Peter C. Neligan, MB, FRCS, FRCSC, FAC
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Plastic and reconstructive surgery
You need confidence in your surgeon. It’s my responsibility to win that confidence.”
What do you enjoy about being a plastic surgeon?
My interest in plastic surgery was accidental at first. During my training in Ireland, I was assigned to the plastic surgery service as part of my surgical internship. I didn’t know much about this specialty at the time, but once I got involved, I was hooked. What I like about plastic surgery is that it doesn’t focus on any single body part or disease. I operate all over the body, from rebuilding a patient’s tongue affected by cancer to reconstructing a person’s chest wall following a failed graft. I also really enjoy working with my patients, particularly the moments when they realize that we can repair defects caused by cancer or cancer treatment.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I specialize in reconstructive microsurgery, which involves transferring tissue from one part of the body to another. At SCCA, I work with patients to restore appearance and function following treatment for a variety of diseases, including melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, sarcoma and breast cancer, among others. In some cases, I also surgically remove lesions. My expertise includes treating and actively researching lymphedema, a common complication following surgery or radiation. My publications span a variety of topics related to reconstructive surgery; I’ve authored four books and more than 100 scientific papers.
In addition to caring for patients and conducting clinical research, I hold leadership roles across several organizations. I am the director of the Center for Reconstructive Surgery at UW Medical Center-Montlake, the president of the Plastic Surgery Foundation, and the editor-in-chief of the Journal for Reconstructive Microsurgery.
How has cancer affected you personally?
My father was diagnosed with melanoma when I was a medical student. After one of his operations, his surgeon lied about what he found, leading my father to believe the situation wasn’t as bad as it was. The surgeon was trying to protect my father, but the truth came out, and when it did, my father was livid. That was a big lesson for me back then: You always need to tell the truth. I do it kindly; some patients want to know absolutely everything, while others might want only the broad strokes, but I am always honest about the prognosis and what I can and can’t do. You need confidence in your surgeon. It’s my responsibility to win that confidence.
University of Dublin, Trinity College
University of Dublin, Trinity College, Plastic Surgery
University of Toronto, Microvascular Surgery; Hospital for Sick Children, Pediatric Plastic Surgery
Internship, University of Dublin, Trinity College