Celebrated Brazilian plastic surgeon Ivo Pitanguy has died at the age of 90, a day after passing the Olympic torch for the Rio Games. He died of a heart attack at home in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, a spokeswoman said.
On Friday, he had held the torch in the Rio neighborhood of Gávea, on the final leg of the Olympic relay. He cemented Brazil’s place as a destination for plastic surgery, giving the world the “Brazilian butt lift”.
But he first earned the respect of his fellow citizens by providing his skills free of charge to victims of a disaster.
After a huge circus tent burned hundreds of spectators in the Brazilian city of Niterói in 1961, Pitanguy tended to disfigured victims.
“Ivo Pitanguy dedicated his life to helping people live better,” Brazilian interim President Michel Temer said in a statement. “He will be missed.”
“I saw the importance of saving lives and saving functions but it seemed that nobody gave importance to the stigma of deformity and how people suffered with that,” Pitanguy said in an interview in 2014.
Trained in Paris and London, he became a pioneer of plastic surgery in Brazil and a “cultural icon” in the “beauty-obsessed” country. Yet he still offered his staff and services free of charge to less well-off patients one day a week, the news agency adds.
Salvador Dali painted him and in 1999 he received one of the highest honors in Rio when a samba school used him as their theme: “The Universe of Beauty – Master Pitanguy.”
Pitanguy was at home in Rio de Janeiro, when he suffered a cardiac arrest. There was no time to help him. He was cremated on Sunday at Memorial do Carmo, in the Caju neighborhood.
Ivo Hélcio Jardim de Campos Pitanguy was born in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, on July 5, 1926 and, over the years, has become one of the most renowned plastic surgeons in the world.
Teacher and writer, he was a member of Brazil’s National Academy of Medicine and an immortal as the Brazilian Academy of Letters call their members.
Son of Maria Stael Jardim de Campos Pitanguy and surgeon Anthony Campos Pitanguy, Ivo Pitanguy studied medicine at the Federal University of Minas Gerais until the fourth year. Without interrupting his studies, he moved to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Brazil, current Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), in order to serve in the Army.
His surgical training began at the emergency room of Rio’s Souza Aguiar Hospital. Young Pitanguy signed up for a competition organized by the Institute of International Education, and won a scholarship as a surgical resident in the service of Professor John Longacre, in Bethesda Hospital, in the United States.
After internship in other North American plastic surgery places, Pitanguy returned to Brazil, where he was invited by professor Marc Iselin to be his assistant in Paris. He remained in the French capital for two years, before moving to the United Kingdom where he continued his training.
There, he realized the importance of transmitting the knowledge he had obtained, always aware of the social importance of the specialty, which was beginning to emerge in Brazil. Back in Brazil, Pitanguy created a service for burning victims and started offering hand surgery and reconstructive plastic surgery at Santa Casa.
He was a professor of plastic surgery at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and the Institute Carlos Chagas. In 1961, with the help of resident doctors, he looked over the victims of the fire at the Grand Circus Norte-Americano, in Niterói, which made clear the social importance of his specialty. That tragedy killed over 500 people and left more than 800 others injured and with burns.
In 1963, the Ivo Pitanguy Clinic was inaugurated. It would become a national and international reference in the plastic surgery field. In 2014, Pitanguy launched his biography, Viver Vale a Pena (Living is Worthwhile), in which he recalls facts and people who molded his life.
On her Web page, Rio’s journalist Hildegard Angel pointed out two traits of character of the Brazilian plastic surgeon: compassion for others and solidarity. “What makes Ivo Pitanguy the special object of my admiration is his long life of dedication to his neighbor. A man as famous as him might have been indifferent to the world around him, and arrogant.
“It’s not what happened. His sensibility led him to devote himself throughout his career to a nursery in Santa Casa da Misericórdia, promoting free operations there. He also worked to correct birth defects or abnormalities acquired in accidents or illnesses for people who could not afford high-cost interventions,” she wrote.
Ivo Pitanguy’s career suffered a blow in August 2015, when his son, the entrepreneur Ivo Nascimento de Campos Pitanguy was arrested for running over and killing the construction worker José Fernando Ferreira da Silva, of 44 years, in the south side of Rio.
The worker worked building the subway expansion from the south side to Barra da Tijuca, in the west side of Rio de Janeiro. Pitanguy’s son was released after paying bail of 100,000 reais, but was indicted for wrongful death.