Swansea Bay is fast gaining a reputation for producing the best hand surgeons around.
The status is underlined by Morriston Hospital’s Dean Boyce being elected President of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand.
The Swansea-born senior consultant plastic surgeon is the second ‘local boy’ to hold the position in the past five years having followed in the footsteps of former colleague David Newington (both pictured right with Mr Boyce on left).
After qualifying as a doctor in 1990, Mr Boyce underwent 13 years of surgical training in Wales, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, and Sydney, Australia, before returning home as a consultant plastic surgeon in 2003 after being elected to the UK specialist register for plastic and reconstructive surgery.
His year-long term as president, which began last month, will see him represent around 1,000 thousand orthopaedic and plastic hand surgeons across the UK and abroad.
Mr Boyce, Swansea Bay’s Clinical Director of Plastic Surgery, said: “The British Society for Surgery of the Hand, as well as representing hand surgeons within the UK, also has members all over the world.
“We are also the custodians of the European Journal for Hand Surgery, which has the highest citation value of any hand surgery journal in the world.”
Of his new appointment he said: “You are elected to the role, so I felt very honoured.
“To be the second president – David Newington, now retired, was the first – in five years, from Swansea, is pretty special, and just goes to show the strength of hand surgery in the area.
“Historically, Swansea has had a very good reputation for both plastic and orthopaedic hand surgery. It’s just a strong base, and coming from Swansea myself, it’s great.
“We always attract fantastic trainees, due to the strength of our unit, so to be able to train the top hand surgeons of the future is a fantastic privilege.”
During his time in office Mr Boyce will represent the society on several trips abroad and host a conference in the Swansea Arena.
He said: “So far I have to visit Sydney, Singapore and America to represent the society in various meetings.
“At our meeting at the Arena, many international hand surgeons are coming, including the famous hand surgeon Jin Bo Tang from Nantong in China, which just happens to be Swansea’s twin city.
“My old boss from Sydney, Michael Tonkin, will also be there and quite a few world experts, which is great and will put Swansea on the hand surgery word map again.
“To bring the best in hand surgery back to Swansea, especially to the new Swansea Arena, is lovely. I’m looking forward to showing off the area, taking them down to Mumbles and the Gower and showing them what a fantastic part of the world we live in.”
Mr Boyce hailed the advances in his craft within Swansea Bay over the last decade.
He said: “The good thing about Swansea now is we have orthopaedic and plastic surgeons. The best of both worlds. You come at hand surgery in two ways – orthopaedic and plastic surgery. And when you have them both in one place, it flourishes.”
Reflecting on his career Mr Boyce said there were fewer work-related injuries these days.
The former Penyrheol Comprehensive School pupil said: “We still see industrial injuries, but not to the same extent as 20 years ago.
“When I first started we’d often see terrible roller press injuries of the hand, crushing injuries, and lots of amputations requiring replantation. Thankfully, health and safety regulations mean we see very few of those these days.
“But people still get injured. We have a major trauma centre outreach in Morriston so we still see lots of major injuries.
“When you reattach, for example a hand or arm, it sounds amazing, but this just involves techniques we use every day as part of our normal practice.”
Despite his long service Mr Boyce (pictured left with wife Delyth daughter Megan. Not pictured are sons Joseff and Tomas) still gains immense satisfaction from his profession.
He said: “It is rewarding when you perform a successful operation because it gives people back the use of their hands, but I particularly enjoy operating on children’s hands. You watch them grow into adulthood and sort of become part of the family! Some of my paediatric patients are now adults in their 20s.”
Of the future he hopes to help make the service fit for purpose in the modern age.
He said: “Hand surgery, like every other surgery, took a big hit during the pandemic and we have changed how we operate quite a lot.
“We used to operate on all our cases in operating theatres under a general anaesthetic. Since the pandemic we’ve continued to adapt what we do, with whatever facilities are available to us.
“For example, we do much more work in the day surgery unit in Singleton Hospital under block anaesthesia, with the patient awake.
“I’m also looking at hand surgery services in the rest of the UK to see how UK hand surgeons can adapt, and what kind of resources are needed to carry the specialty forward.
“The big resource in short supply at the moment are operating theatres. If we can take as much as we can out into different operating environments, then patients will get treated quicker and you can free up general anaesthetic theatres up for other cases that can’t be done anywhere else.”
Swansea Bay CEO, Mark Hackett, said: “I would like to congratulate Mr Boyce wholeheartedly. Not only does he bring pride upon himself and his family with this honour but all of his friends and colleagues.
“He is the consummate professional leader who exudes care, compassion and charisma in leading his team in Swansea Bay, which is outstanding in the UK.”