Benjamin Rank was considered by many to be the father of plastic surgery in Australia. He was born on 14 January 1911 in Heidelberg, Victoria, where his father, Wreghitt Rank, owned a grain store and mill. His mother was Bessie née Smith. He was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, and Ormond College, University of Melbourne, graduating with many honours and prizes. He did a two-year residency in the Royal Melbourne Hospital before going to London to specialise in surgery. There he did junior posts at St James' Hospital, Balham, but soon became fascinated by the new specialty of plastic surgery and was appointed assistant plastic surgeon at Hill End (Bart's EMS unit).
Joining the Royal Australasian Army Medical Corps in 1940, he commanded their plastic surgical unit in Egypt. In 1942, he returned to Australia to set up a plastic and maxillofacial unit at Heidelberg Military Hospital. Among the patients treated there was one Flight Lieutenant John Gorton, who went on to become Prime Minister of Australia.
In 1946 he was the first honorary plastic surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He spent much time overseas and was instrumental in setting up the specialty of plastic surgery in India, for which he set up 'Interplast' - a charity supported by the Rotary Clubs to offer training and expertise to Asian and Pacific nations.
He was the Sims Commonwealth Travelling Professor of the College in 1958, Moynihan lecturer in 1972, President of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons in 1965 and President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons from 1966 to 1968.
He made important contributions to the study of Marjolin's ulcer, radiation carcinoma, and the transition from benign to malignant melanoma. He also made a major contribution to hand surgery, and his textbook Surgery of repair as applied to hand injuries (Livingstone, 1953) ran to four editions. He wrote extensively, including an autobiography, and was a talented painter. He was a tireless campaigner for no-fault motor accident insurance and was President of the St John Ambulance Association.
He married Barbara Lyle Facy in 1938. They had one son Andrew, and three daughters, Helen, Julie and Mary (one of whom became a nurse). He died on 26 January 2002.
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