Rutgers professor looks at link between World War I facial trauma, modern plastic surgery

Dr. Shahid Aziz, a professor at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, has been examining cases of World War I soldiers who returned home with disfiguring facial injuries, according to an article on Rutgers Today.

“The world had never seen this type of injury on such a large scale,” Aziz said, according to the article. “Because this was trench warfare, the head was exposed, and many of the injuries occurred to the face.”

Facial injuries affected veterans both socially and psychologically, according to the article. Because of this, modern-day plastic surgery and other new techniques were created by doctors to repair this damage.

“Because there was such a high volume of injuries, it laid down the foundations for facial reconstructions and created new ways of thinking about how to handle them,” Aziz said, according to the article. “Anesthesia for facial trauma evolved. New instrumentation was designed. Some of the techniques we’re still using today.”

Aziz became interested in World War I during his time as a student at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and has published papers on the subject, according to the article.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the history of maxillofacial surgery,” Aziz said, according to the article. “There’s a huge dental component in dealing with trauma.”

Aziz also said he read letters from injured soldiers, which made him realize how these injuries affected them, according to the article. 

“Just studying the medical end, it can take away from the personal side of things,” Aziz said, according to the article. “Reading the (letters), you really realize the impact this had. They were young men, only 18, 19 or 20. They had to return home with significant deformities and a long road to recovery ahead of them.”