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After 30 years, J. Regan Thomas, MD steps down as Editor of Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America. Dr Thomas has been the Editor of the Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America since its inception in 1993. We thank Dr Thomas not only for his efforts in leading Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America but also as someone who helped create a strong scientific, academic, and clinical foundation for Facial Plastic Surgery. As a clinician, teacher, researcher, administrator, and always an advocate, Dr Thomas has been instrumental in cementing the position of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in the medical and lay communities in North America and around the world. More senior readers will remember a time when otolaryngology training programs had no faculty dedicated to Facial Plastic Surgery; when Facial Plastic Surgery had little to no voice in organized medicine; when a facial plastic surgeon was disparaged as “just an ENT” by other specialties and the public; when hospitals were reticent to credential facial plastic surgeons in the very procedures we, as a specialty, pioneered and refined. Dr Thomas’ calm, insightful, and endearingly persistent approach helped define and establish Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery as an essential part of Medicine (Fig. 1).
Born in Joplin, Missouri, Dr Thomas graduated from Drury College, where he was Student Body President, and the University of Missouri School of Medicine (MU). He did his surgical residency at Yale University and his otolaryngology residency at MU. Two events during his early years had a major impact on his life and career. At Drury, he met Rhonda Churchill, and they were married following graduation in 1969. Early in his medical career, he met Gene Tardy and completed a fellowship in Facial Plastic Surgery with Gene at Northwestern University in 1979. That fellowship provided a springboard for his passion for Facial Plastic Surgery and his own commitment to training talented young physicians through his fellowship programs for the next 43 years.
M. Eugene Tardy Jr MD: “As the very first of my valued fellows, Dr. Thomas has established himself as one of the most creative, effective and talented facial plastic surgeons of our time. Creative surgeon, mesmerizing teacher and a warm physician’s touch characterize his attributes: his devotion to the Aequanimitas tradition of medical excellence sets the standard for others. To his credit, Regan has never known a stranger, generously sharing his knowledge, expertise and friendship to all with whom he is associated. His leadership in the development of Facial Plastic Surgery world-wide is exemplary” (Fig. 2).
Dr Thomas has served on the faculty of six major academic otolaryngology departments, including MU, and served as Director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, as Chair of ENT at St. Louis University for 6 years and at the University of Illinois–Chicago (UIC) for 18 years, as professor at Northwestern University School of Medicine, where he was appointed Professor Emeritus on his retirement this summer, and as Visiting Professor at New Mexico University School of Medicine.
A man of many talents, Dr Thomas was a multitasker before it became popular. Running a successful cosmetic and reconstructive surgery practice while writing, editing, and publishing extensively and even serving as an on-air TV medical reporter on ABC and NBC would be more than a full-time job for most; beyond these responsibilities, Dr Thomas was a full-time teacher. Thirty-five American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) fellows have trained with Dr Thomas, and many have continued in Regan’s footsteps by serving as fellowship directors. His fellows have continued his tradition of calm, compassionate patient care, service, and teaching, whether in private practice, academic medicine, or medical administration, and they are a source of great pride to Regan.
In addition, Dr Thomas has lectured and trained physicians across the United States and around the world. He has made more than 300 scholarly presentations, serving as an international ambassador for the Academy and specialty with casual charm and understated brilliance.
Regan has written over 270 publications, authored seven textbooks, and in addition to his work on Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America, has served on the editorial boards of Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, Laryngoscope, and Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, helping to build an independent presence for Facial Plastic Surgery while remaining collaborative within otolaryngology.
Dr Thomas’ publications and presentations often include tributes to his family: his partner in life, Rhonda, and their three children and their families. As Regan has written, “My wife, Rhonda Churchill Thomas, deserves my ongoing appreciation and gratitude for her enthusiastic and always presentsupportfor my professional activities. Likewise, I offer my sincere appreciation to my children, Ryan, Aaron, and Evan, for their inspiration and example” (Fig. 3, Fig. 4, Fig. 5, Fig. 6).
Dr Thomas has served the local, national, and international communities as President of the AAFPRS, the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), the American Board of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, the Illinois State Medical Society, and as Chair of the Illinois Medical Society and National ENT PACs. His awards are too numerous to list but include Alumni awards from Drury College and MU, Honor awards from the AAFPRS, AAO-HNS, and the Mexican Society of Rhinology and Facial Plastic Surgery, Mentor of the Year award from the AAO-HNS, and the Jacques Joseph award from the European Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery. He was named Teacher of the Year by his residents at both UIC and Northwestern.
Dr Thomas has served patients for 50 years, developing safe procedures and medical techniques in Facial Plastic Surgery (the “safety face lift”), reconstructive surgery repairing trauma and cancer defects, and scar revision. He is touched to treat multiple generations and relatives of patients from the same family.
