OBITUARY D. Ralph Millard (1919–2011)
Received: 26 July 2011 / Accepted: 26 July 2011 / Published online: 1 September 2011
On Sunday, June 19, 2011, an era in Plastic Surgery came to
an abrupt end. I was informed by Prof. H.S. Adenwalla that
Dr. D. Ralph Millard Jr., messiah of children all over the
world who were born with facial clefts, died at his Sunny
Isles Beach home in Miami, Florida, USA.
Born David Ralph Millard Jr., on June 4, 1919, in St. Louis,
he had recently turned 92. Millard chaired the plastic surgery
division at what is now the University of Miami Miller School
of Medicine for 28 years while at the same time serving as
Chief of Plastic Surgery at the Jackson Memorial Hospital.
He was best known for developing rotation advancement
surgery for cleft lip in the 1950s. A giant amongst his
contemporary greats, his work was considered pure artistry
and he was nominated as one of the ten “Plastic Surgeons of
the Millennium” by the members of the American Society of
Plastic Surgery. Plastic Surgery News called him “the most
brilliant and creative plastic surgeon we have alive.”
According to the World Health Organization, cleft lip, with
or without cleft palate, is considered a birth defect affecting
about one in every 600 to 700 newborns, meaning that a child
is born with a cleft somewhere in the world every 2.5 min. If
that is the magnitude of the clinical problem, and if almost
80% of Clefts are treated by Millard’s technique, can there
ever be another plastic surgeon who will impact more lives
than the great master!
Millard, an Eagle Scout, graduated from the Asheville
School for Boys, Asheville, NC. He received a B.A. in English
in 1941 from Yale University where he boxed and played
varsity football. His coach: Yale law student Gerald R. Ford
went on to become the president of USA.
Millard graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1944
and interned in Boston before joining the Navy in 1945 and
served stateside in the World War II Navy, got interested in
clefts as a chief plastic surgeon for the Marine Corps during
the Korean War, discharging with the rank of major. Lt.jg
Millard joined a residency program at Vanderbilt University
Hospital in Nashville.
In 1948, he left for England, where he trained under
Harold Gillies. They would later co-author the first of his
nine books, The Principles and Art of Plastic Surgery.He
wrote 149 peer-reviewed journal articles and 53 book
chapters. A prolific author, Millard documented every one
of his cases with pictures and notations and his books are
an ample testimony to this fact. The world knew him for
his Cleft Craft and in it he showed what a master and an
innovator he was. His autobiography, Saving Faces: A
Plastic Surgeon’sRemarkableStory, was published in
What he did, laid the groundwork for many procedures
we are doing today. If not for his legacy, the Plastic Surgery
as a specialty would have been a much poorer and deprived
Towering in both physical and professional stature, he
was demanding, exacting, and a hard-task master to his
students, but a very gentle human being to all the
unfortunate children who came to him for cure from all
parts of the world.
The Association of Plastic Surgeons of India deeply
mourns the death of this great teacher. We, as a fraternity,
have lost a very respected teacher, a very gifted surgeon, a
very prolific author, and a very noble friend. May his soul
rest in peace!
I would urge all of you to visit http://calder.med.miami.
edu/Ralph_Millard/ to appreciate what a fantastic multifaceted
personality this great man was!
S. Bhattacharya (*)
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery,
Eur J Plast Surg (2012) 35:265