Clifford C. Snyder, M.D.
1916 - 2007
Dr. Clifford Snyder, longtime chairman of the Division of Plastic Surgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine, died June 15, 2007. He was 91.
Dr. Snyder was born Feb. 16, 1916 in Ft. Worth, Texas, to Charles Ludwig and Olga Agnes Kalisch Snyder. He married Mary Odessa Morris in 1939.
He graduated from Texas Christian University and served with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II as ship surgeon/lieutenant second grade.
He had a long and storied career as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the University of Utah. He was the first plastic surgeon at the University, starting the plastic surgery service in 1967. He later led the team of surgeons at the University who separated conjoined twins Lisa and Elisa Hanson in 1979 — the first successful separation of twins joined at the head.
Dr. Snyder, who held the honorary title professor emeritus of surgery, associate dean of medicine, and holder of an endowed chair at the time of his death, had served as chief of plastic surgery at the University of Utah 1967-1986, chief of surgery at the Veteran's Hospital until 1980 and chief of plastic surgery at Shriner's Hospital from 1967 to 1983. He had a strong interest in the history of medicine and started a medical history book collection for the medical school library.
He was a world authority on children's cleft palates. He performed early work on mandibular distraction, long before it became a widespread technique. He also invented creative ways to use nerve-growth hormones for reattaching severed limbs. Among other inventions were a force-feeding pump for cancer patients, the kling bandage, collagen suture and multiple surgical instruments.
His professional honors included the Education Foundation Award of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and Reconstructive Surgeons for an operation that provided urinary control to children with a congenital bladder condition. He served as President of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons in 1976 and was later named its clinician of the year. He performed the first human thumb implant in Utah.
In 1988, Dr. Snyder was one of three University of Utah faculty members inducted as an associate officer brother of the American Society of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem — an honor approved by Queen Elizabeth II, sovereign head of the order.
He also wrote a great deal, with more than 100 publications, from books to chapters and articles in professional journals, to his credit.
Dr. Snyder had many interest outside of his medical pursuits. He was an avid hunter, working closely with beloved hunting dogs. On one occasion, a poisonous snake bit one of his prized dogs. This incident stimulated his interest in snake venom and led him to develop anti-venoms and a vaccine for snakebite victims. Dr. Snyder also had interest in geologically beautifully rocks. He would find and process the rocks, creating beautiful jewelry with a southwest flair. He annually gave his graduating residents processed rocks or jewelry. Plastic surgery compatriots were also the appreciative recipients of his rock presentations. He combined his manual dexterity and his medical interest in making molds of the standard forms of cleft lips and palates. He would give these molds to his residents each year as educational models. He also had a love for athletics and served as a team physician for the University of Utah football team and a longtime supporter of the basketball team.
He is survived by a son and three grandchildren.
W. Bradford Rockwell, M.D.