Department and Residency History

The history of the Department of Plastic Surgery parallels that of Loma Linda University. It is impossible to mention or include all the various individuals who have contributed to the Division and now Department of Plastic Surgery. Like most academic institutions, the one consistent factor is transition and change.

A full-time plastic surgery service was attempted by several individuals in the 1940s - 1950s. Notable is that of Ray Brauer, MD, (alumnus of Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLUSM) Class of 1943) one of the original sixteen founding members of the Plastic Surgery Research Council in 1952. Upon completion of his plastic surgery training Dr. Brauer had hopes that he would begin a plastic surgery service at the White Memorial Medical Center located in Los Angeles. This institution was the main clinical base of the LLUSM then called, College of Medical Evangelists. However, the environment was not conducive to starting a plastic surgery service at this time and he moved to Houston, Texas and helped initiate a residency training program there.

In the mid 1950s Wilmer Hansen, MD, DDS, (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1948) after completing his plastic surgery training under Dr. Reid Dingman at the University of Michigan, wrote a letter requesting privileges in plastic surgery at the White Memorial Medical Center service at the Los Angeles County General Hospital. Upon returning to California, he joined forces with the late Clifton Barber, MD, (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1942) who trained under Dr. Ferris Smith of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Barber also had recently returned to California after his training. Likewise, Donald Sargeant, MD, (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1944) the inaugural graduating resident of the plastic surgery training program, University of California, Los Angeles, and the first Clinical Fellow of Dr. Tord Skoog, also inquired about the possibility of starting a plastic surgery service at the White Memorial Medical Center. However, the General Surgery, ENT, and Orthopedic Surgical Services of the medical school felt there was not enough clinical material or the need to warrant a full-time plastic surgery service. As a result, Dr. Sargeant left for Bakersfield to start a private practice. Drs. Barber and Hansen initiated a part-time plastic surgery service at the Los Angeles County Hospital. Dr. Barber later distinguished (among other contributions) himself by becoming president of the California Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Administration within the Department of Surgery and the School of Medicine at LLUSM had changed in the late 1950s and so did the perceived value of a plastic surgery service. Plans were being made for consolidation of both the basic science and the clinical training of the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University. The Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Dean of the School of Medicine, David B. Hinshaw, Sr., MD, appreciated and saw the need of a full-time plastic surgery service. Thomas Zirkle, MD, (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1962), who had finished his General Surgery training at Loma Linda was groomed to become the founder of a full-time plastic surgery service. Following the completion of his general surgery training, Dr. Zirkle was accepted into the plastic surgery training program at Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Dr. Milt Edgerton. Dr. Zirkle's formal plastic surgery training was completed in 1968. He then returned to Loma Linda to officially add plastic surgery to the growing list of surgical subspecialties represented at the new medical center in Loma Linda, California.

With the move to Loma Linda and the founding of the Division, the entire spectrum of plastic surgery was under the direction of the Division of Plastic Surgery (Head & Neck Oncology, Hand Surgery, Maxillofacial Surgery, etc.). It was apparent that additional staff members were needed. Dr. John Slayback (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1964), who completed his plastic surgery training under the guidance of Dr. Willie White at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1973, was recruited and joined the LLUSM full-time faculty. In 1975, Dr. Slayback transferred into private practice in Redlands, California. Dr. Curtis Harris (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1964), who had gone north and trained in Montreal, Canada, was then recruited as an integral part of the full-time faculty and continued from 1975 to 1984. Dr. Norman Sogioka (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1973) developed a strong mentoring relationship during his general surgery training with Dr. Zirkle and was encouraged to pursue training in plastic surgery after completing his general surgery requirements. Dr. Sogioka was accepted into the University of Pittsburgh plastic surgery training program in the latter tenure period of Willie White, MD. After completing his plastic surgery residency he joined the full-time faculty at Loma Linda University (LLU). Dr. Norbert Collins (alumnus LLUSM) who had completed his pre-requisite training in general surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC) in 1981, and plastic surgery residency at Dayton, Ohio in 1984, returned to LLU to further augment the staff.

The service and patient load had grown almost logarithmically since opening the Loma Linda University Medical Center in 1967. Early discussion focused on the need of subspecialty training in pediatric surgical services. The patients who required sophisticated craniofacial surgery had been referred to the major centers in San Diego and Los Angeles. Dr. Robert Hardesty (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1978) had finished his training in plastic surgery under the direction of William Futrell, MD, and had been accepted into the Pediatric Plastic Surgery-Craniofacial Surgery Fellowship at Washington University, under the directorship of Jeff Marsh, MD, St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Hardesty had expressed an interest in returning to Loma Linda. Thus, in 1987, Dr. Hardesty joined Drs. Zirkle, Sogioka, and Collins.

