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History of SLU Plastic Surgery Residency

Founded in 1837, the Saint Louis University School of Medicine Department of Surgery named the pioneer physiologist and military surgeon William Beaumont as Professor of Surgery.

The department changed numerous times until 1903, when it evolved into the Saint Louis University School of Medicine at its current location on Grand Boulevard in midtown St. Louis, Missouri. Between World Wars I and II the Department was richly defined by leadership of considerable local and national reputation. The department today consists of eight divisions, two sections, and eight residency programs working in various clinical locations across the Midwest.

The Plastic Surgery Program began at Saint Louis University when Dr. Cyril Rollins Hanlon invited Dr. Francis X. Paletta to join the faculty in 1950. Dr. Hanlon had trained under Dr. Alfred Blalock in Cardiothoracic Surgery at Johns Hopkins and was recruited by President Paul Reinert, S.J., in 1950, to become the first full-time Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Saint Louis University. He quickly developed an international reputation in cardiothoracic surgery. He was selected as the first Director of the American College of Surgeons, leaving for that post in Chicago in 1969. Shortly after Dr. Hanlon's departure, his protege and colleague, Dr. Vallee Willman, headed the Saint Louis University surgical team that performed the first heart transplant west of the Mississippi in 1971. 

Dr. Francis X. Paletta began his plastic surgery practice in St. Louis in 1949 after completing his residency in plastic surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York under Dr. Jerome Pierce Webster. Dr. Paletta became the fourth plastic surgeon in St. Louis after Drs. Vilray Papin Blair, Louis Byars, and James Barrett Brown, all of whom practiced at Barnes Hospital. Dr. Paletta's career was highlighted by his being selected President of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons in 1968. He also served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, was Vice-Chairman of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and was a founding member of the Plastic Surgery Research Council and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.

Dr. Paletta initiated a plastic surgery residency in 1957, selecting Dr. William Stoneman III as the first Saint Louis University plastic surgery resident. After years of plastic surgery practice in the St. Louis community, Dr. Stoneman was appointed Dean of the Medical School in 1982 and remained in this position until his retirement in 1994.

Dr. Paletta retired in 1985. Dr. Vallee Willman, Chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1969-1996, subsequently recruited Dr. Sameer Shehadi as the Division Director for Plastic Surgery. Dr. Samir Shehadi is a native of Beirut, Lebanon, and completed his residency in plastic surgery at Saint Louis University in 1962. After a fellowship in Head and Neck Oncology at Roswell Park, NY, he returned home to Beirut where he became the Chairman of Surgery at the American University of Beirut. Due to the increasing violence and political instability in the Middle East, Dr. Samir Shehadi returned to Saint Louis University in 1985. During his 12-year tenure as Division Chief and Program Director of Plastic Surgery, he provided consistent, strong leadership. In 1994 Dr. Samir Shehadi initiated a coordinated pathway for plastic surgery residents entering the residency at Saint Louis
University. Initially, one resident was selected through the NRMP match per year. This program was expanded to two residents in 1999.

Dr. Samir Shehadi left St. Louis in 1997 to return to his native home in Beirut. Dr. Christian Paletta was chosen as the third Division Director. Dr. Christian Paletta completed his General Surgery and Plastic Surgery residencies at Emory University under Dr. W. Dean Warren and Maurice J. Jurkiewicz. He was recruited to Saint Louis University by Doctors Vallee Willman and Samir Shehadi in 1986. Dr. Paletta served as division chief for 13 years.  He left St. Louis in December 2010 for Washington, D.C., to begin work for the U.S. Government's Limb Salvage Program. Prior to his departure he played an integral role in choosing Dr. Bruce A. Kraemer as the fourth Division Director.

Dr. Bruce A. Kraemer completed his medical school training at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Kraemer went on to do his residency in general surgery at the University of Texas. He returned to Washington University for his fellowship in Plastic Surgery and remained as a faculty member at Washington University where he was the Director of the Wound Healing Center. Dr. Kraemer was recruited to the Saint Louis University Department of Surgery in 2005 by Dr. Paletta and took over as the Division Chief in December 2010. During his time as chief of the division until 2020, Dr. Kraemer spearheaded the progression of the residency program from the independent to integrated model, recruited the current faculty on staff, and continued the SLU Plastic Surgery culture of training excellent and compassionate plastic surgeons. The division now boasts cutting edge technology and techniques including 3-D printing, lymphatic supermicrosurgery, along with a robust research program.