Thomas Zirkle, MD, (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1962), who had finished his General Surgery training at Loma Linda was groomed to become the founder of a full-time plastic surgery service. Following the completion of his general surgery training, Dr. Zirkle was accepted into the plastic surgery training program at Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Dr. Milt Edgerton. Dr. Zirkle's formal plastic surgery training was completed in 1968. He then returned to Loma Linda to start the division of plastic surgery. Next, Dr. Robert Hardesty (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1978), who finished his training in plastic surgery under the direction of William Futrell, MD, and had completed his Pediatric Plastic Surgery-Craniofacial Surgery Fellowship at Washington University joined the faculty in 1987. Subsequently, Dr. Frank Rogers (alumnus LLUSM Class of 1974), was recruited in 1988.  Dr. Roger's training included a plastic surgery residency at UC Irvine under the direction of Dr. Dave Furnas, a Certificate of Added Qualification in Hand Surgery, and a fellowship in Head and Neck Oncology. Under Dr. Roger's leadership, a full-time position was created and funded at Riverside General Hospital (now known as Riverside University Health System) for plastic surgery. He became the first full-time Chief of Plastic Surgery at RGH. A close and collaborative effort was initiated with the Orthopedic Service; thus a full spectrum hand practice grew at the RGH Clinic.

Together, Drs. Hardesty and Rogers began strategically planning for the beginning of the residency program. Fellowships were offered as a trial to see if a residency could be integrated into current university training programs. The Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Residency Review Committee in Plastic Surgery met and a favorable letter was received in 1992. The plastic surgery residency was first given provisional accreditation by the ACGME as an "independent model" and full accreditation in 1995. The Division received the inaugural accreditation by the ACGME to begin the "integrated model" of residency training. In 1997 the division was given permission to convert to a totally integrated training program and by the year 2000 we filled all of our integrated positions, thus making a total of twelve residents in the six year plastic surgery training program.

The faculty expanded from 2000 to 2003 with the addition of several subspecialty trained plastic surgeons. Dr. Subhas Gupta, who had trained in General Surgery at McGill University and completed his plastic surgery fellowship under Dr. Bruce Williams, brought an extensive research and teaching background to the faculty in 2000. He was recruited after completing a Hand and Microsurgery fellowship with Dr. Bill Zamboni and after working at the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Las Vegas. He assumed the role of Residency Program Director in January of 2004 after Dr. Hardesty left the University to begin a private practice. Dr. Gupta was selected as the next Chief of the Division in June 2004 and guided the group to Departmental status over the next two years. He was seated as the Chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery in 2007. This left the position of program director open, which was filled by Dr. Michael Hill in 2011. The department has also recruited new faculty including Dr. Hahns Kim and most recently Dr. Andres Mascaro. Our department continues to grow and change with the times and we look forward to new and exciting developments in the future.