|Professor Bruce M. Achauer, MD|
Professor of Surgery
Born in the small town of Warrensburg, Missouri, Bruce Achauer rose to the top of his profession, becoming renowned worldwide as a brilliant surgeon, superb educator and exceptional researcher—all accomplished while continuing a full-time clinical practice in plastic and reconstructive surgery. No doubt influenced by working in his father’s pharmacy, at age 13 Dr. Achauer decided on a career in medicine. After undergraduate education at Stanford University, he obtained his medical degree at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston in 1967. He applied successfully for the highly competitive rotating internship at San Francisco General Hospital, and then came to the University of California Irvine to complete residencies in general and plastic surgery between 1970 and 1976. To round out his clinical training, he traveled to the Queen Victoria Hospital in Sussex, United Kingdom as a Marks Fellow in Plastic Surgery. During the tumultuous years of the Vietnam conflict, Dr. Achauer served as a captain and flight surgeon in the United States Air Force based at the School of Aerospace Medicine in San Antonio between 1968 and 1970. On return from England, he was certified by both the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery and was appointed assistant professor of surgery at UC Irvine in 1977. He was promoted to adjunct professor in 1994, a position he held until his untimely death.The milestones in his life, distinguished as they are, do not reveal the enormous impact Bruce Achauer had on the lives of his patients, fellow practitioners and family. His professional devotion was to reconstructive surgery and the Burn Unit at the UCI Medical Center. There he achieved well-deserved national acclaim for his treatment of a 6-year-old badly burned in a motel fire in 1983 and a teenage girl who had been burned severely with acid in 1984. He performed reconstructive surgery on countless numbers of burned patients at UCI Medical Center, and at the same time was widely considered a master of aesthetic plastic surgery. Dr. Achauer also had steady research support for 21 years with half a dozen active projects at the time of his death. He studied the use of cyclosporin in the prolongation of allografts, and developed non-invasive methods to accurately assess the depth of the burn wound. His curriculum vitae listed 151 peer-reviewed articles and 48 book chapters. Dr. Achauer edited and wrote four major textbooks in plastic surgery with the most recent five-volume text described as the “comprehensive bible of plastic surgery.” Dr. Achauer’s service to the University was unstinting, including work on most of the Hospital Committees. He was an administrative officer of the California Society of Plastic Surgeons and medical advisor to the Orange County Burn Association. Perhaps his most important service to the University was acting chief of the Plastic Surgery Division some four years ago during which time the Division began reorganization. International recognition came through many visiting professorships at universities in Ireland, Finland, Kuwait, Brazil and Mexico. At home, he had been a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Ohio State, the University of California, San Francisco, his alma mater Baylor College of Medicine, Indiana University and the University of Texas, Dallas. These many invitations and recognitions notwithstanding, Dr. Achauer made time to serve as a commencement speaker at Warrensburg High School. In his private life Dr. Achauer was an avid sailor who knew the marine charts of the coastal waters of Southern California as well as the anatomical charts for the structures of the face.While serving as president of the board of directors of the Educational Foundation of the American Society of Plastic Surgery and a director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Dr. Achauer attended the National American Society of Plastic Surgeons Annual Congress in San Antonio late in 2002. Tragically, he developed a gastrointestinal bacterial infection and succumbed to bloodstream infection within 48 hours. Plastic surgeons from across the country attended the family memorial service and an honor guard of firefighters, who knew best Dr. Achauer’s challenges and triumphs, paid their respects at the Medical Center remembrance. Dr. Achauer is survived by his wife, Tamara, and two grown daughters, Allison and Hilary and his sister, Ann Achauer Maidment and her husband Tom. He will be long remembered by the many patients he restored from disfigurement, by the faculty at University of California, Irvine and most of all by his family.Samuel E. Wilson, M.D.Gregory R.D. Evans, M.D.
Bruce Achauer, M.D., 1942 to 2002
Alpert, Bernard S. M.D.
To The plastic surgery family and many of us personally have suffered a tragic, untimely, and irretrievable loss with the passing of Dr. Bruce Achauer. Bruce’s death was the result of a sudden and unrelenting septic episode sustained while attending the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Annual Scientific Meeting on November 4, 2002, in San Antonio, Texas.
Bruce was born November 11, 1942, in Warrensburg, Missouri, where his parents raised him and his younger sister, Anne. He was greatly influenced by his father, a pharmacist, and at an early age Bruce made the decision to become a physician. He was valedictorian of his high school class, football team captain and quarterback, and an Eagle Scout. Seeking and achieving excellence came early to Bruce and became a lifelong theme; he did it with grace, sensitivity, and a style that appeared effortless.
Passage: Dr. Bruce Achauer, 59
Achauer, who died Monday after suddenly falling ill while attending a conference, was the plastic surgeon who helped save David Rothenburg, a 6-year-old boy set on fire by his father during a bitter custody battle in 1983. Achauer performed dozens of surgeries and skin grafts on the boy, who had burns over 90 percent of his body. In private practice, Achauer, who recently completed a five-volume work on plastic surgery, worked on children with facial deformities, birthmarks and cleft lips and palates.
ONE BURN VICTIM EXTENDS AN ENCOURAGING HAND TO ANOTHER
Orange, Calif., Nov. 24, 1984
David Rothenberg, the 8-year-old Brooklyn boy nearly burned to death by his father last year, hopes to give encouragement to Cheryl Bess, the teen-ager whose face was burned away with acid by a kidnapper, the mothers of the two children said today.
David is still an outpatient at the medical center of the University of California at Irvine, undergoing periodic reconstructive surgery to repair damage from third-degree burns he suffered over most of his body when his father set him ablaze in a motel room on a vacation 19 months ago. The father, Charles Rothenberg, is serving a 13-year prison sentence.
Cheryl, 15, of nearby San Bernardino, is in the same medical center. A 65- year-old man who assaulted her as she was walking to school has been charged with kidnapping and attempted murder.
Cheryl has just begun a series of operations to repair damage from the acid that was poured over her head, eating away the skin on her face and leaving her blind and temporarily speechless. Mothers Are Friends
''David keeps asking us if we've told Cheryl all about him,'' Marie Rothenberg said in an interview. ''He wants her to know that he was hurt bad too, and he got better. He wants her to know that she will too.''
A family friend, Judy Curtis, said: ''He wants very much to see her. And as soon as they'll let someone under 16 into her room, he will.''
That could be several weeks because of the severity of Cheryl's injuries. But David's mother, who has moved to southern California from their former home in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, has already befriended Cheryl's mother, Norma Bess.
''Marie remembers what it was like, how very ill David was,'' Mrs. Bess said. ''She searched me out. It's sisterhood at work.''
Dr. Bruce Achauer, head of the burn unit treating the two children, said he was amazed both by their suffering and their strength.
''What do you say about such indescribable injuries?'' he asked. ''I never imagined there was anything so low as people who would do these sorts of things to children.
''But the other side is the goodness that has sort of helped restore my faith in mankind, the people who have come out of the woodwork to help. And the courage of these children. Such courage.''
David Rothenberg Gallery
David Rothenberg Gallery