Iain Hutchison is a pioneering oral and facial surgeon; his foundation, Saving Faces, explores the nature of our expressions.

Why you should listen

Iain Hutchison thinks deeply about our faces. In his practice at St. Bartholomew’s, Royal London and University College London Hospitals, he has seen faces that lack the basic ability to function, to communicate emotion, to serve as a window to the world. His work involves repairing individual faces that have been impaired through cancer, birth defect or accidents—and asking all of us to look beyond first impressions.

One way he’s seeding the conversation is through the Facial Surgery Research Foundation/Saving Faces, which supports facial surgery research and education as well as a groundbreaking artistic residency by painter Mark Gilbert. Right in Hutchison’s office, patients sat for Gilbert before and after facial surgery, resulting in searching, honest portraits that show the humanity even of someone whose face we might be unwilling to look at. The “Saving Faces” exhibit has been seen by more than two million gallery visitors. Hutchison is also an active advocate of running clinical trials for facial surgery, and he funds and co-supervises two psychology PhD students to study ways to improve emotional and functional outcomes.

As he says: "Facial surgery is challenging not only because of its intricacy but because it has a profound effect on the patient’s psyche."

What others say

“As a reporter I should maintain at least a pretence of objectivity, but excuse my bias on this occasion: I honestly believe that anyone who has the slightest interest in art, or any feeling for our common humanity, should go and see this exhibition.” — David Thomas, Telegraph

Iain Hutchison’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Iain Hutchison

Live from TEDGlobal

Saving faces: Iain Hutchison on TED.com

February 22, 2011

Facial surgeon Iain Hutchison works with people whose faces have been severely disfigured. By pushing to improve surgical techniques, he helps to improve their lives; and by commissioning their portraits, he celebrates their humanity. NOTE: This talk contains images of disfigured and badly injured faces that may be disturbing — and Hutchison provides thoughtful answers […]

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