Paul Louis Tessier

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 07 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a693
  1. Barry M Jones

    Plastic surgeon who revolutionised the treatment of facial deformity

    Paul Tessier was one of plastic surgery’s greatest innovators. His original description of techniques for craniofacial reconstruction had a huge impact on plastic and maxillofacial surgery, creating the new subspecialty of craniofacial surgery and giving hope to many with severe facial deformities that were previously untreatable. He had an insatiable will to progress even into his eighth and ninth decades. Never content that a patient should look “better than they did before we started,” he declared “if it is not normal, it is not enough.”

    Paul was born in August 1917 at Heric, near Nantes. His parents were wine merchants, but his great-grandfather was a blacksmith, and perhaps it was here that the seeds of a skill for moulding hard tissues were sown. His initial ambition was to join the navy as an engineer, but this was thwarted by a combination of illness and injury. He considered forestry but finally entered Nantes medical school in October 1936. In 1940 he became a prisoner of war. Fortunately he was held near Nantes for he became desperately ill, with neither the French nor German doctors able to make a diagnosis. A visit by Dr Veran, his teacher in infectious diseases, was arranged, and “in 10 seconds” he diagnosed typhoid myocarditis. Paul was especially impressed that Veran made his captors believe that the idea had been theirs. Release followed in 1941, because of the illness, with a warning to take life easily—so Paul took up rowing! Its attraction was the “total effort” involved “from fingers to toes,” which reflects well his attitude to life.

    Paul escaped death for a second time in 1943. He would have been the on-call surgical resident on the afternoon American B52 bombers destroyed Nantes and its hospital had not …

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