Dentists are never the most popular people. We put off going to them, moan about the cost and even the smell and sounds put us off.
But for the terribly wounded and disfigured men who were attended by Henry Percy Pickerill, he was a miracle worker.
Born in Hereford, England on August 3, 1879, he was the son of Thomas Pickerill and Mary Ann Gurney.
He studied in England and gained his first qualifications in dentistry there including dental surgery.
He married Mabel Louise Knott in 1906 before they came to New Zealand. He applied to be Dean of the dental school at the University of Otago.
Henry proved to be a prolific author, teacher and researcher and taught a great many of the classes himself.
He was the editor of the New Zealand Dental Journal and was a firm believer in the importance of good dental health in children.
In 1915 - already aged 36, - he took up a commission to the New Zealand Medical Corps and pushed strongly for a dental corps.
Once in England he was posted to the No2 New Zealand General Hospital and after establishing a ward there began working on men with severe jaw injuries. Indeed some had no jaw at all.
It was here he pioneered a form of plastic surgery - jaw wiring, bone, skin and fat grafting to help reconstruct faces. Before this, often masks were made that the men would likely have to wear for the rest of their lives.
In 1918 the whole operation was moved to a new hospital - which Pickerill did not want. He contemplated returning to New Zealand but ended up staying.
When the war ended, he came back - bringing with him men that still needed to be worked on, creating the jaw ward where a good number of further men were worked on.
Henry continued overseeing the work until 1921 after which he returned to his position at Otago University.
Between 1927 and 1935 he worked in Sydney before returning to New Zealand and setting up a practise in Wellington. Then in 1939 he and his second wife set up Bassam, a hostel in Lower Hutt. Bassam in Arabic means one who smiles.
The hostel became a hospital specialising the treating children with cleft palates and other conditions that needed plastic surgery.
Henry retired in 1955 after having dedicated his life to helping others. He died on August 10, 1956 and his second wife Cecily Mary Wise Clarkson - herself a surgeon - and children took his ashes to be scattered over the River Wyre.
Henry received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and then Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
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