Dibbell, David G., Sr.
MADISON - (Ret. Col.) David G. Dibbell Sr., M.D., Professor Emeritus and past Division Chair, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Wisconsin Department of Surgery, passed away peacefully at home and on his terms on Nov. 19, 2020, in Madison, Wis., with his loving wife, Susan, daughter, Cherie, and future son-in-law, Paul, by his side.
He was a devoted husband to Susan (nee Vande Hei); father to his children, Cherie Dibbell Durand (Paul Hulsey) and David (Stacy) Dibbell; beloved grandfather to Augusta (Mike) Crumrine and David Samuel Dibbell; great-grandfather to David Charles Crumrine; and was adored by his four-legged canine companion, Star.
David was born in Evanston, Ill., on March 2, 1934, to Emily and David Dibbell. He was a Golden Gloves boxer at Culver Military Academy, and his academic excellence led him to study at Yale University where he was a varsity wrestler and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Headed for flight school with the U.S. Air Force, he was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine where he graduated Alpha Omega Alpha.
David served in the U.S. Air Force for fifteen years, during a time of great change and turbulence in U.S. history (1959-1974). Col. Dibbell was deployed in the Adriatic and flew cover in both the Cuban Missile Crisis and Berlin Crisis.
In 1968, Dr. Dibbell arrived in Vietnam in the wake of the Tet Offensive. In Hu?, he was appointed the sole faculty member of the medical school, in charge of a 1000-bed hospital and an 800-bed leprosarium. Despite a lack of resources, Dibbell excelled in teaching the Vietnamese medical students and treated patients from both sides of the conflict.
Dr. Dibbell completed residencies in both general and plastic surgery at Yale, Stanford, and Roswell Park Memorial Institute. Upon returning from Vietnam and discovering the U.S. Air Force did not have its own reconstructive surgery program, Dibbell started one at Wilford Hall Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Dibbell received a Bronze Star and Combat Air Medal for his military service and retired as a full colonel.
One of his greatest accomplishments and the legacy he leaves is building the first program in reconstructive surgery at the UW Department of Surgery, where he created international outreach programs, providing plastic surgery and care in Central and South America. Virtually unknown when the program first began, Dr. Dibbell's program became one of the top ten programs in North America within his first five years as its Division Chief, and then the program rose to top three over the next three years. UW's Plastic Surgery's global health program has now become recognized as the foremost program in global health education in the United States. While this program is something Dr. Dibbell is most known for, he believed the strength of the program lies in the people and students. A gifted educator, he had a true love of teaching and was proud of every resident he trained. Dr. Dibbell was recognized for his international teaching by being appointed professor at the Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil in Ecuador and professor at the University of Nicaragua-Leon.
Beyond his teaching, Dr. Dibbell was a master surgical technician and innovative plastic surgeon, having had a profound impact in the field of plastic surgery. Many of his techniques, principles and surgeries are taught and applied currently including the cleft nasal repair and the myocutaneous flaps. Dr. Dibbell was the recipient of the James Barrett Brown Prize in Plastic Surgery.
A musician, artist and sportsman. David loved sailing, horses and fly fishing. While retirement was not in his nature, he continued to mentor and teach, paint, and with his wife, Susan, visit some of his favorite fishing spots and trout streams in the Florida Keys and Montana.
The family would like to thank the staff at Agrace HospiceCare for the compassionate care they provided David and the family.
There is a graveyard in Clinton, Conn., with twelve David Dibbells. Dr. Dibbell is the 13th first son of the first son to be named David. Dr. Dibbell will be buried in Clinton and the family will celebrate his life post COVID.
Memorial gifts in honor of Dr. Dibbell may be directed to UW Foundation, Endowed Chair of Plastic Surgery Education, and mailed to UW Foundation, U.S. Bank Lockbox, Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807, or online at: https://www.supportuw.org/. Please list Dr. David Dibbell in the memo line.