Peter Randall, M.D.
1923 - 2014
On November 16, 2014, the international plastic surgery community lost a true giant in the field of cleft lip and palate surgery. At the age of 91, Peter Randall, emeritus professor of plastic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, succumbed to complications following a stroke. He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his loving family.
Peter was born in Philadelphia on March 29, 1923. He attended the William Penn Charter School, and then graduated from Princeton University in 1944, and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1946. He completed his internship at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore in 1947, and trained in general surgery at the US Naval Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from 1947 to 1950. He then completed a preceptorship in St. Louis with James Barrett Brown from 1950 to 1952, and received an additional year of plastic surgery training at Barnes and St. Louis Children’s Hospital from 1952 to 1953.
He returned to Philadelphia in 1953, and joined Henry P. Royster as an Associate Surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he expanded the cleft lip and palate program. He was also an Associate Surgeon at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center from 1954 to 1967. He became a senior surgeon at CHOP in 1966, where he served as Director of the Facial Reconstruction Center from 1974 to 1987, and Chief of Plastic Surgery until 1981 when he was succeeded by Linton Whitaker. He was appointed Associate Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from 1968 to 1979, then served as Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery from 1979 to1987. He was also a consultant in plastic surgery at other regional hospitals, including the Philadelphia Naval Hospital (1968-80), and Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr, and Lankenau Hospitals, and he also served as Chief of Plastic Surgery at Lankenau Hospital from 1970 to 1979.
Academically, Peter rose from Assistant Professor in 1959 to Associate Professor in 1965, and ultimately to Professor of Plastic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in 1970. He retired from active pediatric practice in 1989, but continued to see patients until 1992 when he finally achieved emeritus status.
Nationally, he was a giant in the field who served in countless leadership positions in a long list of plastic surgery societies, often as a founding member. He served as president of ASPRS in 1977, president of PSEF in 1972, president of ACPA in 1965, president and founding member of the Cleft Palate Foundation, a member of AAPS since 1959, Chairman of the Research Council in 1964, president and founding member of the Robert H. Ivy Society, a founding member of NESPS. He was also a member and examiner of the American Board of Plastic Surgery from 1977 to 1992, an associate editor of PRS from 1982 to 1988, and was an honorary member of numerous international plastic surgery societies.
He is best known for his many contributions to cleft surgery, including his popularization of the lip adhesion technique for wide clefts prior to definitive lip repair (1965), and for his mathematical analysis of the Tennison triangular lip repair (1959), for which he earned top-billing in the Randall-Tennison triangular lip repair. After attending a presentation by Leonard Furlow on his double-opposing Z-plasty palatoplasty technique, he brought the Furlow technique back to Philadelphia, and with Don LaRossa in 1978, he established a modified version of the Furlow procedure as the standard of cleft palate repair at CHOP. He invented the ingenious Randall needle holder, with side holes in the tip that allow the surgeon to load the needle end-on to facilitate intraoral suturing. Always the innovator, in retirement he invented and patented the Randall-Low micro needle holder, with a handle based upon a six-sided pencil design and an index fingertip control button.
He was an international ambassador for cleft surgery, travelling to many foreign countries, sometimes on extended cleft missions to England, Scotland, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, and Vietnam. He was a deserving recipient of the ACPA Distinguished Service Award, and ACPA Honors of the Association.
Peter was always respected as a patient, thoughtful, and kind surgeon and human being. He was a wonderful family man who enjoyed singing, gardening, birding, and sailing, especially at his summer home in Rhode Island. His is survived by his loving wife of 66 years Posey (Rose Johnson), 4 children and their respective spouses, and 6 grandchildren. Long into retirement, he still enjoyed attending national and regional meetings, always taking notes on 3 x 5 inch index cards, and often ambulating to the microphone on prosthetic hips to ask an insightful question. His spirit will live on forever as the elder statesman of cleft care, and a friendly apparition in the audience, scribbling largely illegible notes on his index cards.
David W. Low, MD
Oksana Jackson, MD
Figure 1: Peter Randall, Philadelphia, 2000.