Iain Hutchison fell in love with the human face during his medical training. Helping out in A & E, he became adept at patching up ‘Saturday Night Specials’. ‘I’d see a lot of young people who’d been in fights or accidents. If their faces were affected, they were devastated. All I was doing was stitching them up, but the physical and psychological effects on the patients were dramatic and instant.’ He is now a consultant in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) at St Bartholomew’s and The Royal London Hospital, and one of the leading facial reconstruction surgeons in the UK.
In 1999 he established the Saving Faces art project, inviting artist Mark Gilbert to paint his patients before, during and after surgery. The result was the exhibition ‘Saving Faces’, currently at the National Portrait Gallery in London, an uplifting series that charts the physical and emotional journey of people with facial disfigurement. The project is unique, and typical of this very untypical surgeon.
Hutchison is a big, warm character, with an aura of benevolent disorganisation that belies his world-leading skill and precision in the operating theatre. When he discusses surgery he talks about ‘enjoying it hugely’, playing Tamla Motown in theatre ‘to get me going’, but also of being ‘devastated’ when even his best efforts haven’t been enough to save a patient. His outstanding attribute as a surgeon is his courage. He takes on operations that others shy away from – ‘high-risk surgery, with a good chance of complications or even fatality’.
He divides his time between surgery, clinical work and the Facial Surgery Research Foundation, the charity he founded for research into oral and facial disfigurement. ‘I never get through my work. I don’t see enough of my family (he is married to Helena Kennedy QC, with three children). I’m constantly late and full of guilt.’
[Reproduced from The Guardian. Read the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2002/mar/31/life1.lifemagazine1]