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Stephanie Caterson

Touch your forehead.

Touch your cheek.

Touch your chin.

Imagine doing that and feeling the skin of another person. Imagine losing your face—and imagine receiving someone else’s.

In 2011, alumna Stephanie Caterson, MD ’99, and her husband and fellow alum Edward J. Caterson, MD, PhD ’03, were part of the nation’s first full facial transplant team at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

We spoke with Dr. Stephanie Caterson about her path from Jefferson to surgical firsts.

When she arrived at Jefferson in 1995, Caterson had a singular objective—to become an astronaut. She held a BS and an MS in aerospace engineering and applied to medical school to continue her space-bound career path. 

“Engineering and plastic surgery share many principles, and it was a natural fit,” she says.

However, two months before the fellowship application was due, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up on its return to Earth. The astronaut training program closed. Caterson changed course and pursued a plastic surgery fellowship at the Lahey Clinic, followed by a microsurgery fellowship at Harvard.

After her fellowships, she joined Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She was the first to perform complex free flap breast reconstruction there and created a breast microsurgery program. Over 12 years Caterson performed over 1,500 breast free flaps. 

In 2019, she relocated to Wilmington, Delaware, when her husband and fellow alum, EJ Caterson, MD ’03, PhD, became chief of pediatric plastic surgery at AI DuPont Children’s Hospital. She joined Christiana Care Hospital and now works at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Institute, where she is developing a comprehensive breast reconstruction program. 

“I will forever be grateful for my Jefferson education,” says Caterson. “Jefferson taught me to always be patient-centric, instilling guiding principles that I use daily: to make clinical recommendations based on what is safest for the patient and to always maintain my intellectual curiosity. These make me the clinician I am today.”