THE legacy of the Glasgow surgeon who transformed the life of a Peruvian boy, left disfigured by a rare flesh eating disease, will continue with the expansion of the internationally renowned service that treats children with facial deformities.

It will be headed up by Professor David Koppel, who was a student doctor learning the speciality of craniofacial plastic surgery at Canniesburn Hospital in the 1970s when Ian Jackson operated on David Lopez, after he was flown to Scotland following a major fundraising drive by the Glasgow public.

The surgeon performed more than 100 corrective operations and later adopted the little boy, with his wife Marjorie. Their story is told in a series of poignant BBC documentaries, narrated by the late Desmond Wilcox. 

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Mr Jackson himself died earlier this year, his contribution in the field acknowledged with tributes from surgeons and patients all over the world.

The west of Scotland has been leading internationally in the provision of craniofacial surgery for more than 40 years after the service was primarily established by Professor Jackson, Professor Khursheed Moos and Mr Rab Hide. 


Glasgow will now become the fifth, major UK centre, after being given national status with increased funds to treat more than 200 children and young people from all over Scotland, Ireland and the North of England at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Children.

The centre generally treats between 50 and 100 surgically as well as seeing several hundred in outpatient clinics.

Mr Koppel said: “Ian Jackson was a remarkable man and showed remarkable compassion.

“I was inspired by a lot of people when I was a student and training initially in London and then I built on that experience, coming to Glasgow to spend time at Canniesburn Hospital.

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“I was there when things were being done (with David Lopez). I was very junior but Ian Jackson had a big influence on my outlook and career. I spent some time working with him in Michigan so I’m very grateful for the time I had with him and I was very sorry to hear of his death.


“I last saw Ian five or six years ago, he was in Edinburgh giving a lecture. 

“The service has grown and developed since then. It’s wonderful that it has been recognised as the national service within Scotland. It’s quite a big deal for Glasgow.”

An estimated 542,000 (or one in 111) people in the UK have a significant disfigurement to the face with 92,000 attributed to congenital or birth conditions such as birthmarks, cleft lips andcleft palates.


“A lot of the work we do is really important for the families,” added Mr Koppel.

“We don’t see that sort of condition that David Lopez had, here in the UK. 

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“Occasionally children come from abroad having had the condition but we do deal with similar conditions.

“Often these conditions are extremely rare so there may only be a few cases in the country but the thing that ties them together is that they affect or damage of have an effect on the junction between the brain in the cranial cavity and the face.”

“Some of the children have life- threatening conditions that need to be dealt with so the work is really, really important in that respect.

“The other thing we do is to try to improve a child’s appearance so they are able to integrate socially better and develop from a psychological perspective.”