July 18, 2022

Main Content

In Memoriam: Dr. Michael E. Jabaley

Published on Monday, July 18, 2022

The Medical Center extends its sympathy to the family of a former faculty member in appreciation for the loved one’s contributions to the academic health sciences center.

Dr. Michael E. Jabaley


Dr. Michael E. Jabaley, a prominent Mississippi plastic surgeon and national leader in his field who, for a time, brought his consummate skills to bear on patients at the Medical Center, died on July 12, his 88th birthday.

Jabaley, a Copperhill, Tennessee, native, who was practicing in Flowood at the time of his death, was renowned for his skills in plastic and reconstructive surgery, as well as in hand surgery. He was considered an international expert in Dupuytren's contracture and in carpal tunnel surgery. 

As a U.S. Army officer, Jabaley treated the head, neck and hand injuries of soldiers during the Vietnam War, and operated on Vietnamese children with cleft palates and similar congenital conditions.

During the late 1970’s, he was recruited by Dr. James Hardy to be the first permanent chief of plastic surgery at UMMC. He left the Medical Center in 1979 to go into private practice.

“I first met Dr. Jabaley during his time at the Medical Center and found him to be not only a good friend, but also a most impressive surgeon with great clinical skills and a great heart for his patients,” said Dr. James Keeton, UMMC vice chancellor emeritus for health affairs and dean emeritus of the School of Medicine.

“I have also known him since he left the Medical Center, when he and I were both in private practice,” said Keeton, who is also UMMC professor emeritus of surgery and pediatrics. “Throughout his career, he continued to be an academic plastic surgeon, contributing a great deal to that specialty.”

Honored numerous times by the cosmetic surgery industry, Jabaley had held plastic surgery professorships at such institutions as Harvard University, Stanford University, Ochsner Medical Center, Columbia University, Duke University and Vanderbilt University, where he also attended undergraduate school and was a member of the 1955 Gator Bowl-winning football team.

Jabaley received his Doctorate of Medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and completed an internship in surgery and a residency in plastic surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he would serve as professor of orthopaedic surgery and professor of plastic surgery. He also completed a residency in general surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

He received, in 1976, the Robert H. Ivy Society Award for the best scientific paper from the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. In 1978, he was the recipient of the Emanuel Kaplan Award for the best scientific paper at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.

He was also Clinician and Teacher of the Year, named by the American Association of Hand Surgeons in 2002. In 2006, the Southeastern Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons honored him with the Kenneth Pickrell Award for teaching excellence.

Two years earlier, Dr. Peter Arnold, now professor and division chief of plastic surgery at UMMC, met Jabaley at a conference.

“I was an intern then, and we were introduced by a mutual friend,” said Arnold, who is also the medical chief of staff for UMMC. “He sat down with me for two hours, just me, giving me advice on how to navigate residency and trying to convince me to do hand surgery.

“When we moved here in 2010, I reached out him, thinking he wouldn’t remember me, but he did. We stayed in touch until he passed away.

“One time, he had my wife and me at his home for dinner, and I remember him going over some medical books and instruments with me. He was so kind. He taught a number of physicians in this area how do hand surgery. He was a phenomenal guy.”

Jabaley received research grants and awards exceeding $600,000. He also served on the committee which created the Certificate of Added Qualifications in Surgery of the Hand for the American Board of Plastic Surgery, for which he served a term as vice president.

The author of more than 100 scientific papers, Jabaley, who was a member or leader of a number of professional surgical organizations, served on the editorial boards of nine surgical journals. He co-wrote the textbook, Stable Fixation of the Hand and Wrist. 

Among his survivors is Mary Jabaley, his wife of 63 years.