Dr. Bernard McGibbon, physician and plastic surgeon, dies

Dr. Bernard Michael McGibbon, a retired surgeon who practiced at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and was known for his skill in reconstructive procedures, died of pneumonia complications April 18 at his Timonium home. He was 86.

Born in London, England, he was the son of George McGibbon, a schoolmaster, and his wife, MaryAnn Meagher, a homemaker and government worker.

As a boy he participated in Operation Pied Piper, in which millions of British children were relocated from cities to the countryside to protect them from German bombing. He later went to school in Ireland and lived with relatives in Galway.

“As a teenager, when he returned to postwar London, my husband saw the burned fighter pilots who were undergoing facial reconstruction. It became his lifelong dream to perform plastic reconstructive surgery,” said his wife, the former Mary North.

He graduated as a physician from the Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in 1957. After two years of post-graduate study, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was posted to the British Military Hospital in Singapore for training in obstetrics and gynecology.

He subsequently served in a Malaysian jungle hospital where he was chief surgeon, obstetrician and gynecologist. He treated British families and wives of the Gurkha soldiers from Nepal.

“In his obstetrics practice, he delivered a number of babies with cleft lip and palate deformities,” his wife said. “This intensified his desire to become a plastic reconstructive surgeon.”

He later served at a British military hospital in Rinteln, Germany.

He moved to the United States, studied plastic and reconstructive surgery and was an assistant professor of plastic surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Hospital. He was also medical director of Children’s Hospital, where he worked in facial reconstruction.

In 1978 he was appointed chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He also had a private practice of cosmetic surgery in Lutherville.

His wife said he introduced a new technique for breast reconstruction following breast cancer.

“This procedure gave women the opportunity to have reconstruction using the tissue from their own abdomen to create a new breast,” his wife said.

In 1989, Dr. McGibbon organized a golf outing to encourage togetherness between the administrators and doctors at GBMC. Named the GBMC Golf and Tennis Classic, it became an annual event, and by 2013 it had raised more than $3 million to benefit programs at the hospital.

“We remember him as the great peacemaker at a time when there was tension between the hospital’s leadership and the medical staff. He brought people together,” said Dr. John B. Chessare, GBMC president. “He was, of course, an outstanding plastic surgeon as well.”

A portrait acknowledging his work with the golf classic hangs at the hospital. During the hospital’s 50th anniversary he was named to the inaugural class of GBMC’s Titans of Medicine.

He was author and editor of the 1984 textbook “Atlas of Breast Reconstruction Following Mastectomy.”

“He was a gifted surgeon, known nationally and internationally for ear and breast reconstruction,” said Dr. Paul N. Manson, a Johns Hopkins professor. “He was a teacher, artist and educator, and several generations of plastic surgeons owe to his service on the faculty of Johns Hopkins the many valuable skills they used in their practices. They learned many things from him. … All-important was stopping to listen to the patient.”

Dr. McGibbon retired in 2002, and enrolled at the Schuler School of Art, where he studied watercolor under Fritz Schuler Briggs and portrait studies with Ann Didush Schuler. He also studied at the Zoll Studio of Fine Art with John Brandon Sills and Carol Thompson and trained in sculpture with Dorothy Dunsmore.

“Sculpture was a natural undertaking for him,” his wife said. “He spent his career moving tissue around, and now he was moving around clay.”

He created a bust of Benjamin Banneker for the opening of an exhibit at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Oella.

In his youth he had played soccer, rugby and tennis, and in Baltimore he golfed at the Towson Golf and Country Club and the Baltimore Country Club. He participated in weekend competitions at local tennis facilities.

Dr. McGibbon was a past president of the John Staige Davis Society of the Plastic Surgeons of Maryland.

He was also a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and a past president of the St. George’s Society. He also belonged to the Paint and Powder Club. His vanity license plate read: “Nip & Tuk.”

“He never lost his fondness for things British — the local pub, Jaguar cars and baked beans on toast,” his wife said.

“He commanded a presence — people stopped to listen and talk to him where ever he went,” said his daughter, Fiona Coulter of Timonium. “He was also a fabulous dresser and was a cordial gentleman.

“He loved his family,” she added. “When I and my sisters had a first date, he made the man have a cup of tea with him first.”

A memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, 100 Church Lane, Cockeysville.

In addition to his wife of 37 years, a retired convention director, and his daughter, survivors include three other daughters, D. Tracey Santry of Timonium, Claire Hasslinger of Frostburg and Alison Price of Owings Mills; two stepdaughters, Dawn Freij of Selma, Ala., and Kimberly Rogers of Virginia Beach, Va.; a brother, Terence McGibbon of Marlow, England; 11 grandchildren, three step-grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A previous marriage to Jocelyn Canhan ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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