Alfred Wells Farmer (“Farm”) was born in Florida, moved to England and later to St. Catharines, graduating from the University of Toronto in 1927.
Another Gilles trainee, he became certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery and general surgery in 1939. Dr. Farmer was appointed chief surgeon for the Royal Canadian Air Force and served during World War II before returning to Canada to join the staff at the Hospital for Sick Children. He is recognized as Canada’s second plastic surgeon,
He became the chief of surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in 1956. Apparently he had several retirements and became Chief of Surgery at Sunnybrook Hospital after his first one in 1966.
Dr. Farmer is recognized as an idea man and made several contributions in the clinical arena related to the management of avulsion injuries, cross-leg pedicle vascularized bone graft to treat tibial pseudoarthrosis and the use of cartilage grafts for tracheal reconstruction.
In addition to his innovative skills as a clinician, Dr. Farmer applied the concept of military stratification to establish surgical divisions and was instrumental in selecting Dr. W. K. Lindsay to lead the division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The structure of six divisions within the Department of Surgery that Farmer created remains today. It was felt that his greatest contribution relates to his leadership skills to “supply conditions for superlative work, to stimulate those working under him and then to hope they will produce”.
Dr. Farmer was a well-decorated man receiving Member, Order of the British Empire in 1946, the Queen’s Coronation Medal in 1953, as well as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1985
“Struck by the sight of horribly maimed victims of fires and explosions during W.W. II, he developed methods of burn treatment and related reconstructive surgery which are in universal use today. During his career as a renowned surgeon, administrator and teacher, largely at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto, he has made varied contributions to the field of plastic surgery and is considered to be the father of reconstructive hand surgery in Canada.”