AAPS, American Association of Plastic Surgeons
AAPS, American Association of Plastic Surgeons
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William Cronin Trier, M.D.

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William Cronin Trier, M.D.
1922 - 2016

Bill Trier, AAPS President 1987-88 died peacefully at his retirement home in Seattle, WA February 17, 2016 at the age of 94.

Bill was born in New York City February 11, 1922 and raised in Belleville, New Jersey. He was educated at Dartmouth College and received his MD from New York Medical College in 1947. He completed his surgical internship and early residency at Grasslands Hospital in Valhalla, NY, then transitioned to becoming a Navy Surgeon and completing his surgical residency at the US Navy Hospital at St. Albans on Long Island, NY. Bill was drawn to the creativity of plastic surgery by Past AAPS President James Barret Brown. He completed his Plastic Surgery training under Dr. Brown at Barnes/Washington University, St. Louis 1955-58 and was certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery in 1960. Bill was a proud Navy surgeon. He served in the US Navy 1942-1967, first as Apprentice Seaman, then Lieutenant (JG), then Captain. He served as the Assistant Medical Officer on the USS Midway in 1951 and on the USS Wasp in 1952. Bill was on the Plastic Surgery Staff at the US Navy Hospital at St. Albans 1958-60, then moved to become the Head of the Plastic Surgery Section at the US Navy Hospital at Philadelphia 1960-63, then Head of the Plastic Surgery Section at the US National Naval Hospital at Bethesda 1963-67.

Bill was then drawn to academic Plastic Surgery by Erle Peacock at the University of North Carolina, where Erle, also a Navy veteran and Barnes alumnus, was the founding Head of Plastic Surgery. Bill began his academic career on the Plastic Surgery faculty at UNC 1967-69. Bill began the development of the cleft and craniofacial center at UNC, one of the first in the nation, with his clinical practice focusing on cleft lip and palate. Bill and Erle Peacock were close partners, and Bill subsequently joined Erle at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where Erle had moved to become the founding Chairman of Surgery. There, Bill became the first Head of Plastic Surgery at the University of Arizona, where he remained 1969-76. He was quoted by the 1969 Tucson Daily Citizen as saying, "I was intrigued by the imaginative aspects of plastic surgery, like Pygmalion. If I can help correct this on a little child, then I've helped them lead a normal life. That's rewarding surgery."

In 1976, Bill returned to UNC as the Head of Plastic Surgery, Professor of Surgery and Dental Ecology, and remained until 1985. Bill’s passion was cleft lip and palate care, and he made many important contributions to the literature including cleft team care and VPI treatment.

In 1985, at the age of 63, Bill made his final career move, when UW Chief of Plastic Surgery, Loren Engrav, himself based at Harborview Medical Center, persuaded Bill to join the faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle, as the Head of Plastic Surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center. Bill and his wife, Kathleen had always dreamed of eventually retiring in the Pacific Northwest, so the move made sense. Bill remained on the faculty at the UW until 1989 when he suffered a hip fracture playing volleyball that ended his clinical career. Bill and Kathleen then transitioned to a retirement life in Seattle, where they continued to enjoy all that Seattle had to offer: boating, surrounded by water, the outdoors, surrounded by mountains, great food, and UW Husky basketball and football.

Along the way, Bill made many selfless contributions to the field of, and future of Plastic Surgery, serving in many volunteer leadership positions, including AAPS Historian 1973-76; Membership Committee and Chair 1976-81; Secretary 1981-84, and President 1987-88. He was awarded the AAPS Distinguished Fellowship Award in 2003.

Bill also was also a member of the Plastic Surgery RRC, a member of the Executive Committee of ASAPS 1977-78, President of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association 1980-81, President of the Cleft Palate Foundation 1984-1990, Co-Chairman of the ABMS Committee on Study of Evaluation Procedures (COSEP) 1982-85, a Director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery 1976-82, Chairman of the Recertification Committee, the Oral Exam Committee and Vice-Chair 1981-82.

Several AAPS Past Presidents I interviewed described Bill as a true Navy Captain, with a commanding presence, who, in the words of AAPS Past President Kenna Given "did not hesitate to let you know where he stood on an issue" and was always "very persuasive." Past AAPS President and ABPS Executive Director Barry Noone recalls learning how to give oral Board exams with Bill as a junior examiner. Bill was an incredibly intelligent and thoughtful person. Though he was a commanding presence, Bill also had great warmth and calmness. That was how I knew him when I was a senior resident in Surgery at the University of Washington in the late ‘80s. He was a consummate educator and mentor and had a major impact on many future Plastic Surgeons, including myself. I will always credit Bill with gaining my entrance to the field of Plastic Surgery. In the days before the Plastic Surgery residency "match" I applied to only 3 programs: UCSF, UCSD, and MGH. When I was interviewing at MGH, then Chief and future AAPS President, and my future mentor, Jim May told me that Bill Trier had called him to highly recommend me. Jim then asked me, "So, do you want the job?" That was how things went in the '80's. I subsequently had the great honor of having Bill as a patient of mine in the setting of the near loss of his thumb. His warmth and calmness truly shined through.

Bill had a passion for boating, boating education, the American Civil War, travel, reading, classical, jazz, and '40s music. Bill and his wife Kathleen married in 1947 and made 19 moves through many states before reaching Seattle's Horizon House retirement home in 2007. Sadly, Kathleen suffered from Alzheimer's at the end, but Bill was devoted to her forever. Bill remained witty and engaged until the end, and could reflect on a glorious life of contributions to the future of Plastic Surgery.

"We stand on the shoulders of giants." Bill Trier was one of my personal "giants."

Nicholas B. Vedder, MD

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