Hugh G. Thomson, MD, MSc, FRCSC (1930 – 2012)

hg-thomsonDr. Thomson received his MD degree from the University of Toronto in 1954 and completed his training in Plastic Surgery in the Gallie Program at the University of Toronto in 1960 before doing a preceptorship under the supervision of Dr. H. Campbell in 1961. He commenced his position at the Hospital for Sick Children in 1961, became a full Professor in 1982 and remained in active practice until 2000. During his academic career, he gave over 140 presentations and invited lectures and published 102 peer reviewed publications and book chapters.

Dr. Thomson typified the epitome of a role model in Plastic Surgery in all spheres.  As a teacher and educator his impact on touching large numbers of the Plastic Surgery community during his many years at the Hospital for Sick Children cannot be overstated.  He made an indelible impression on the numerous trainees that made their way through his service. His gentlemanly style of praise would stimulate the fellows and residents to give their best performance and he would never miss an opportunity to publically acknowledge those he felt were deserving.

In the operating room, he was a wizard. The nuances of his surgical techniques such as being able to flip the direction of a needle sitting on its needle driver with a single move, to the way that he negotiated around the operating room on his tractor seat stool endeared him to those of us who had the pleasure to work with him. The turn of the head would always be associated with a rattle of his wedding ring against the arm of his glasses, placed there for safe-keeping during his operations. Engagement and polite inquiry were his style of teaching in the operating room and clinic.

As an innovator, his skills and creativity transcended his clinical work to the public arena.  A strong advocate for children and their parents, he was already campaigning for prevention at a time when it was just starting to become popular. An example of the “Cool your Coals Program” to prevent campfire burns typifies this.

Dr. Thomson was a tremendous contributor to the fabric of Pediatric Plastic Surgery.  He recognized artistry and continually reinforced the importance of drawing sketches of the operative procedure as part of the operative note. This artistry extended well beyond the operating room as his skills as a wood carver are legendary.  As a commitment to continuing education in Plastic Surgery, he routinely provided the yearly visiting INCO Vale Visiting Professor with a wood carving that is highly individualistic and representative of the attendee for that particular year. Several examples of his work are located around the Hospital for Sick Children. The gift of a unique woodcarving was always accompanied by a poem to commemorate the occasion.

As an academic, Dr. Thomson was a strong advocate of sharing one’s ideas and experience and he generated an extensive list of publications and book chapters in areas of Pediatric Plastic Surgery covering cleft, vascular anomalies, and upper extremity surgery.

Dr. Thomson contributed significantly to the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgery. He served as the Society President in 1980 and was instrumental in the development of the “Resident’s Corner” which for most, is the focal point of the annual meeting. In addition to creating the Society logo, he should be recognized for establishing the “Beyond the Knife” segment of the Annual Canadian National Meeting.  This recognizes the extracurricular activities of the members of our Society and once more typifies the thoughtful nature of this individual who feels that play is as crucial to well-being as work.  He also recognized the vast talents of the members of our Society that extended beyond the confines of the operating room and clinic and felt that this was an ideal forum to stimulate and inspire others.

Dr. Thomson was an unwavering supporter of the Division of Plastic Surgery and despite his ‘emeritus” status, he remained a presence in a very positive and meaningful way. His collegiality, approachability, and ever-ready smile were a constant source of comfort to the house-staff at the Hospital for Sick Children.  He was well known for his Thomson-ism’s such as “completing the golf swing” and “surgery is like an all-day sucker, make it last” and “beware the fast surgeon”.

After his retirement from active clinical practice in 2000, he translated his surgical skills to the pursuit of woodcarving. He was an executive member of the Ontario Wood Carvers Association and taught at the Academy of Artisans on Eglinton Avenue West in Toronto. In 2009, Dr. Thomson was awarded the highest accolade by the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual meeting in Kelowna, BC.