Dr. Stephen Mathes died on November 20, 2007 after a long and
valiant battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). He was born and
raised in New Orleans and attended Louisiana State University in
Baton Rouge and obtained his medical degree at LSU School of
Medicine in New Orleans. In 1970-1972, he served as a major in the
US Army Medical Corps and was Assistant Chief of Surgery at Fort
Polk Army Hospital in southwest Louisiana where he treated soldiers
wounded in Vietnam.
Dr. Mathes then completed general surgery and plastic surgery
training at Emory University in Atlanta. Driven by his experience
working as a surgeon at Fort Polk, he began to study anatomical
preparations and sought new approaches to reconstructive surgery.
This work resulted in the discovery of musculocutaneous flaps -
later to be taught and adopted nationally and internationally for
the coverage of previously untreatable wounds.
He chose an academic career in surgery and in 1977 published his
first textbook Clinical Atlas of Muscle and Musculocutaneous Flaps.
This text showed the vascular anatomy of flaps throughout the body
and demonstrated how to move healthy tissue as needed to various
sites. In 1978, Dr. Mathes moved to San Francisco to join the
faculty at UCSF. Here he was involved in basic science and clinical
research that was supported by the NIH and other grants. Over 42
research fellows from the United States, Europe, and Asia were
supervised in his laboratory or on clinical projects. The basic
science work done in his laboratory was successfully applied by
plastic surgeons around the world to treat deformities and
In 1984, Dr. Mathes became Professor of Surgery at UCSF and, in
1985, was appointed head of the Division of Plastic and
Reconstructive Surgery and Residency Program Director. During his
26 years on the faculty at UCSF, 62 residents completed their
plastic surgery training. Dr. Mathes received numerous awards
recognizing his basic science and clinical research, including six
first prize awards from the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation
extending from 1981-1999. Other awards include: Special Achievement
Award from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and Best
Medical Book Award from the American Medical Writers Association.
Dr. Mathes was a member of 32 national and international
He served as Chairman of the Plastic Surgery Research Council,
director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, chair of the
Residency Review Committee for Plastic Surgery, president of the
Association of Academic Chairman in Plastic Surgery, president of
the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation, and trustee for the
American Association of Plastic Surgery. He published over 233
peer-reviewed papers and chapters as well as six books, including
the eight volume edition of Plastic Surgery published in 2006. He
was a visiting professor in over 25 countries, delivered over 400
formal lectures, and participated in symposia throughout the world.
Dr. Stephen Mathes was a towering figure in 20th century plastic
and reconstructive surgery. He was a role model, educator, mentor
and a gifted surgeon and will be remembered by his family, many
friends and those he trained as brilliant, creative, supportive,
energetic, lively and fun-loving. He leaves his wife, Mary H.
McGrath, MD; his mother, Norma D. Mathes; his sons David W. Mathes,
MD and wife Amanda, Brian A. Mathes and wife Vaso and their
children Zoe and Norah, Edward J. Mathes and wife Erin Mathes, MD;
his brothers Paul Mathes of New Orleans, LA and Peter Mathes of
Cookson, OK; and many friends and colleagues the world over.
All donations in memory of Dr. Mathes be made to the Stephen J.
Mathes Endowed Chair Fund at UCSF Foundation, P.O. Box 45339, San
Francisco, California, 94145-0339. This fund will be the first
endowment within the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
and will serve as a lasting tribute to Dr. Mathes.