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Craniofacial groundbreaker Milton Edgerton, MD, passes at age 96

Milton Edgerton, MD, a pioneer in craniofacial surgery, died May 17 in Charlottesville, N.C., at age 96. Dr. Edgerton devoted his career to the treatment of pediatric craniofacial deformities, and performed the first intracranial surgery to correct orbital hypertelorism in the United States. He co-authored the first text on ear reconstruction, and he also was among the first to perform transgender surgery in the United States.

According to plastic surgery historian David Lavine, MD, Fort Worth, Texas, Dr. Edgerton trained 37 chiefs of plastic surgery throughout his career, and he was known for his tireless efforts in traveling the country to lecture on a myriad of topics within the specialty.

Dr. Edgerton is widely credited with launching the Plastic Surgery Research Council, as well as being one of the early forces behind the growth of plastic surgery training programs nationwide, his longtime friend and colleague Paul Manson, MD, Baltimore, tells PSN.

"What he did for plastic surgery was to be one of the people who formed formal Plastic Surgery Divisions in this country," Dr. Manson says.

Dr. Edgerton earned his medical degree in 1944 at Johns Hopkins and returned there in 1951 after serving as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, during which he was stationed at Valley Forge General Hospital, Phoenixville, Pa. His treatment of soldiers injured in World War II had a significant impact upon his approach to plastic surgery. After returning to Johns Hopkins, he established the Division of Plastic Surgery – for which he served as chair – and also established and led the Johns Hopkins Plastic Surgery Training Program. Dr. Edgerton served as Johns Hopkins' first full-time chief of plastic surgery; its plastic surgeon-in-chief; and as professor of plastic surgery. In 2011, Johns Hopkins established the Milton T. Edgerton, MD, Professorship in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.

After leaving Johns Hopkins in 1970, Dr. Edgerton became Division of Plastic Surgery chair at the University of Virginia Medical Center, after which he launched – and assumed the chair of – the Department of Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery. Dr. Edgerton continued his research and training activities there until his retirement in 1994.

Over the course of his life, Dr. Edgerton authored more than 500 peer-reviewed medical papers and four medical textbooks. In 1974, he served as American Association of Plastic Surgeons president.

Dr. Edgerton is survived by his four children – Bradley (Louise); William (Lisa); Sandy Edgerton Bissell (Chip); and Diane Edgerton Miller (Ethan) – 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Patricia, who passed away in 2010.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at Farmington Country Club, Charlottesville, Va. In lieu of flowers, Dr. Edgerton's family asks for donations to the Alzheimer's Association,355 Rio Road West, Suite 102, Charlottesville, VA 22901.