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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 96-97

Kenneth Salyer 1936–2020: The legendary craniofacial surgeon

1 Department of Plastic Surgery and Burns, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Otolaryngology and Head Neck Surgery, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission01-Apr-2021
Date of Acceptance02-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication7-Jun-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Devisha Agarwal
Department of Otolaryngology and Head Neck Surgery, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jclpca.jclpca_11_21

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How to cite this article:
Agarwal R, Agarwal D. Kenneth Salyer 1936–2020: The legendary craniofacial surgeon. J Cleft Lip Palate Craniofac Anomal 2021;8:96-7

How to cite this URL:
Agarwal R, Agarwal D. Kenneth Salyer 1936–2020: The legendary craniofacial surgeon. J Cleft Lip Palate Craniofac Anomal [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Dec 10];8:96-7. Available from: https://www.jclpca.org/text.asp?2021/8/2/96/317776

I feel belittled and also humbled when writing this obituary for my mentor Dr. Kenneth Everett Salyer, a towering personality reaching from the ground up to the stars and never thought that this day would also come when I would have to pen down this memorial for him. As the only fellow trained by him from India, I had the great opportunity to interact and imbibe knowledge from this legend not once but many times in my career over a period of 20 years of my association with him.

Dr. Kenneth Salyer was born in Kansas City in 1936. He received his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1962 and performed general surgery residency at the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. He completed a surgical fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine, and in 1969, he became the first Chairman of the Division of Plastic Surgery at the UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. Later, he entered private practice and established the International Craniofacial Institute in Dallas at Medical City Hospital in 1986 [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Dr. Ken Salyer

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I first met him in the fall of 1997 at the International cleft and craniofacial congress in Singapore hosted by Dr. S.T. Lee where he was one of the guest faculties. I had presented my work on the primary cleft lip rhinoplasty in the Owen Cole Award session, and he was the first one to congratulate me after the presentation and also offered me a place in his highly competitive craniofacial fellowship program in Dallas. I trained with him subsequently in his famous International Craniofacial Institute at Dallas, Texas in 1999. At that time, it was the most coveted of US fellowships and Dr. Salyer had a comprehensive one year craniofacial fellowship program with focus on clinical as well as experimental training in craniofacial surgery. I did not say goodbye to him after completion of my 1-year fellowship but kept on getting back to him in subsequent years whenever the opportunity arose over the next two decades [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Throwback photograph of 1999 of Dr. Rajiv Agarwal with Dr. Kenneth Salyer in his office at Medical City, Dallas after joining the International Craniofacial Institute as fellow

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I found Dr. Salyer as a very accomplished and respected plastic surgeon of his time and was held in high esteem around the world. His main area of specialization and interest was cleft lip palate and craniofacial surgery. His surgical planning was meticulous, execution was perfect, and techniques were a class apart and much ahead of others in those times. Dr. Salyer devised many new techniques in plastic surgery and especially craniofacial surgery and was pioneer of the semi-open technique in rhinoplasty which he used to perform a lot and was a treat to watch for us fellows and also other trainees. He was a great researcher and I take pride in helping him to develop the Synthes midface internal distractor which was a result of hard work in operating on beagles and performing Le Fort III osteotomies for creating, designing, and testing the prototype of this distractor. He popularized the use of stereolithographic models in craniofacial surgery which were made by his learned friend Andy Christensen of Medical Modelling Corporation.

He was popularly known as “Ken” among his colleagues. He was a great orator and mesmerized his audience in all his presentations with his quality of work, artistic slides, delivery of words with typical American accent. He was a great writer and wrote innumerous articles during his lifetime and even books on craniofacial surgery which were like a fountain of sweet water in a large dry desert. His two-volume  Atlas More Details on cleft and craniofacial surgery is a masterpiece and simplifies the intricate operative steps of cleft lip and palate surgery using some great artwork by his friend Mr. Bill Winn. His another book “A life that matters” is an international bestseller and is about transforming faces and renewing lives of thousands of children and adults born with difficult deformities.

In his sparkling and eventful career, he made international headlines on several occasions. Dr. Salyer organized a team of more than 50 physicians, anesthesiologists, and nurses and spent 34 h in performing the daring but successful surgery of separation of Egyptian craniopagus twins in 2003. The twins after separation have been doing well and growing up individually.

Dr. Salyer was always keen to travel to far-off countries for lecturing and operating and came to India several times and helped to encourage the plastic surgeons to take up craniofacial surgery. He was a great philanthropist and established the World Craniofacial Foundation in Dallas in 1989 for helping the children born with cleft and craniofacial deformities. He undertook innumerous charity operative surgery missions around the world to help these children live a normal life.

His wife Luci supported him fully in all his endeavors and had been a constant companion to him and great friend throughout till the very end. We found her to be very affectionate, articulate, and humble lady who was always there to troubleshoot problems and give a helping hand in support.

Talking about the persona of the man otherwise, he was a fitness freak, a regular at gym, tall, slim, and handsome and was always dapper looking at any time of the day. On a lighter note, he liked to adorn the full range of designer men's accessories from watches to belts, sunglasses, tie chains, and cufflinks and was always the best and most appropriately dressed in a group with immaculate sense of style and poise. He was truly a multifaceted personality, a showman to the core in every way.

I met him and Luci last at the Paris International Society of Craniofacial surgery meeting in 2019 where he was completely hale and hearty in the pink of health and looking many years younger than his age. I never thought that would be my last meeting with him. He passed away peacefully after a short illness at the age of 84.

May God give him eternal peace and may his writings, philosophy, and knowledge guide hundreds of generations of future craniofacial surgeons like a tall shining beacon at sea. Salute and adieu to the icon, legend and one and only connoisseur of plastic surgery,


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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