Neurosurgery and Plastic Surgery


In the early 1960s, the Eastern Regional Hospital Board made a decision to set up a Neurosurgical Service and appointed Joseph Block to set this up. A dedicated Department of Surgical Neurology was formally opened at Dundee Royal Infirmary in 1966 by the neurosurgical giant Norman Dott, by which time Block had been joined by his South African colleague Ivan Jacobson (1932-96). Unhappy with the political establishment and racial policy in his homeland, Jacobson had asked Dott when he was a visiting professor if he would train him in Edinburgh, and Dott agreed!

Ivan Jacobson Joseph Block

Ivan Jacobson (Photo by Stanley Hunter) and Joseph Block (Courtesy of Department of Neurosurgery)

Block and Jacobson were a remarkable duo - through exceptional skills and inspirational care they developed their fledgling unit into a service that became second to none. Their big thinking was typified by the 1982 appeal to raise £60,000 to buy a Cavitron machine, the target being met in true Tayside fashion within just a few weeks - allowing 14 year-old Brian Sweeney to have his spinal tumour removed. Jacobson was made Dundee Citizen of the Year in 1984 and awarded the OBE for services to medicine.

Ophthalmoscope used by Block & Jacobsen trephining set

Ophthalmoscope used by Block and Jacobson at DRI (DUNUC 8493) and Trephining set for entering the skull (DUNUC 7867)

Plastic Surgery

The Tayside Plastic Surgery Service originated from a part-time visiting responsibility by the Edinburgh Department in 1956. Three years later, John Kirk had assumed this responsibility, and in 1960 he was appointed as the Eastern Regional Hospital Board's first full-time consultant in plastic surgery.

Professors Douglas and Smillie both supported the plastic surgery development, and the latter made it possible for Ward 19 at Bridge of Earn Hospital to be converted into a 20 bed unit with operating theatre. This became the Regional Plastic Surgery Unit in 1962, providing a modern and practical specialist centre, although without a separate burns unit. 10 beds were also provided at Dundee Royal Infirmary.

Ward 19 at Bridge of Earn John Kirk

The Plastic Surgery ward at Bridge of Earn, post-1962 and John Kirk with his wife and colleagues at Bridge of Earn, 1983 (Courtesy of the British Journal of Plastic Surgery)

During the 1960s, waiting lists inevitably grew as commitments at Bridge of Earn and Dundee extended to Stracathro, and even to Aberdeen where there was no locally based plastic surgery service available. Barry Corps was appointed as a long-awaited second consultant in 1970, and he was replaced on moving to Stoke-on-Trent in 1975 by Arthur Morris. Close links were established with dental and oral surgery colleagues, and in 1986 a new Regional Plastic Surgery Centre was opened at Dundee Royal Infirmary, with separate burns unit and theatre accommodation. Mr Kirk retired in 1983, and Bridge of Earn Hospital closed in 1992.

Padgett dermatome

Padgett Dermatome used by the Plastic Surgery Unit at Bridge of Earn Hospital until the 1980s. The blade is fixed on a rotating drum to cut thin slices of skin for grafting. (Donated by the Plastic Surgery department)


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