Armenian Surgeon Pioneer of Modern Plastic Surgery

By Brian Arslanian, MD

Dr. Kazanjian was an Armenian, a dentist, an Oral Surgeon, and a Plastic Surgeon. Many have given him the title as “Father of Modern Day Plastic Surgery.” Being an Armenian, and a Plastic Surgeon, this is near and dear to my heart.

Dr. Kazanjian was born in the Ottoman Empire in 1879 and came to the United States at the age of 16 in 1895 He worked in a wire mill in Worcester, MA while taking night classes until he was accepted into the Harvard Dentistry Program, which he eventually became the Chief of in 1915.

He became known for his ability to manage jaw fractures by means of intermaxillary fixation, which at the time was being managed by interdental splinting. Because of his skills, he was sent overseas to France during WWI as Chief of the First Harvard Unit, which was extablished to manage war injuries of the face and jaw. He became so well known for his skills across Europe that he was nicknamed “The Miracle Man of the Western Front“, having treated over 3000 cases of gunshot wounds to the face and jaw.

Upon his return to the States he enrolled in Harvard Medical School to complete his training and become a Plastic Surgeon. After being Chief of Dentistry for nearly 2 decades he was named the FIRST CHIEF OF PLASTIC SURGERY at HARVARD!

In his career he published over 150 journal articles and co-authored one of the first books on reconstruction of traumatic injuries of the face. He served as president of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgery, and the New England Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

He lived a long life and passed away on October 19, 1974 at the age of 95. Genatzt (Cheers!) to Dr. Kazanjian for all his contributions to my amazing field of Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Kazanjian at his medical school graduation 1905

Dr. Kazanjian operating circa 1940

Group of patients at Dr. Varaztad H. Kazanjian’s ward, circa 1917

A patient Corporal Snowden presented with severe facial trauma. An excerpt from his operative note

A moulage created that demonstrates the extent of injury.

An outcome of the reconstruction of Corporal Snowdon

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