By the Family
Aug. 24, 2016: Dicran Goulian, Jr., MD, DDS, one the country's leading plastic surgeons and the inventor of the Goulian Surgical Knife, died in Gilbert, Arizona, on Wednesday, August 3, at the age of 89. The Goulians lived on Crows Nest in Bronxville from 1966 to 1978.
Born in 1927 in Weehawken, NJ, Goulian received his undergraduate degree from Columbia College, his DDS from the Columbia School of Dental and Oral Surgery, and his MD from the Yale School of Medicine.
Briefly serving in the US Navy as a seaman, he ended his service after the war ended in 1946.
Dr. Goulian was a full professor and the chief of plastic surgery at the New York Hospital--Cornell Medical Center (now NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center) from 1969 to 1987. He was highly respected in, and passionate about, both aspects of his job: teaching and training residents, and performing plastic surgery.
He instilled in all of his students the tenet that ethical, result-driven patient care was more important than reimbursement. He combined surgical skill with compassion for his patients, and the challenge of reconstructive surgery was the aspect of being a surgeon that he found most rewarding. As a result, Goulian also gave of his time to the Bronx Veterans Hospital.
He trained over 80 top residents during the time he headed the department at Cornell, many of whom went on to achieve great success on their own. In the last group of residents he hired into the plastic surgery program in 1986 alone, three of the residents went on to head departments.
His graduates include Robert Grant, MD, current chief of plastic surgery at the Columbia and Cornell campuses of NewYork/Presbyterian; Lloyd Gayle, MD, former site chief at Cornell; Lyle Leipziger, MD, chief of plastic surgery at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center; Malcolm Roth, MD, former president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and current chief of plastic surgery at Albany Medical Center; and Dr. Kenneth Rothaus, MD, an internationally known plastic surgeon, researcher, and long-term chairperson and teacher at ASPS.
A significant surgery case for Goulian was that of a young Italian immigrant patient whose face had been shattered by a wrecking ball at a construction site. In a painstaking process (probably mostly pro bono), Goulian patiently reconstructed this young man's grossly disfigured face. Many years later, he received an invitation to this grateful patient's wedding in his hometown of Perugia, Italy.
Goulian published 65 papers and pioneered many innovative ways of performing plastic surgery. One of the most notable accomplishments was his dermal mastoplexy, (detailed in his 1971 publication), which was hailed as a revolutionary approach to breast lift surgery. Goulian was at the forefront in the usage of silicon breast implants and was one of several top surgeons chosen to participate in a clinical trial by Dow Corning prior to their release in 1964.
Because he had earned a dental degree, he was able to make many contributions to cleft palate reconstructive surgery as well. He co-edited the book of the proceedings of a symposium on plastic and reconstructive surgery, The Symposium on Surgery of the Aging Face (copyright 1978).
One of his most interesting accomplishments was prompted by his search for an efficient knife to perform skin grafts for burn victims. Walking down Park Avenue one day, he spotted a barber's knife in a storefront window and realized that if he modified the design, he would have a surgical instrument that would be ideal for his purposes. Working with the Weck Company, he produced the knife. Goulian refused any royalty for the knife, stating that he wanted it sold as inexpensively as possible so that it could be widely used in the U.S. and abroad. He got his wish, as the Goulian surgical knife continues to be an essential, everyday tool for plastic surgeons and burn doctors everywhere.
At the height of his career, he was featured on TV and in magazines as an expert on plastic surgery--a few notable appearances were The David Frost Show, The Merv Griffin Show, 60 Minutes, the Today show, and Good Morning America. In 1974, the daytime series All My Children even created a fictional character based on Goulian. Hailed as groundbreaking at the time, one of the show’s story lines incorporated a facelift Goulian was actually performing on Margo, one of the lead characters in the show, into the script.
Because of his strong Armenian heritage, Goulian felt compelled to join a team of physicians on a mission to Armenia in early 1989 to respond to the devastating earthquake that had taken place. He and the team volunteered their services to help some of the tens of thousands injured by the tragedy. In fact, that April, he was featured in the New York Post as he bid farewell to a thankful young Armenian girl. She had been brought back to the States for further treatment and was on her way home.
In honor of his lifetime of achievement in the field, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital created the Dicran Goulian MD Award for Academic Excellence. This highly coveted honor, in its seventeenth year, is given annually to the highest-achieving resident in the plastic surgery program. In 2012, Goulian was also awarded the American Society of Plastic Surgeons President's Award.
He is survived by a brother, Dr. Mehran Goulian, of La Jolla, CA, and four children: Linda Goulian DeStefano of Tulsa, OK, Dicran Goulian III of Gilbert, AZ, Beverly Goulian Johnson of Castle Rock, CO, and Elizabeth Goulian Kahle of Rye, NY. He also leaves behind eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife, Jean Marie Aldreany Goulian, and his second wife, Nancy Knauer Goulian. There will be a memorial service at a later date in New Jersey.