelleneous Ophthalmic Cases Case 1: Epithelioma of Lower Eyelid – Removal by Excision – Re-establishment of Eyelid by Plastic Operation – Recovery – twenty Months Later no return of the Disease. Montreal general Hospital Report v4: 213-216,1880. Dr Buller become a very prolific write and published numerous article in the field of Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery including; About Skin Grafting in Ophthalmic Surgery (Tr Am Ophth Soc, 134-137, 1903), The Treatment of Dermoid Tumors of the Orbit (Tr Am Ophth Soc, 1894-6, 1897), Temporary Ligation of the Canaliculus as a means of Preventing Wound Infections in Operations on the Eye (Tr Am Ophth Soc, 633- 638, 1902) to mention a few.

Specialty Boards in North America

The first specialist board formed in this continent was the American Board of Ophthalmology, organized in 1916 while Otolaryngology followed shortly thereafter, in 1921. It wasn’t until 1937 that “Plastic Surgery” was formed in the U.S. The roster of invited founders of the American Board of Plastic Surgery included three Ophthalmologists with practices dedicated to Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery prior to the inception of Plastic surgery: Drs. John Wheeler, Edmund Spaeth and, Wendell Hughes. 1 All three of them published numerous scientific articles in the field of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive surgery.2 Wendell Hughes, a Canadian and graduate of the University of Western Ontario Medical School noted that specialized training and knowledge of fundamental details in certain regions promotes better results with fewer complications.2

Certification in Canada of Royal College specialties began in 1937. The first six approved specialties included Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. Plastic Surgery was recognized in 1946 as a specific entity. Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (Oculoplastic surgery) historically is well established and is an integral part of current day residency training programs. Residents in Ophthalmology have clear requirements (as stated in the Royal College guidelines for Ophthalmology) that they must obtain in Oculoplastic surgery prior to graduating. Some will then go on following their Royal College certification to an Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship where 1, 2 or even 3 years is spent learning more about diseases of the eyelids, orbit and nasolacrimal apparatus.

(References: 1)The American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and reconstructive Surgery, ed. David Reifler M.D, Norman Publishing, San Francisco, 1994.
2) Hughes WL: The development of ophthalmic plastic surgery. Adv Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg 1986;5:15-23.)


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