The Division underwent a significant transition in the next two years. Dr. Sogioka was recruited by Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Fontana, California in 1988 to become Chief of Plastic Surgery. In 1989, Dr. Collins joined Dr. Dennis Anderson (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1966), a plastic surgery residency alumnus at UCLA, in private practice in San Bernardino, California. Dr. Zirkle was promoted to Senior Vice-President by Loma Linda University Medical Center.

However, these changes created additional opportunities. The goals and aspirations of the remaining faculty members were clearly delineated to Dr. Bruce Branson, then Chairman of the Department of Surgery. There was a greater emphasis on research activities, recruitment of individuals with academic subspecialty training, and the needed support to begin a plastic surgery training program. Drs. Branson and Hinshaw (then President of Loma Linda University Medical Center) embraced these ideas.

The recruitment of faculty with both clinical experience, and academic orientation was obviously needed. Dr. Frank Rogers (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1974), was the first individual recruited in 1988 who met the aforementioned criteria. Dr. Roger's training included a plastic surgery residency at UC Irvine under the direction of Dr. Dave Furnas, a Certificate of Added Qualification in Hand Surgery, and a fellowship in Head and Neck Oncology. He not only possessed the needed academic credentials, but also shared the dream of having a plastic surgery training program at his alma mater. Under Dr. Roger's leadership, a full-time position was created and funded at Riverside General Hospital (now known as Riverside County Regional Medical Center) for plastic surgery. He became the first full-time Chief of Plastic Surgery at RGH. A close and collaborative effort was initiated with the Orthopedic Service; thus a full spectrum hand practice grew at the RGH Clinic.

The pediatric plastic surgery service was dramatically growing. Specifically, the Craniofacial Team began to expand because of the increasing patient load. The Loma Linda University Medical Center was in the process of adding a children's hospital and it was soon to be completed. Additional expertise was again sought to provide a full compliment to the Craniofacial Team. Linda D'Antonio, PhD, a speech physiologist, who had received her PhD at UC San Francisco, and her post doctoral fellowship at Boys Town Institute in Omaha, Nebraska had just left Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, for U.C. Irvine, Division of Plastic Surgery in Orange County, California. Dr. Hardesty had worked with Dr. D'Antonio during his fellowship at Washington University Children's Hospital. An offer was made and Dr. D'Antonio joined the Department of Surgery in 1990. She not only added a major force to the ongoing research but also provided a living example of a commitment to academic excellence and clinical care.

Together, Drs. Hardesty and Rogers began strategically planning for the beginning of the residency program. It was obviously apparent that there was a need for additional plastic surgery faculty with similar dreams and goals. An extensive search process was undertaken for individuals with similar training and desires. Thus, Douglas Hendricks, MD and Peter Witt, MD were invited to join the plastic surgery service in 1990, both for their clinical abilities as well as their research and academic interests. Dr. Hendricks had spent a significant amount of time in the research lab during his surgical training. He became the inaugural Director of Research for the Division. Under his leadership the research thrived. Dr. Hendricks focused his clinical interests on developing a micro vascular and hand practice. Dr. Witt developed a strong clinical interest in pediatric plastic surgery. The Craniofacial patient population again expanded significantly with his involvement. Collaborating with Dr. D'Antonio, they completed several significant cleft palate speech related research projects.

This was a time of synergy and enthusiasm within the Division of Plastic Surgery at Loma Linda University. Together this group (Drs. D'Antonio, Hardesty, Hendricks, Rogers and Witt) committed themselves to research as well as laying the foundation to begin a plastic surgery training program. There was a bonding of the attending group as a unit, cemented by the goals they had set. Negotiations began for residency positions and rotations, multiple meetings took place. Fellowships were offered as a trial to see if a residency could be integrated into current university training programs.

In 1991 all the needed paperwork was compiled, data collected, curriculum and rotations set and a completed application was mailed. The Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Residency Review Committee in Plastic Surgery met and a favorable letter was received in 1992. The plastic surgery residency was first given provisional accreditation by the ACGME as an "independent model." Subsequently in 1995 the program underwent a scheduled site visit and received full accreditation. In addition, the Division received the inaugural accreditation by the ACGME to begin the "integrated model" of residency training. In 1997 the division was given permission to convert to a totally integrated training program and by the year 2000 we filled all of our integrated positions, thus making a total of twelve residents in the six year plastic surgery training program.

The faculty expanded from 2000 to 2003 with the addition of several subspecialty trained plastic surgeons. Dr. Subhas Gupta, who had trained in General Surgery at McGill University and completed his plastic surgery fellowship under Dr. Bruce Williams, brought an extensive research and teaching background to the faculty in 2000. He was recruited after completing a Hand and Microsurgery fellowship with Dr. Bill Zamboni and after working at the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Las Vegas. He brought a fresh perspective to the curriculum and innovated several changes in the residency program. He assumed the role of Residency Program Director in January of 2004 after Dr. Hardesty left the University to begin a private practice. Dr. Gupta was selected as the next Chief of the Division in June 2004 and guided the group to Departmental status over the next two years. He was seated as the inaugural Chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery in 2007.