Two Founding Fathers
Like most great American institutions, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ASPRS) developed mainly through the sweat and toil of immigrants. In this case, it was two surgeons from Europe who came to the United States after World War I, Dr. Jacques Maliniac and Dr. Gustave Aufricht.The two doctors were as unalike as any two men could be, except for their dedication to their craft. Despite his French–sounding name, Dr. Maliniac was born in 1889 in Warsaw, Poland. After studying with the leading plastic surgeons on the continent before the war, he was called into the Russian Army at the outbreak of hostilities. A small, intense man, Dr. Maliniac, who was Jewish, came to the United States in 1923 and decided to stay as anti–Semitism was on the rise in Europe in the 1920s. Settling in New York City in 1925, he opened a thriving private practice, and convinced the administrators of the City Hospital system to establish the first division of plastic surgery at a public hospital.
Dr. Aufricht, born in 1894, was a native of Budapest, Hungary. Like Dr. Maliniac, he treated wounded soldiers during the war, studied with the leading practitioners in Europe and arrived in New York in 1923. And like Dr. Maliniac, he was Jewish and decided to stay here when things became inhospitable in the Old World. However, the similarities ended there.Where Dr. Maliniac was considered bombastic and dictatorial with his students and residents, Dr. Aufricht, who went by the nickname “Gusti,” was genial and outgoing, but no less a commanding figure, loved and revered by his charges.
The ASPRS is Born
The seeds of the ASPRS could be found in the establishment of another plastic surgery organization, the American Association of Oral Surgeons in 1921, which only accepted physicians with both medical and dental degrees and severely limited the number of members. Despite their reputations, Drs. Maliniac and Aufricht were not invited to join.This rebuff was answered by informal meetings of Dr. Aufricht and his colleagues, including Drs.Clarence Straatsma and Lyon Peer, who plotted the formation of their own organization. With 10 charter members, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons was launched, with Dr. Aufricht and others joining soon after.
In the 1940s, many plastic surgeons served their country during the Second World War, and expanded plastic surgery procedures through the unique circumstances of treating wounded soldiers, sailors and airmen.
The Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation
As the 1940s moved to a close, the ASPRS steadily grew in membership, and by 1949 had more than 150 surgeons. These new members had been trained by surgeons other than Dr. Maliniac, who concentrated on his private practice rather than teaching. With all the new blood in the organization, Dr. Maliniac gradually lost control of his own creation. However, rather than sulking at losing his power, Dr. Maliniac moved quickly and decisively as he had done 20 years earlier in founding the ASPRS: In 1948, he formed the Educational Foundation of the ASPRS, now known as the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation (PSEF) and served as its President until 1955.The Foundation’s mission was to support research pertaining to congenital and acquired deformities, promote high standards of training, practice and research in plastic surgery; confer scholarships and prizes; and promote lectures, seminars and medical and public meetings to educate the public in plastic surgery matters.
The Foundation also took American plastic surgery to the rest of the world by establishing exchange and fellowship programs with physicians in other nations. The PSEF has been especially active since its inception in sending American surgeons to Third World nations to help train physicians in plastic surgery techniques and treat citizens of those countries who would not otherwise have access to advanced surgical techniques. The Foundation also sponsors educational symposia to allow surgeons to demonstrate their innovations to colleagues.