What makes Dr Thomas a role model is his devotion to advancing the field and to building the Facial Plastic Surgery community, locally and internationally. His early advocacy on behalf of the AAFPRS helped establish our field’s position in organized medicine. Working with other giants of the field, Dr Thomas has been a strong advocate for us by strength of argument as well as by his ability to reach across aisles, fields, and borders to establish a robust and interconnected Facial Plastic Surgery community.
Many of his fellows, trainees, and peers have offered their appreciation and praise for Dr Thomas. In this limited space, we are only able to include a few thoughts from some of those from around the world who know him well.
Steve Perkins, MD (US): “I consider Regan Thomas as one of my closest and career-long best friends and a colleague with extremely mutual views on the field of Facial Plastic Surgery. While traveling the States and the world together teaching Facial Plastic Surgery, we became extremely close friends with mutual interests in skiing, racing cars, boating, and golf. Always we have enjoyed dinners together with our international friends and partaking in the joys of all kinds of wine!”
Gilbert Nolste Trenite, MD (Amsterdam): “Regan’s legacy of Facial Plastic Surgery, through his books, articles and training of fellows who had the privilege to learn from him, will stay. Many colleagues over the world will miss his excellent lectures. Regan is a born teacher. I am proud to be his friend and “brother” as he calls me. We both know that there is more in life than a brilliant career.“
Wayne Larrabee, MD (US): “Regan possessed the breadth of knowledge and diplomatic skills we needed to make The Clinics successful and it has continued to be successful to this day. It has been an honor and great pleasure to have worked with Regan most of my career. I wish him well in retirement but also know he will continue to contribute in many ways.”
Roxana Cobo, MD (Colombia): “Friend, teacher, adviser, role model, thoughtful leader….all of these are words that describe Regan Thomas. His generosity in sharing his knowledge and promoting Facial Plastic Surgery around the world is something I will never forget and will be forever thankful. All the international community will miss Regan, thanks for giving us so much!”
Hesham Saleh, MD (London): “I met Regan many years ago in an international conference, and it struck me how eloquently he delivered lectures on complex subjects, making them easily accessible to all. At the same time, he had immense warmth and an ability to make those of us with much less experience feel good about themselves. For all these years Regan continued to be an outstanding surgeon, amazing teacher, vast researcher and, above all, a wonderful friend.”
Jose A Patrocinio, MD (Brazil): “Those angels who enlighten our lives with light of knowledge, curiosity and wisdom areTEACHERS! Regan is an angel!”
Efrain Davalos, MD (Mexico): “Regan Thomas is my second father, my mentor, and my example to follow in Facial Plastic Surgery and in many other aspects in life. One of the most famous facial plastic surgeons worldwide, who is always willing and ready to encourage and teach people from all over the world with his depths of knowledge and enthusiasm. But I just call him‘El Jefe.’”
Yong Ju Jang (South Korea): “Dr. Regan Thomas is a true giant in Facial Plastic Surgery. His lifelong teaching to colleagues and service to patients will leave a huge mark in the history of Facial Plastic Surgery. Personally, I am blessed to have known him as a close friend and professional colleague for over 12 years. He is a real exemplary ‘American gentleman' with a great personality and a sense of humor and his legacy will endure."
Peter A. Adamson, MD (Canada): “Regan reflects the character and professionalism that all facial plastic surgeons should aspire to. And he does this with a twinkle in his eye and a wicked sense of humor. I always remember and cherish our verbal repartees. The best of friends, the best of times, the best of memories.”
Unfortunately, space limits the comments we can include here. Those who have met or listened to Dr Thomas know his keen intellect and careful reasoning, always keeping the patient as his primary concern. As a Thomas fellow (Fig. 7), I write here on behalf of those who have worked with and studied under Dr Thomas, who know and appreciate his warmth and kindness, his southwest Missouri aphorisms, his appreciation of music, art, fine wine, Sprite, McDonald’s, and chocolate chip cookies. We learned from him the elegance of a meticulously elevated flap, the graceful subtlety of a carefully contoured nose, the many uses of cotton-tipped applicators, and how to discretely slip out of the office and enjoy a St. Louis Cardinals game on a sunny summer weekday.
Those who know Regan are fortunate to count him as a friend. In Regan, we have a second brother/father, confidant, often coconspirator, and occasional therapist, someone we can count on for advice, support, and the ego check we all occasionally need. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America will continue to uphold the high standards and tenets Dr Thomas has set: refining, advancing, and sharing innovations in the art and science of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. I write on behalf of all of us to thank Dr Thomas and acknowledge him as a giant, atop whose shoulders we stand to see a little farther beyond the horizon.