Nancy H. McKee, MD, FRCS(C), FACS

Dr. Nancy McKee graduated from the University of Toronto Medical School in 1970 and after doing an internship at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal she started her residency in Plastic Surgery at the University of Toronto under the tutelage of Dr. W.K. Lindsay. Nancy obtained her fellowship in 1976 and then did a prestigious 4-year Medical Research Council of Canada Research Fellowship under the supervision of Dr. Ralph Manktelow.

Nancy was influenced by the growing trend of microsurgery and with Drs. Ralph Manktelow and Ron Zuker helped to create the city’s first replantation team. Her interest in microvascular surgery led to her performing the first penile replantation in Canada in 1980. Her interests in research and the pursuit of academia started early and remained an undying passion with Nancy. In that era, the concept of the Surgeon-Scientist was in its embryonic state and Nancy’s career trajectory is a testament to its importance in academic surgery.

Nancy started her staff appointment as the first divisional female member at the University of Toronto in 1979 and the sole staff plastic surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital for her career. She was promoted to full Professor in 1993. Her lab was focused on the physiology of skeletal muscle. In her typically idiosyncratic and creative manner, she maintained several unique staff cross appointments in both the University of Toronto School of Physical and Health Education (since 1988) and the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo (since 1997). In this way, she was able to expand the horizons of our specialty and develop collaborative and fruitful relationships with groups that don’t routinely cross the path of the Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon. Most notably she was integral in the success of several Surgeon-Scientist trainees including Dr. Bill Kuzon, Dr. Howard Clarke, and Dr. Joel Fish all of whom have risen to high levels of prominence in the academic arena of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Nancy’s lifelong research interest was focused on skeletal muscle and peripheral nerve. This evolved from important work examining the pathophysiology of free functioning muscle transfers and ischemia-reperfusion injury and extended into the world of composite vascularized allotransplantation. Her CV demonstrates a remarkable fortitude and dedication to the pursuit of basic science and academia with 89 peer-reviewed publications, 15 book chapters, over 150 scientific presentations and 27 invited lectures. She has an unparalleled track record of peer reviewed funding extending from 1976 to 2011. She was a member and staunch supporter of the University of Toronto Institute of Medical Sciences since 1982 and the number of students mentored runs into the several dozens.

Nancy retired in June 2016 after 37 years in practice as faculty in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery representing our specialty as an “n of 1” at Mount Sinai Hospital. She had a remarkable and rich career as the first female surgeon to join the division. Her broad clinical interests covered the gamut of reconstructive surgery but her focus and true love was hand surgery. In this day of crowded and jammed clinics, she was unique in spending whatever time was necessary with a patient, often extending over an hour. She functioned as surgeon, therapist and sometimes psychiatrist for her patients. Until the end of her career, she continued to engage in basic science research projects and mentor students from medical and allied health disciplines. Her enthusiasm for attempting to uncover the potential of any student she interacted with never waned.

Nancy’s contributions to the research profile and well-being of the Division of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery cannot be overstated. At a local level, for years she continued to run research supper clubs at her house allowing opportunities for the research community here at the University of Toronto to get together in a collaborative and collegial fashion. Nancy was a lifelong supporter of the Plastic Surgery Research Council and brought this remarkable meeting to Toronto in 1992 where she was the Chair. She had an unprecedented track record of attending the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeon’s annual meetings.

Generous, collaborative, broad-minded, idiosyncratic, sensitive, maternal, innovative, loyal and dedicated. These are terms that come to mind when one reflects on Dr. Nancy McKee and her career. It is safe to say that her investments in the field of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery have enriched and fostered the specialty.

My own memories of Nancy run deep. It was 1979 when I had my first experience with the specialty of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. I had started my first year in medical school and there was a lunchtime lecture series that was being held. Attendance was not mandatory but the title sounded intriguing. Nancy was the scheduled lecturer and she arrived in her trademark green suit, prim and proper and I thought to myself that this is not what I thought a Plastic Surgeon would look like. She then proceeded to engage and enthral the audience an hour long dissertation on the relatively new sub-specialty of microsurgery. Her style was disarming and friendly. She was generous in her ideas and concepts. I was struck by how humble and down to earth she was for a surgeon. Her representation of the scope and practice of the specialty resonated deeply and made me desperate to be a part of this remarkable group of surgeons. It was an amazing and inspiring introduction to the special and creative world under the 10X lens. Over the years, I found Nancy to be a tremendously supportive mentor and colleague and passionate about what she thought was best for the division.

– Dr. Christopher Forrest, Chair, Divison of Plastics, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, University of Toronto

Nancy’s outstanding and remarkable career in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Toronto was recognized in 2016 with the Chair’s Lifetime Achievement Award and by the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons with the Lifetime Achievement Award in at the annual meeting in 2017.

In 2021, the Dr. Nancy H McKee Chair’s Priority Fund was established by her husband Toby Condliffe and their three children Keith, Elizabeth and Judy to honour Dr. McKee’s remarkable career as a clinician, surgeon-scientist, teacher, mentor, advocate and cherished member of the Division of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery and support education and research in the reconstructive surgical arena. It was an honor to use this fund to support the First Annual Nancy McKee Lectureship which was delivered by her close friend and peer, Dr. Susan Mackinnon.

Donations in Nancy’s memory may be sent to the Nancy H. McKee Chair’s Priority Fund.

Dr. Nancy McKee at the PSRC in Ann Arbour with a collection of past chairs

Nancy with Bill Kuzon and Howard Clarke receiving the CSPS Lifetime Achievement award in 2017