June 3, 2024

Dedication to advancing breast reconstruction surgery for patients links Perdikis, Maxwell

Perdikis now holds the recently established G. Patrick Maxwell, M.D. Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Galen Perdikis, MD, left, and G. Patrick Maxwell, MD. Galen Perdikis, MD, left, and G. Patrick Maxwell, MD.

It is no surprise that Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) alumnus G. Patrick Maxwell, BA’68, MD’72, and Galen Perdikis, MD, chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery, have crossed paths at several points throughout their distinguished careers in plastic surgery.

Not only do they both have ties to Vanderbilt and a shared dedication to advancing the practice of breast reconstruction surgery for patients who have undergone mastectomies, but Perdikis also holds the recently established G. Patrick Maxwell, M.D. Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Perdikis was officially invested as the chair at Vanderbilt University’s endowed chair investiture ceremony on April 8. Each year, this ceremony honors the esteemed faculty who are receiving endowed chairs — which represent the highest honors in their fields — as well as the visionary donors whose generosity helps to create ongoing waves of positive change at Vanderbilt and beyond. Maxwell attended the ceremony.

G. Patrick Maxwell, MD, left, and Galen Perdikis, MD, at the endowed chair investiture ceremony.

Maxwell, who has led the advancements in breast reconstruction surgery for nearly half a century, remembers the moment when his devotion to this practice began. He had just graduated from VUSM and was working as an intern in the breast surgery service at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, he witnessed many radical mastectomies — a particularly aggressive procedure that was common at the time — as well as the negative impact these surgeries had on women’s confidence and spirit.

“I’ve never seen such emotionally devastated patients,” Maxwell recalls. “From my Vanderbilt education, I knew there had to be a better way. I decided to commit my career to the surgical recreation of this important body part and to work with breast cancer patients to give them more agency in their personal health care decisions.”

This goal was front of mind for Maxwell when he moved back to Nashville in 1983. In addition to working in private practice and serving as a part-time faculty member at Vanderbilt, he also leased a space at the nearby Meharry Medical College, where he conducted research that would eventually lead to the invention of tissue expanders with matched implants that are used in breast reconstruction surgeries around the world.

Over the years, Maxwell has developed additional intellectual properties, shared his work with colleagues domestically and globally, and helped countless patients with their own procedures. But it was his interactions with emerging leaders in the field — including Perdikis, who completed a fellowship at Vanderbilt in the late 1990s — that inspired him to support the next generation of plastic surgeons with the G. Patrick Maxwell, M.D. Endowed Chair.

Perdikis said he is honored to hold the chair title. “I consider Pat to be a personal mentor and, frankly, a pioneer,” Perdikis said. “He has given so much to this specialty, and there’s immense gratification in trying to take his progress to even greater levels, and to helping more patients.”

For Maxwell, the endowment is a way to continue the positive change he has worked so hard to establish. “The education I received at Vanderbilt enabled me to be at the forefront of all of these surgical and technical advancements while also, and more importantly, helping to advance the cause for women’s rights,” said Maxwell. “The endowed chair will position Dr. Perdikis, as well as current and future students, to advance this work for years to come.”