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The story of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at UNC starts with Dr. Erle Peacock, a native to Chapel Hill, who was recruited to the University of North Carolina Hospital by Dr. Nathan Womack, the first Chairman of the Dept of Surgery at UNC. After training in general surgery in New York City, Chapel Hill, and later in St Louis with an emphasis on wound healing, Dr. Peacock returned to UNC and slowly developed the Division of Plastic Surgery when he saw a need for a broadly based academic training program in plastic surgery. From his previous experience with military service at Valley Forge General Hospital, Dr. Peacock developed innovative operative techniques in hand surgery, which he later applied to reconstructive surgery, and became the foundation of the Division’s strengths in wound healing and surgery of the hand. Dr. Peacock recognized the need for an academic training program in the early days of the Division, and developed a laboratory concentrating on wound-healing research which quickly became recognized nationally and internationally for its endeavors.

In 1962 the Hand Rehabilitation Center opened, the first fully centralized center of its kind in the country. It included a staff completely dedicated to all aspects of treatment, from surgeons and occupational therapists to long-term care management for patients. Its concept and format have since been replicated throughout the United States and other countries. In 1971, due to the high success and visibility of the Hand Rehabilitation Center, the title of the division was changed to the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Surgery of the Hand.
Early on in the formation of the Division of Plastic Surgery at UNC, Dr. Peacock recognized the need for a center for the care of burn patients in the NC Memorial Hospital and the initial plan for a full-scale burn center was introduced by Dr. Gerald Bevin, a former General Surgery faculty member at Yale, and John Stackhouse, the employer of a patient at the Hand Center who had lost both hands in an electrical accident. In 1981, first directed by Roger E. Salisbury, the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center opened, named for the organization which raised so much money for the center that no federal funding was needed. (Contributions to the Burn Center are always appreciated; more information can be found at this page.)

Craniofacial surgery expanded within the Division with the basic cleft lip and palate surgical program. Developed by Dr. Peacock and Dr. William Trier, a retired former navy captain and Chief of Plastic Surgery at US Navy in Bethesda recruited to UNC, the program brought further collaboration with other disciplines such as ENT, oromaxillofacial surgery, and orolanrygologists, and again modeled a team approach. The UNC Craniofacial Team is now one of the longest-standing teams in the United States.

Resident training was expanded in the 1960s and early 1970s, and by 1975 the residency program was fully expanded to two residents in each of the two years of training. The success of the residency program led to the Division being chosen to host the National Plastic Surgery Residents’ Annual Meeting in 1980. With the increase in the need for aesthetic, craniofacial surgery, and, more recently, microsurgery, a full-scale academic rotation for UNC Plastic Surgery residents was begun in 1987. In 2011, the program changed residency length to three years from two, increasing our resident complement to six residents at any given time. in 2014 the program transitioned to a six-year integrated program with two residents per year.