Capturing the history of Middlemore's Plastic Surgery Unit

Image: Lieutenant William Manchester joined the New Zealand Army and was sent to Egypt in 1940. 

In 1950, Middlemore Hospital was honoured to have renowned plastic surgeon Sir William Manchester arrive to establish our Plastic Surgery Unit.

Prior to Sir Manchester’s arrival, visiting surgeons, Percy and Cecily Pickerills, regularly travelled from outside Auckland to tend to plastic surgery patients.

Inspired by the history of the Unit, two of our former staff members, Doctors Earle Brown and Michael Klaassen wrote 'Perfection – the life and times of Sir William Manchester’ which delved into the life of Sir Manchester and his wealth of experience, including his time here.

Both men knew and worked with Sir Manchester, and the idea for a biography came to light after receiving three boxes of archives from the Manchester home.

Writing the book was as 'quite a journey' says Mr Brown, whose relationship with Counties Manukau Health spans over 45 years.

“I was curious about the man himself an as such the book is about the man and his life, not just his surgical work, so there was a lot of interviewing people who knew him and worked with him.

“My own history with this place also played a large part in my inspiration for the project.”


Image: Mr Earle Brown and representatives from the Sir William and Lady Manchester Charitable Trust​ presenting the book

That history spans to 1960 when Mr Brown first arrived at Middlemore Hospital as a student and continued through his work as a registrar and then plastic surgeon until 2005.

Dr Klassesn was also a former registrar at Middlemore Hospital. He qualified as a plastic surgeon in 1990 after completing his training at Middlemore and Waikato Hospital with Mr Brown his original mentor in plastic and reconstructive surgery in 1987.                         

In 2021, Dr Brown returned to Middlemore Hospital to present the book on Sir William Manchester to the Plastic Surgery Department.

He was proudly accompanied by his family members along with representatives of the Sir William and Lady Manchester Charitable Trust, who funded the book.

Today, the William Manchester Unit at Middlemore Hospital continues to grow and change lives.

'Perfection – the life and times of Sir William Manchester’

Sir William Manchester is considered the father of plastic surgery in New Zealand and a world authority on reconstructive surgery.

He grew up in rural Waimate, and initially became a battalion medical officer with the New Zealand Army in World War II.

In 1941, Sir Manchester was selected to train as a plastic surgeon under the supervision of four pioneers of plastic surgery, Sir Harold Gillies, Archibald McIndoe, Rainsford Mowlem and John Barron.

Eventually he arrived at Middlemore Hospital and the unit he founded achieved international acclaim, due in large part to his expertise. He had previously founded two other units but continued his work at Middlemore for 30 years, training generations of young surgeons and nurses.  

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Middlemore Hospital plastic surgery

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