“Plastic surgery’s quest emanates from a transcendent purpose. It is the attempt to harmonize body and spirit, emotion and reason, aiming for a balance that allows the individual to feel in harmony with his own image and with the universe that surrounds him.” Professor Ivo Pitanguy
Ivo Pitanguy was born in Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais. During his childhood and adolescence, his passions were books, painting, poetry, nature and sports. Professor Pitanguy’s passion for the arts was inherited from his mother, Maria Stael Jardim de Campos Pitanguy, a sensitive and cultured woman who had four other children: Ivan, Ivette, Yeda Lúcia and Jacqueline. Ivo Pitanguy’s medical vocation emerged after he completed secondary school, influenced by his father, general surgeon Antonio Campos Pitanguy.
“Medicine provides the satisfaction of being useful. Doctors bring hope”, Antonio Campos Pitanguy used to say. Moved by the desire to “triumph over disease”, Ivo Pitanguy began building his own destiny, having graduated from the Federal University of Minas Gerais and from the National School of Medicine – currently the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).
The art of living
Like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and other basic subjects of the profession, Pitanguy’s humanistic vision and pursuit of comprehensive knowledge were essential for his training as a doctor. A loving family and solid friendships – like the ones with authors Fernando Sabino, Paulo Mendes Campos and Hélio Pellegrino, who are all from Pitanguy’s hometown, Belo Horizonte – shaped the foundations of a personality marked by the pleasure of socializing and by a permanent curiosity. “Life teaches me every day. I believe that the sad thing about dying is to stop feeling this desire to always learn a bit more. I try to balance my life between surgeries, lectures and conferences, without putting aside the enjoyment of living”, he says.
The Pitanguy family
Ivo Pitanguy shares his enjoyment towards life with his family. The surgeon is married to Marilu; with her balance and refinement, she has been Pitanguy’s partner for over fifty years. The professor and his children – Ivo, Gisela, Helcius and Bernardo – have always bonded over sports. Throughout the years, the doctor’s leisure time has been greatly enjoyed with his family at his home in Gávea (Rio de Janeiro), on his island in Angra dos Reis (Rio de Janeiro), as well as skiing in the Swiss Alps. Now that his children are grown, Ivo Pitanguy accompanies with pride and joy the development of his grandchildren, Ivo, Mikael, Pedro, Rafael and Antonio Paulo.
If, as a child, Pitanguy used to carry a Boa constrictor (jiboia snake) around his neck through the streets of Belo Horizonte, his passion for animals remains. In fact, the Pitanguy surname means “river of children” in Tupi-Guarani . “Direct contact with nature is simply vital to my existence, my well being, my harmony”, he affirms. It was this ecological feeling that motivated him to create a sanctuary on the Big Isle of Pigs in Angra dos Reis (Rio de Janeiro), where he has preserved several endangered species since the 1970s.
The search for knowledge
In the late 1940s, plastic surgery was not yet recognized as a medical specialty, and young surgeons found much difficulty in acquiring the knowledge necessary for practicing the profession. Such obstacles motivated Ivo Pitanguy to take part in a contest at the Institute of International Education. Awarded with a scholarship, he went to Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) as a resident surgeon at Professor John Longacre’s service at the Bethesda Hospital. Pitanguy also worked at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, as well as at Dr. John Marquis Converse’s plastic surgery department in New York. Back in Brazil, and with the creation of the 1st Hand Surgery Service in South America after the season spent in the United States, Pitanguy was imbued with the desire to put into practice the experience he had gained. In spite of his country’s structural difficulties, Pitanguy served in the 19th ward as Head of the Department of Surgery at the Holy House of Mercy (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – the first hand surgery specialized service in South America -, providing dignity and hope to many patients in need, as well as deformity victims.
The great masters
A year later, invited by Marc Iselin – one of the creators of hand surgery and a world-renowned name in the care of mutilated victims of the 2nd World War –, Pitanguy travelled to Paris, where he worked with Iselin as assistant étranger. At the French capital, Pitanguy also worked at the plastic surgery services of Professors C. Dufourmentel and R. Mouly, as well as Professor Paul Tessier’s service, in Suresnes. Still in Europe, through a British Council grant, Ivo Pitanguy had the opportunity of improving and maturinghis training as a plastic surgeon with two plastic surgery masters: Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe, in England.
“Marc Iselin showed me the French spirit, the Cartesian side of life and a boundless curiosity. Gillies explained to me the meaning of research and the importance of teaching. McIndoe, a creative surgeon, shared with greatness his knowledge and the technique of plastic surgery. Kilner taught me how to repair cleft palate and other congenital malformations. It is the overcoming of one’s own work by those who succeed him that defines the progress of humanity.”Ivo Pitanguy
One of the pioneers
Once he returned to Brazil, Pitanguy realized that plastic surgery was still in its initial stages in the country. He worked tirelessly to make the specialty more known and respected, serving as Head of the Department of Burns and Head of the Department of Reconstructive Surgery at Souza Aguiar Hospital. Later, he became Head of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery department at the Holy House of Mercy in Rio de Janeiro, which still functioned within the 19thward.
Five years later, due to the high number of patients and to his constant concern regarding spreading education and serving the poor population, Ivo Pitanguy created the 38thWard of the Holy House of Mercy of Rio de Janeiro, aimed at assisting the poor. This marked a definitive change to the course of plastic surgery, which used to serve only elite groups, emphasizing the social importance of the medical specialty.
“An individual’s suffering is not proportional to his deformity, but to the perturbation caused to his harmony by living with his image”.Ivo Pitanguy
Full Professor at the Department of Plastic Surgery of the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and the Carlos Chagas Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, Pitanguy integrated his Clinic with the 38th Ward of the Holy House of Mercy of Rio de Janeiro, developing a pioneering structure of teaching and professional education. This structure includes a postgraduate plastic surgery course, a three-year program which has trained more than 500 professionals from Brazil and 40 other countries.
Due to his initiative in this field, Pitanguy was honored by Pope John Paul II with the Culture for Peace prize. Through the International Institute for Promotion and Prestige, UNESCO awarded Professor Pitanguy the Prize for International Promotion of Medical Research, as well as various titles and honors.
A member of renowned academic and cultural institutions, Ivo Pitanguy is the author of about 800 scientific papers published by Brazilian and international magazines. He has also had a series of books published; the work Plastic Surgery of the Head and Body was awarded at the Frankfurt Book Fair, having become an important scientific source.
Today, in addition to performing surgeries, Ivo Pitanguy presents lectures and classes at the invitation of universities and medical institutions in Brazil and abroad, having participated in 2064 conferences in Brazil and other countries, and having collaborated with nearly 1800 publications.
Pitanguy is a member of numerous prestigious academic societies. He is Patron of the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery, and Honorary Member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery and of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, as well as numerous cultural entities.
Brazilian National Academy of Medicine
Brazilian College of Surgeons
Brazilian Academy of Letters