Stark, Richard Boies, 1915-

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Stark, Richard Boies, 1915-

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Surgeon and artist, Richard Boies Stark (1915-2008) was born in Conrad, Iowa. He completed his BA in 1936 at Stanford University, but was undecided between studying medicine or art. He spent a postgraduate year at the University Heidelberg (Germany) to study organic chemistry and painting. Upon returning from Europe, he wished to focus on art, but his parents convinced him to pursue medicine and they would support his art study in any way they could. He agreed, and completed his medical degree at Cornell University Medical College in 1941. Stark interned at The Children’s Hospital (Boston, MA) and began his residency at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (Boston, MA), but World War II interrupted his studies.

During the war, Stark was assigned to the U.S. Army, 105th Evacuation Hospital, ETO, where a part of his work was reconstructing the disfigured faces of U.S. soldiers. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service at the end of the war. During the war, Stark illustrated He Will Speak Peace, a book of war poems written by Frank Van Kirk, and he created dozens of pen and ink drawings, many of which were donated the U.S. Army Medical Museum.

When he returned home, he completed his training in general surgery at New York Hospital (NY, NY) and took specialized training in the Plastic Surgical Program there and in the Head and Neck Surgery program at the Bronx VA (Bronx, NY). Art continued to be a passion and an outlet for Stark throughout his medical training and career, and he would sketch on breaks between surgeries to relax. He often swapped night shifts for weekend duty in order to attend art classes at the Art Students League, where he eventually became a lifetime member.

After his residency, he joined the practice of Herbert Conway, MD, who was Chief of Plastic Surgery at New York Hospital. Stark also was appointed to the faculty at Cornell University Medical College until 1955, when Chief of Surgery, William MacFee, invited him to join the staff of St. Luke’s Hospital (New York City) to found the Plastic Surgery Division. Stark went on to establish the residency-training program there, as well as the internationally known Cleft Palate Clinic. Stark held appointments at several other New York City hospitals and was an Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery at Columbia University. He held visiting professorships at University of Texas at Galveston; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; Walter Reed Army Medical Center; University of Manitoba (Canada); and Norfolk General Hospital (Virginia).

He was very active internationally and when abroad local surgeons frequently attended his operating theater. Stark’s overseas service included Central and South America, France, Spain, and the Republic of Vietnam, where he spent a month out of each year between 1964 and 1971 performing reconstructive surgery on war casualties, for which he was twice awarded the Medal of Honor, First Class.

Other honors include those from Columbia, South America, where he was knighted Caballero, Order of San Carlos; Germany’s Dieffenbach Medal; and the National Institutes of Social Sciences Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Service to Humanity (1993). Stark served as president of sixteen professional societies including the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. He was the founding editor of the Annals of Plastic Surgery, and one of the co-founders of the Plastic Surgery Research Council. He held honorary membership in plastic surgery societies in Great Britain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, and Vietnam.

Stark published several texts that have become standards of the literature, including Plastic Surgery and Cleft Palate, a Multi-disciplinary Approach, followed by a two-volume Plastic Surgery of the Head and Neck. He co-authored 100 Years of Plastic Surgery at New York Hospital, with Dr. Conway, and contributed more than 215 scientific papers to the medical literature.

While Stark continued to draw throughout his medical career, mounting his first one-man show as early as 1947, with several more through the 1950s and 1960s, his retirement from the medical field in 1985 allowed him to focus on art full time. Galleries in New York, California, and Florida displayed and sold his watercolors; additionally, he had a one-man show at the Century Club in New York City in 1986 and another in Venice, Italy in 1989.

Stark’s original works are found in many collections including: the American College of Surgeons; the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; the United States Army Medical Museum; and St. Luke’s Hospital. They have also been held in private collections, including those of actor and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, whose 1946 purchase of a watercolor painting was Stark’s first sale; Nelson Rockefeller; Wallace Harrison; and the Honorable Mr. and Mrs. Angier Biddle Duke. Mrs. Duke later presented one of Stark’s scenes of the Philippines to the president of that country (1984).


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