“The desire for plastic surgery emanates from a transcendental desire. It’s an attempt made to harmonize body and spirit and emotion and rationale, seeking to establish equilibrium that allows an individual to feel at peace with his own image and with the surrounding universe.” Professor Ivo Pitanguy.
Ivo Pitanguy was born in Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais, Brazil. He graduated from the Faculty of Medicine of Brazil, today known as the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. During his childhood and adolescence, he manifested a passion for books, painting, poetry, nature and sports. His connection to art was inherited from his mother, Maria Stael Jardim de Campos Pitanguy, a sensitive, cultured woman who gave Ivo four brothers and sisters; Ivan, Ivette, Yeda Lucia and Jacqueline. His vocation for medicine appeared after conclusion of his high school studies, influenced by his father, Surgeon General Antonio de Campos Pitanguy.
“Medicine gives one a sense of satisfaction, a sense of being useful. Doctors provide hope”, words spoken by Ivo’s father, Antonio de Campos Pitanguy. Moved forward by this desire to “triumph over sickness”, Ivo began to build his own destiny. The first step was to enroll in medical school at the University of Minas Gerais and later, the Faculty of Medicine of Brazil, later known as the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where he graduated in the 40s decade.
The art of living
As much as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and other essential parts of his medical profession, Ivo’s humanistic vision and his constant search for wide-ranging were all a fundamental part of his formation as a doctor. A loving family ambient and solid, long-lasting friendships with members of his graduating class from Belo Horizonte, people like Fernando Sabino, Paulo Mendes Campos, Hélio Peliegrino and others helped to shape the basis of his personality marked by the pleasure derived from interacting with his colleagues and his natural curiosity about life. In Ivo’s own words, “Life has taught me to feel comfortable about always striving to learn more. I try to harmonize all the parts of my being, a flow of surgeries, classes and conferences without abandoning the simple pleasure of living”.
The Pitanguy family
The joy of living Ivo Pitanguy style is shared with his family that he affectionately calls his “tribe”. Married to Marilu for almost 50 years, he has made sports a strong bond between himself and his four children, Ivo, Gisela, Helcius and Bernado. Over the years, whatever spare time Professor Pitanguy has, he dedicates to his family. He enjoys wonderful moments with them at the family home in Gavea (Rio de Janeiro), or at their island retreat in Angra dos Reis (Rio de Janeiro State), or in Gstaad, Switzerland. His now adult children have given him the chance to also enjoy 5 beautiful grandchildren, Ivo, Antonio Paulo, Mikael, Pedro and Rafael.
A friend of Nature
Since the time he was a child and the days when he walked through the streets of Belo Horizonte with a pet boa constrictor wrapped around his neck, he still maintains his passion for all things wild. The name “Pitanguy”, in a Brazilian indigenous language (Tupi-Guarani), means “a river of children”. Ivo declared, “Living in direct contact with nature is simply a vital part of my very existence. My sense of well-being and harmonic relation with the world are proof of this fact”. Over the years, this ecological sentiment motivated him to create a flora and fauna refuge on Ilha dos Porcos in Angra dos Reis where since the 1970s, various endangered species are being carefully preserved and protected.
Search for knowledge
By the end of the 1940s, plastic surgery had not yet achieved fame as an important specialty and the young surgeons who dedicated themselves to this art found many difficulties in acquiring knowledge to improve their practices. These same obstacles motivated Ivo Pitanguy to participate in a scholarship program sponsored by the Institute of International Education. He was awarded a grant to continue his studies in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, as a surgeon-resident under the guidance of Professor John Longacre, at the world famous Bethesda Hospital (1948-1949). During this period, he also worked at the equally famous Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and in New York under the direction of Dr. Marquis Converse. Upon his return to Brazil, and with the founding of the First hand Surgery Service in South America, Pitanguy was anxious to put into practice all the techniques he learned in the United States. In spite of the economic and structural difficulties he encountered in Brazil, he started to work at the 19th Infirmary of the Sacred House of Mercy Hospital where the first hand restoration surgery was performed, anywhere in South America, in1949, thus giving back a sense of dignity and hope to underprivileged patients attended by the hospital, all victims of serious deformities.
The great masters
One year later, at the invitation of Marc Iselin, one of the fathers of reconstructive hand surgery, and a renowned exert who treated Second World War mutilation victims, Pitanguy went into service in Paris as a visiting Fellow Surgeon (1950-1951). While in the French capital, he also did work with plastic surgeons, Professors, C. Dufourmental, R. Mouly and Paul Tessier, in Surésnes. In Europe, Ivo Pitanguy, thanks to a scholarship conferred by the British Council, had the opportunity to perfect his techniques in England under the orientation of two English masters, Sir Harold Gilles and Sr. Archibald McIndoe.
One of the pioneers
Upon his return to Brazil, Pitanguy perceived that plastic surgery was still incipient in the country. He worked incessantly to promote this medical specialty in order for it to become better known and respected – this was part of his goal during his work at the Burn Service and Reparative Surgery Center at the Souza Aguiar Hospital in downtown Rio de Janeiro from 1952 to 1954. In ’54, he advanced to the post of Head of Plastic and Reparation Surgery at the Sacred House of Mercy Hospital in the 19th Infirmary, in Rio de Janeiro. Five years later, due to the increasing number of patients attracted to the Mercy Hospital, administrators opened a bigger space for this work at the 8th Infirmary.
Chair Professor of the Plastic Surgery Department at the Pontific Catholic University (PUC), and the Carlos Chagas Post-graduate Medical School, Ivo Pitanguy integrated the team at the 38th Infirmary at the Mercy Hospital where he implanted a pioneer structure to provide medical formation to young doctors and surgeons –today, the Post-graduate Program in Plastic Surgery has sent some highly qualified 500 specialists out to various parts of Brazil and more than 40 countries.
Plastic surgery at the Sacred House of Mercy has been made available to low-income families from under-privileged communities as part of the import social program offered by the Hospital. For his contribution to this program, Ivo Pitanguy was awarded the Culture for Peace Award conferred by Pope John Paul II. UNESCO, through the International Institute for Promotion and Prestige also conferred Ivo Pitanguy with the Medical Research International Promotion Award, besides various other medals, titles and honors conceded by important national international reference organizations and entities. (See the complete list below).
Member of respected academic and cultural entities, Ivo Pitanguy is author of more than 800 works published in scientific periodicals and journals around the world as well as a series of books. The book, “Plastic Surgery of the Head and Body was awarded at the Frankfurt Book Fair and has become a recognized classical treatise and an essential source of scientific and teaching materials for surgeons.
Today, besides the surgical work he heads at his Clinic in Rio de Janeiro, Ivo Pitanguy also shares his time presenting lectures, conferences and giving classes at the invitation of universities and medical organizations in Brazil and overseas.