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Biographical entry Kelly, Martin Bernard Hirigoyen (1965 - 2008)

MB BS London 1989; FRCS 1993; MD 1997; FRCS (Plast).

7 May 1965
20 May 2008
Plastic surgeon


Martin Kelly was a craniofacial plastic surgeon at the Chelsea and Westminster, and Royal Marsden hospitals. An extraordinarily talented surgeon, he died of a heart attack at the young age of 43, stunning his colleagues.

He was born Martin Hirigoyen in London on 7 May 1965, the son of Bernard Hirigoyen, a French industrialist with a Basque background, and Diane Kelly. He was brought up in Paris and, when his parents separated when he was 17, he accompanied his mother and four sisters to London and later adopted her maiden name. He was educated in Paris and at Winchester College, and went on to study medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School, qualifying in 1989.

He trained in surgery in Oxford and in London, and gained his FRCS in 1993. His early training in plastic surgery continued in Oxford and London. He then obtained a two-year travelling fellowship in microsurgery and craniofacial reconstruction at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. His research there led to an MD thesis in 1997.

His formal training as a specialist registrar in plastic surgery also began in the same year on the London hospitals rotation and he obtained his fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in plastic surgery. During his training Kelly also studied in Paris with Darina Krastinova at the Hôpital Foch, the unit founded by Paul Tessier, the father of craniofacial surgery. In 2001 Kelly was appointed as a consultant craniofacial plastic surgeon at the craniofacial unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and at the Royal Marsden Hospital. His main interest was reconstructing faces with congenital deformities and repair of defects after ablative surgery for head and neck tumours.

In 2003, with his fellow consultant Norman Waterhouse, he founded the charity Facing the World, which treats children around the world disfigured by facial deformities. Earlier he had worked for Médecins Sans Frontières, operating on children in Afghanistan.

He was a member of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons and the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, and an associate member of the European Society of Craniofacial Surgery.

Martin was renowned for his surgical skill, professionalism and energy. The craniofacial and microsurgery meant many hours with one case in the operating theatre. He was described as a modest and compassionate man.

Outside medicine, he wrote his own music and played the drums and bass guitar. He enjoyed playing tennis, horse riding and skiing. He painted and his association with the artist Jonathan Yeo led to a series of paintings by Yeo focusing on plastic surgery.

Martin Kelly died on 20 May 2008. He was survived by his wife, the actress Natascha McElhone, and three sons: Theodore, Otis and Rex (born after Kelly's death).

Brian Morgan

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Telegraph 21 May 2008 - accessed 2 July 2015; The Guardian 26 May 2008 - accessed 2 July 2015; The Independent 11 June 2008 - accessed 2 July 2015; The Telegraph - accessed 22 January 2016The Times 28 May 2008].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England