Thomas Rees

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 31 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7541
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

From the 1960s through to the 1980s Thomas Rees was recognised as one of the best and most innovative plastic surgeons in the world. His practice on Park Avenue in New York City attracted patients Rees once described as “people of importance and visibility.” In other words, the rich and famous. After office hours, Rees and his wife, a former model, ran with a crowd who liked jazz, art, movies, theatre, and sports. They were once spotted in a restaurant with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

But there was another side to Rees. Every winter, he left Manhattan for Africa. In 1957 Rees and two other surgeons had cofounded the Flying Doctors of East Africa, subsequently renamed the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF).

Rees loved Africa and African people. During what he called his annual “surgical safaris” he donated his medical skills by performing plastic surgery on people with leprosy, burn and trauma victims, and people with congenital anomalies.

Rees, who in addition to his private practice was …

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