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History of the Department

The Beginning

The Plastic Surgery Residency Training Program at UT Southwestern began in 1969 with the appointment of one faculty member, who served as Chair, one resident, and a secretary in a Division of the Department of Surgery. Now, there are more than 20 full-time faculty members, more than 30 clinical faculty attendings, 22 full-time residents, six full-time fellows, and more than 100 administrative and support personnel.

Before 1969, plastic and reconstructive surgical care was provided by attending clinical faculty at Parkland Memorial Hospital, most notably by Ted Mills, M.D. In 1969 G. Tom Shires, M.D., Chair of the Department of Surgery, appointed one of his former residents, Kenneth E. Salyer, to the faculty at the rank of Assistant Professor and Chair of the new Division of Plastic Surgery. Over the ensuing years, Dr. Salyer developed a national reputation in the clinical arena of craniofacial surgery. In 1977 Dr. Salyer decided to pursue his future in private practice.


In 1978 another former resident of Dr. Shires and UT Southwestern graduate was recruited to the faculty and appointed as Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Division. Fritz E. Barton, Jr., M.D., finished his general surgery residency training at UT Southwestern and after serving as a surgeon in Vietnam completed the plastic surgery residency training program at New York University. He returned to Dallas in 1976 and immediately became an integral part of the Division's growth as a clinical faculty member. Dr. Barton had already earned national and international recognition as a superb clinical surgeon and also as an outstanding medical educator. Under his leadership, he launched the first publication of Selected Readings in Plastic Surgery in 1978.

In 1980 Fritz Barton accepted the appointment of Professor and Chair of the Division. Recognizing that a program is only as good as the diversity and excellence of its faculty, over the ensuing 13 years, Dr. Barton was able to successfully recruit outstanding faculty that covered the entire spectrum of plastic surgery with the highest level of expertise and clinical competence. The faculty's reputation made the UT Southwestern training program the most sought-after and has resulted in the highest caliber of residents being attracted to the program.

In 1986 the Division launched a recruitment campaign to attract the most outstanding young academic plastic surgeon in the nation to the Dallas program. Rod J. Rohrich, M.D., was selected from this process. He graduated summa cum laude from college and medical school and received the highest honors from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Michael E. DeBakey Excellence in Surgery Award in 1979. Dr. Rohrich went on to complete his general and plastic surgery training at the University of Michigan. He commenced a series of postdoctoral fellowships which included a Pediatric Plastic Surgery Fellowship at Oxford University in Oxford, England, and a Craniofacial Fellowship at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico. He then completed a Hand and Microsurgery Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School from 1985 to 1986.


In 1991 Fritz Barton, M.D., while maintaining his faculty status, stepped down as chair and Rod J. Rohrich, M.D., was appointed Professor and Chair of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. That year, the Division was awarded the prestigious Crystal Charity Ball Distinguished Chair in Plastic Surgery – the only such Chair in plastic surgery in the United States. Recognizing that the Division was continually cited as among the top three best training programs in the country, Dr. Rohrich's goal was to take the Division to another level of excellence in clinical care, education, and research. UT Southwestern Plastic Surgery attained departmental status in September 1996. This major milestone (one of the first true academic plastic surgery departments in the United States) greatly facilitated propelling the Department to become a world-renowned plastic surgery department.

The Department of Plastic Surgery has attained excellence in all spheres – patient care, resident education, and basic research  and its growth is continuing rapidly. During Dr. Rohrich's tenure as Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery, the following milestones were achieved:

  • One of the first Departments of Plastic Surgery in the United States.
  • Vastly expanded full-time faculty from 1 to more than 20 nationally and internationally known plastic surgeons with expertise in all areas of plastic surgery.
  • Expanded the Plastic Surgery Residency Training Program from two to four residents per year – the largest and most sought-after plastic surgery residency in the United States. The Residency Program has four integrated positions matched directly from medical school as well as two independent positions selected after completing general surgery training.
  • Expanded the Department’s clinical volume from 250 patient visits per month to more than 1,500 outpatient visits in our UT Southwestern University Hospitals and Clinics.
  • Developed Centers/Clinics of Excellence in laser/skin care, abdominal wall/wound care, breast care, and hand surgery.

Jeffrey Kenkel, M.D., was named Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery in September 2015.