AAPS, American Association of Plastic Surgeons
AAPS, American Association of Plastic Surgeons
Twitter YouTube LinkedIn
Stephen J. Mathes MD

« back to memoirs

Stephen J. Mathes MD
1943 - 2007

A native of New Orleans, Stephen Mathes obtained his BS degree at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in l964 and his MD degree at LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans in l968. While in Baton Rouge, he played for the LSU tennis team. Tennis remained his favorite sport, and he enjoyed matches with his colleagues throughout his career. In 1970, he was called to serve in the US Army while in his general surgery residency and asked to be stationed in south Louisiana where he could treat soldiers from his home state who were wounded in Vietnam. He was commissioned a major in the U.S. Medical Corps and served as the Assistant Chief of Surgery at Fort Polk Army Hospital in southwest Louisiana between 1970 and 1972.

In Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Stephen Mathes completed his general surgery residency in 1975 and elected to continue as a plastic surgery resident finishing the plastic surgery residency in 1977. Because of his experience working as a surgeon in Fort Polk, he was able to develop a laboratory to explore the anatomy of muscle and musculocutaneous flaps and microsurgery. In this laboratory, he identified the pedicles to many of the muscles which soon would be used as lifesaving flaps to cover devastating wounds or to restore contour or stable coverage after tumor surgery or trauma.

Because of the opportunities in basic and clinical science research, the challenging problems presenting at university hospitals and the chance to teach surgery to medical students and residents, Stephen Mathes elected to pursue an academic career in surgery. In 1977, he started in Washington University in St Louis where he was appointed head of the Burn Unit there and became the first surgeon in St. Louis to use microvascular surgery to perform replantations and flap transplantation. One night he encountered a dentist whose son at age two had amputated his dominant hand thumb. The father told Dr. Mathes that his son would one day be a successful football quarterback and therefore must be successfully replanted. Fortunately, the thumb was saved and many years later, Dr. Mathes received a sport's page showing a quarterback who was the hero of a game. The quarterback's father had a red circle around the thumb which about to release the ball for a forward pass. Above the passing hand was the word, thanks. In his initial year in academics, he published his first text entitled: Clinical Atlas of Muscle and Musculocutaneous Flaps. This text showed all the vascular anatomy of flaps throughout the body and showed how to safely move these tissues when needed for reconstructive surgery.

In 1978, Stephen Mathes moved to San Francisco to join the faculty at University of California School of Medicine. He was involved in basic science and clinical research achieving grant support through NIGMS, NIH, Spinal Cord Research and society grants.

Over 42 research fellows from the United States, Europe and Asia have been supervised in his laboratory or clinical projects. His major basic research showed the ability of the muscle flap to deliver leukocytes and antibiotics to prevent or eliminate harmful bacteria. This basic science work was successfully applied in a clinical project using aggressive debribement, muscle flaps and limited antibiotics to treat chronic osteomyelitis and chronic radiation wounds. In 1984, he achieved the rank of Professor of Surgery at UCSF. That same year, Dr. Mathes left San Francisco to become Professor of Surgery and chief of the Section of Plastic Surgery at University of Michigan. During his tenure in Ann Arbor, Dr. Mathes also held the appointment of Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology.

In l985, Stephen Mathes returned to San Francisco to become head of the division of plastic surgery and Residency Program Director at UCSF and received an additional appointment as Professor of Growth and Development in the School of Dentistry. During his 26 years on the faculty at UCSF including the 20 years Plastic Surgery Program director, he trained 62 residents. During his tenure as program director, 40 % of the graduating residents have accepted surgery academic positions in university programs.

During his academic career, Stephen Mathes has been the recipient of awards given in recognition of his basic science and clinical research. The awards include six First Prize awards in the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation Contest in the Basic Science Category extending from 1981 - 1999. Other awards include: Special Achievement Award (PSEF/ASPS), James Barrett Brown prize for best paper in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Best Paper form the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and Best Medical Book Award, Physicians Category by American Medical Writers Association for his third text, Clinical Applications for Muscle and Musculocutaneous Flaps. He has been listed in Who's Who in Science and Technology and is currently listed in Who's Who in California and Who's Who in America. Dr. Mathes received the Clinician of the Year award by the American Association of Plastic Surgeons. In 2005, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation and the Special Achievement Award by the American Society of Plastic Surgery.

Despite the teaching and operating schedules at home at UCSF, Stephen Mathes has supported the various educational organizations important to surgery in general and to plastic surgery. Current membership in over 32 national and international professional societies includes: American Association of Plastic Surgeons, American College of Surgeons and American Surgical Association. He has served as scientific program chairman of the Plastic Surgery Research Council, the American Society of Plastic Surgery and the American Association of Plastic Surgery. He is a past director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery where he served as chair of the Written Examination Committee. Dr. Mathes has served as program chair for five plastic surgery educational foundation symposiums focusing on innovations in reconstructive surgery and breast and body contouring procedures. He has served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the American Association of Plastic Surgery and currently is Secretary of this organization. Dr. Mathes is past president of the Association of Academic Chairman in Plastic Surgery and past president of the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation. He is also past chair of the Residency Review Committee for Plastic Surgery in the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education.

The publication list for Stephen Mathes includes 233 peer review papers and chapters. He has also published six books and his latest two include the two volume text: Reconstructive Surgery and the eighth volume 2nd edition of Plastic Surgery. Plastic Surgery was published in 2006 and covers in-depth the scope and practice of the specialty of plastic surgery. This five year editing process by Dr. Mathes contains 219 chapters and over 293 contributors. Dr. Mathes when not writing has enjoyed the honor of visiting other programs, meeting their faculty and lecturing to their residents. Dr. Mathes has served as Visiting Professor for the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation and had the opportunity to serve as Visiting Professor in over 25 countries. He has delivered over 400 formal lectures and panel discussions throughout the world. Dr. Mathes states: Contact with teachers and colleagues must be maintained in order to keep abreast of the new innovations in medicine and to measure one's outcomes in the context of standard of care. The physician must seek out these sources of inspiration and stimulation to always improve patient care.

Quick Links
Annual Meeting
Twitter YouTube LinkedIn