After a lifelong interest in anatomy, Bolivar native Dr. John McCraw saw his life’s work honored by his peers.
The 1958 Bolivar graduate accepted the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Special Achievement Award at the society’s annual meeting last fall in Chicago, according to the ASPS.
“The first thing it means to me is my research in myocutaneous flap surgery will stay,” McCraw said on the phone at his home in Williamsburg, Virginia, followed by a chuckle. “Once before they went away.”
Flap surgery uses an understanding of muscle blood vessels to supply blood to the skin, he explained.
But before making strides in the reconstructive plastic surgery field, McCraw grew up the son of Bolivar mid-century mainstay Dr. Doyle McCraw.
The older McCraw was a former Bolivar mayor and active in multiple community and professional organizations, according to his obituary in the March 28, 1990, BH-FP.
“Dad was a general practitioner,” McCraw said, adding his main work was in obstetrics and he delivered “250 to 300 babies per year in people’s homes.”
The office housed the only Polk County lab and X-ray, so his father was “like an EMT,” McCraw said.
His father wanted him to be a doctor, and it was a more stable choice than seeking to become a television cameraman, McCraw said. He entered the University of Missouri to study pre-med.
However, once at the university, an anatomy course catapulted his existing passion for the subject, McCraw said. He went on to Duke University, University of Florida, Emory University and University of Virginia for further research and training.
During his research as a student at Duke University, McCraw found literature from 1842 until 1921 which outlined successful flap surgeries, he said. The practice was rediscovered by McCraw, who used it for reconstructive purposes.
Throughout his research and practice in the Air Force and medical institutions, McCraw reconstructed skin for Vietnam veterans and gynecologic patients, he said.
“Battle injuries were a major part of what we had,” McCraw said.
From 1977 to 1995, McCraw led a reconstructive flap meeting in which “every significant contributor” to the field came together and shared knowledge, he said.
The ASPS awarded McCraw for his work in island myocutaneous flap territories in 1993, he said.
Then in 2018, ASPS gave McCraw another distinction.
“They said this award was for bringing honor and distinction to the entire specialty of plastic surgery,” McCraw said.
The award was presented by Jeffrey Janis, former president of ASPS.
“There’s not a single plastic surgeon who has trained in the last few decades who doesn’t know who he is,” Janis said in an ASPS publication.“He’s a pioneer in plastic surgery and we’re all quite lucky to have the opportunity to learn from him and know him.”
McCraw spread his knowledge and experience via presentations to medical societies, teaching at institutions and contributing to journal articles, chapters and videos, according to the publication. He even created over 100 surgical procedures.
Citizens Memorial Hospital plastic surgeon Dr. Bill Reynolds recently met McCraw, he said.
“I knew of him from the professional point of view, having read his textbooks and published papers in the plastic surgery literature,” Reynolds said in an email. “But it was more pleasing for me to hear him speak of his memories growing up in Bolivar.”
The Special Achievement Award was a “no-brainer” due to McCraw’s contributions to plastic surgery, Janis said.