Prior to 1975, Plastic Surgery was one of eight surgical specialty divisions within the Department of Surgery at Vanderbilt Hospital. In 1973 Greer Ricketson, M.D., stepped down as Division Head and was succeeded by John B. Lynch, M.D. Administration for the Department of Surgery was already considering reorganization to preserve the unity and promote harmony among the surgical disciplines, while recognizing their need for increased responsibility and autonomy. In addition to promoting the patient care and research initiatives of the surgical specialties, reorganization would benefit the development of their postdoctoral educational programs.
In 1974-1975, the formal reorganization proposal was submitted to the executive faculty of the School of Medicine and approved. In accordance with the reorganization plan the Department of Surgery became the Section of Surgical Sciences with nine autonomous departments: Surgery, Pediatric Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Oral Surgery, Dentistry, Otolaryngology, Neurosurgery, Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery, and Urology. The Section was headed by a director. Each new department was to be headed by a chairman.
Dr. Lynch was named Chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery. He also served as Chief of the Head and Neck Services in the Vanderbilt University Affiliated Hospitals. He is credited with promoting this multidisciplinary program, with strong collaborative assistance from Drs. David Bowers, Louis Rosenfeld, and David Hall.
Over the next several years, Dr. Lynch developed an excellent teaching program in addition to a residency. Dr. Lynch and his staff also provided coverage to the Plastic & Reconstructive Service at V.A. Hospital, the Metropolitan General Hospital, Baptist Hospital, and consultations to the Tennessee Department of Public Health’s Crippled Children’s Division.
The Department of Plastic Surgery began receiving national attention for its work. In 1982, the public welcomed an announcement that Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery Riley S. Rees, in collaboration with Dr. Lloyd King in the Department of Dermatology, perfected anti-venom for treatment of the recluse spider bite. A major goal for the Department of Plastic Surgery was achieved with the opening of the Vanderbilt Burn Center on November 1, 1983 . It filled a gap in service made clear five years earlier when a catastrophic train derailment and propane explosion in nearby Waverly, Tennessee presented area hospitals with more acute burn patients than they were prepared to treat. Located on the 4th floor of the newly renovated round wing of Medical Center North, the Burn Center was the largest in Tennessee and served as a referral center for burn victims from Middle Tennessee, Southern Kentucky and Northern Alabama . Dr. Lynch was appointed Director of the 20-bed Burn Center, which was staffed with a multidisciplinary team of burn care specialists. It is appropriate that the first symposium presented by the Burn Center on November 12, 1983 , was titled “A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Severely Burned Patient.”
Over the next ten years the Burn Center admitted more than 2,200 patients. With the opening of the new Center, a rehabilitation program was established that allowed burn patients to leave the hospital sooner and in better physical condition. Through its work with Camp Rainbow , the Burn Center helped burn victims learn to cope with their injuries by bringing them together with others who had experienced similar misfortune. After the first decade of service, the Burn Center was considered one of the most outstanding in the country. It receives continuing volunteer support from civic and community organizations such as the Fire Fighters First Response Club and the Tennessee Federation of Women’s Clubs.
With increased emphasis on research and surgical technique, the Department of Plastic Surgery faculty grew. Among the new faculty members added during Dr. Lynch’s tenure were R. Bruce Shack, M.D., Kevin Hagan , M.D. (1982), Ronald Barton, M.D., Kevin Kelly, M.D. (1989), and Lillian Nanney, Ph.D.
In addition to the ongoing work of the Department, Dr. Lynch’s membership in several professional organizations brought further recognition. Dr. Lynch was President of the Singleton Surgical Society, and President-Elect of the American Society of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeons. In 1985, Dr. Lynch became President of the Southern Medical Association. A former President of the American Association of Plastic Surgery and former Director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Dr. Lynch was instrumental in having the annual meeting of the Association held in Nashville , prior to the Board’s 50th Anniversary meeting at Opryland Hotel in May, 1987. Dr. Lynch was named as the 1987 Outstanding Alumnus at the University of Tennessee Medical School, having received his medical degree from that campus in 1952. In October, 1991, Dr. Lynch was awarded an Honorary Citation of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the annual meeting in Boston , given in recognition of Dr. Lynch’s part in the development of the specialty of Plastic Surgery and his outstanding scientific contributions to its advancement.
Dr. Lynch and his wife were honored in March of 1990 with the dedication of the J.B. and Jean Lynch Learning Center for Residents in Plastic Surgery. This resource was made possible by gifts donated from residents who had trained under the supervision of Dr. Lynch, and who wished to acknowledge their esteem for the doctor and his wife.
Under the current leadership of Dr. R. Bruce Shack as Chairman, the Department of Plastic Surgery at Vanderbilt Medical Center has continued to grow and prosper through the nineties and into the 21st century.