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Dr. W. K. Lindsay, Professor Emeritus,
Department of Surgery, University of Toronto

1920-2008

We are saddened by the passing of Dr. W.K. Lindsay following a brief illness on February 5, 2008. Dr. Lindsay (or WK as he was known) was a true gentleman, a respected leader and an enthusiastic surgeon and scholar. He set and achieved high standards and will be truly missed by colleagues, friends and family.

Dr. W.K. Lindsay was born and raised in Vancouver and ventured east to study medicine, surgery and plastic surgery in Toronto, Montreal and Texas. He joined the staff of The Hospital for Sick Children in 1953 where he changed the face of paediatric plastic surgery forever. His career was complimented and fuelled by his adoring wife Peggy and their 4 children: Anne, Barbara, Catherine and William Jr. In addition to his surgical career he was also an incredibly successful and eco-friendly farmer and environmentalist.

Dr. Lindsay was a man of stature in its broadest sense. His kind and amiable nature was evident in the clinic when the children would run up to sit on his lap. He was a wonderful and empathetic clinician who led by example. Most importantly Dr. Lindsay is regarded in the highest fashion around the world by anyone who knew him as a GENTLEMAN – a true gentleman.

Dr. Lindsay loved to teach. I remember eagerly awaiting to do palate surgery with him. He would do one side then I would do the other with his attentive coaching by my side. One of his greatest accomplishments was the University of Toronto-Lanzhou Burn Exchange which was sponsored by CIDA. This was also known as the Canada/China University linkage project CCULP. Students and teachers would go to Lanzhou or come to Toronto with Dr. Lindsay orchestrating the exchange and facilitating their education. For this he was awarded the Honourary Headship of the Provincial Hospital in Gansu Province.

Dr. Lindsay’s greatest impact perhaps was as an administrator. He became the Division Head at The Hospital for Sick Children in 1958 and held the position until 1986, some 29 years. He was Chairman of the University Division of Plastic Surgery from 1965 – 1986, the 20 years of the greatest growth in plastic and reconstructive surgery. I would like to quote a recent article; “from an administrative viewpoint, Dr. Lindsay was a man of vision and a statesman par excellent. As Chairman of Plastic Surgery at the University of Toronto he foresaw the changes that technology was providing. He supported, encouraged and facilitated new directions for our specialty and literally allowed us to develop into the leading plastic surgical centre in North America”. Hence the sub-specialists could flourish. These included Wally Peters in burns, Ralph Manktelow in microsurgery, Ian Munro in craniofacial surgery, and Nancy McKee in research. This set the stage for the enormous successes the Division of Plastic Surgery at the University of Toronto has witnessed over the past 30 years. Without his vision and guidance, this would not have occurred. Even in retirement, Dr. Lindsay continued his long term involvement with the R. S. McLaughlin Foundation acting as a Trustee. In recognition of all of these achievements, our division has created the Lindsay-Thomson symposium in Paediatric Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Lindsay was a huge supporter and participant in laboratory research. A group of his research fellows formed the “Chicken Tendon Club” which represents an example of his recognition of the laboratory as part of clinical practice. His work in tendon healing dramatically affected our approach to the injured tendon from a clinical standpoint. His interest and enthusiasm for research continued well passed his retirement. He would say “research is the foundation for the future” and always wanted to know what lay ahead. As a true team player, he formed the multidisciplinary cleft lip and palate clinic, one of the first in North America and the multidisciplinary burn team. Both of these enjoyed enormous clinical success over the years.

Dr. Lindsay was a true statesman bringing pride to our Division, our Hospital, our University and indeed our country. He was President of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons in 1964-65. His devoted trainees organized the W.K. Lindsay Club which continues to meet annually at this Canadian meeting. He was President of the American Association of Plastic Surgery in 1970-71, the most prestigious and the most academic of plastic surgery organizations.

For all his accomplishments - clinical, research, educational and administrative - he was awarded the Order of Ontario in 2002. For all this, Dr. Lindsay, we thank you.

A Memorial Service will be held on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 2:00 pm at the Timothy Eaton United Church – 230 St. Clair Avenue West with a reception at the church to follow. The family has requested that all donations please be made to the “Division of Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Fund” and be directed to Dr. Christopher Forrest, Room 5430, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8.

This tribute was composed by Dr. Ronald M. Zuker, friend, colleague, and trainee.

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