Article on World War II Era “Guinea Pig Club” Highlights Roots of Modern Day Plastic Surgery and Psychological Support for Victims of Wartime Trauma, says Dr. J

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Commenting on the recent article, the Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon points out that plastic surgery is a highly exacting, multifaceted medical discipline with both physical and psycho-social aspects.

Dr. McIndoe and post-operative members of the Guinea Pig Club

...While learning about Dr. McIndoe’s work is clearly inspiring to surgeons in particular, it also serves as a reminder...that plastic surgery remains an extremely challenging medical discipline with an important psychological component.

A November 17 Gizmodo article on a group of wartime plastic surgery patients known as the Guinea Pig Club, explores how a number of badly disfigured military men from World War II Britain and other allied nations benefited both from the pioneering work of English plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe and from each other’s company as they dealt simultaneously with the physical and psychological wounds of war. Beverly Hill-based plastic surgeon Payam Jarrah-Nejad, M.D., F.I.C.S., F.A.C.S., known more casually to patients and colleagues as Dr. J, points out that the article shines a very useful light on the great strides plastic surgery has made in terms of treating people who have suffered from disfiguring traumatic injuries. He also notes that it underscores the importance of psychological and social support for individuals whose disfigurement might otherwise lead to a persistent sense of social isolation if not properly addressed.

As described by writer Olga Oksman, the increasing use of aviation as a weapon of war during World War II led to an entirely new set of medical challenges as surgeons were beset with an unprecedented number of plane crash survivors whose otherwise healthy young bodies were riddled with extremely severe burns. This challenge caused Dr. McIndoe to create a number of highly innovative techniques in the still nascent science of plastic and reconstructive surgery, including creating odd looking tubes of skin to help incubate other areas of skin to be used later for skin grafts in a later plastic surgery procedure. Dr. J says that while learning about Dr. McIndoe’s work is clearly inspiring to surgeons in particular, it also serves as a reminder to the general public of the fact that plastic surgery remains an extremely challenging medical discipline with an important psychological component.

Dr. J notes that the importance of the social aspect of the Guinea Pig Club should not be discounted. Although ostensibly a drinking club for its members, most of whom were in their very early twenties, it’s clear that simply being allowed to be sociable not only with each other, but with doctors, nurses, and local families who were not put off by their appearance, must have been a crucial aspect of the young men’s recovery.

An issue that sometimes comes up with reconstructive (and even some purely elective) plastic surgeries is that patients may tend to place too much emphasis on the results of a procedure in terms of solving all of their personal problems. Dr. J notes that the Guinea Pig Club, which on one occasion included showgirls who were specifically brought in to show the disfigured youths they could still talk to attractive women, clearly helped remind the young men that not all of their social worth was based on the way they looked.

Of course, our appearance does have an impact on the way we perceive ourselves and others. Whether readers are dealing with a reconstructive issue or procedures ranging from ear pinning to help youngsters with prominent ears to fit in better socially, rhinoplasty or breast augmentation, Dr. J is here to help. Interested individuals may call Dr. J Plastic Surgery at 310-993-3800 or visit his website at http://www.DrJPlasticSurgery.com or Dr. J on Facebook.

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Bob Westal
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Dr. J (Payam Jarrah-Nejad, MD, FACS) Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
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