My ophthalmologist father and neurosurgeon uncle were devoted to their patients and epitomized the deeply rooted responsibilities of a surgeon to their patients. They wore their white coats with humility and taught me to honor the trust put into them by their patients. No matter how much medicine becomes commercialized, that traditional standard of care was ingrained into me throughout my upbringing.
My surgical training at Harvard emphasized that an excellent surgeon must be an excellent physician. We were not allowed into the operating room until we demonstrated a total understanding of our patients’ medical issues. Medical clearance, mammograms, EKG’s—and whatever else is appropriate for a particular patient—all trump every other consideration before I proceed with surgery.
I only do what a patient asks, but I will not do whatever a patient asks. I will only do what I think is safe and aesthetically desirable; if a patient and I do not agree then we will respectfully part ways before surgery. When patients ask for something that will look overdone or that would not be beautiful, I will explain my opinion. Aesthetics contains subjectivity, and even top plastic surgeons have differing views on what is best for a patient. I want patients to be sure that they are comfortable with me and understand what I believe would be their best achievable result. I will never surprise them with an outcome—if we do not see eye to eye before the surgery then I make it very comfortable for a patient to respectfully get help elsewhere.
Owing to my passion for art, aesthetic balance is supremely important to me. Art is an inspirational outlet for me, and I use my study of it in my work as a plastic surgeon. I have been exposed to art my entire life and have studied the classical painters and sculptors of the human form. An area that is treated must itself look beautiful as well as blend into the surrounding areas. If this is done in balance, the result is gorgeous and the patient does not have an “operated look.” Aesthetic balance and good taste are not taught in surgical training. I make significant cosmetic changes for patients every day and those changes rarely look surgical. Usually after a patient visits my office and sees first hand the way I approach his or her concerns, my aesthetic sensibility becomes clear.
Understanding a patient’s objectives and planning surgery are important first steps. But the care the nursing staff provides not only makes the process pleasant for the patient, but safer as well. So too does operating room equipment, anesthetic medications, and the type of sutures. Everything I do, every tool I use, is based only on quality; I want everything to contribute to the very best results.
Unlike emergency room medicine, plastic surgeons and their patients have the luxury of planning ahead, discussing, and answering many questions. Patients say that I am easy to talk to and that I can explain the most complicated medical issues in an easy to understand manner. I want to be sure that my patients understand how the result, risks, and recovery differ between all their viable options. I believe in under-promising and over-delivering because patients should not be talked into plastic surgery. Rather, their enthusiasm should, if anything, be blunted by a frank discussion of their potential outcomes. This sober approach is designed solely to help my patients and myself reach a practical, rational, and beneficial long-term surgical decision that provides exceptional results.
I became a plastic surgeon because I love to use my hands to create; to join patients in achieving a life-improving result; and, most originally, because I am fascinated by the challenge of medicine and the human body.
I am often asked what body part I specialize in treating. While I have published and teach on the breasts and tummy, that doesn’t diminish my expertise in the face. Great painters are recognized by their vision and style and not by their subject; a Van Gogh is unmistakable because of his brush. My specialty is in creating graceful, natural forms that create the most delightful and gorgeous appearance.
I have always loved the study of medicine and even though I am a teacher, I will always continue to learn. I live for my patients’ joy and the stories they tell about how their surgeries enhanced their attractiveness and self-confidence.