I was recently interviewed by a magazine and was asked the most mind-blowing thing I have learned in my career as a facial plastic surgeon. Taking out an answer was not too difficult, because there was one incident that clearly shaped my path as a facial plastic surgeon. That experience came during medical school when I first realized the dramatic way that our face is associated with our identity.
As a young medical student, I was scrubbed into surgery on a major facial reconstruction. During this case, I found myself feeling uncomfortable due to the severity of the facial defect. As I assisted the surgeon, I realized that this individual patient in front of me did not even look human. I don’t know why I was struck by this realization, but not being able to see this individual’s facial features seemed to remove me from the fact that this was an individual who had a family who loved her and friends who adored her.
At that instant, I suddenly found myself not wanting to be there. I didn’t want any part in separating this person any further from her humanity and her identity. As a medical student involved in the case, however, I had little choice but to keep going.
As the case progressed, I was shocked by the progress that was being made. What was once a bloody mess of connective tissue, muscle, bone, nerves, and vessels began to take shape as a clearly identifiable person once again. I could start to see this patient’s facial features. Her lips, her eyelids came into better focus, and we restored her mandibular continuity, and we even rebuilt part of her tongue, which was injured.
At this point, I realized this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to play a part in restoring the identity of individuals who are affected by facial defects and facial deformities. I was amazed at the reconstruction that was performed and how, at the conclusion of the procedure, this patient’s identity as a human being and as an individual was restored by the knowledge, skill, and efforts of the surgeons working to reconstruct the face. Looking back, that was the moment that cemented my decision to pursue a career in facial plastic surgery.
I am still fascinated by facial reconstruction and love to reconstruct facial defects after skin cancer removal or after trauma. My practice is such that I see patients who are mostly seeking aesthetic enhancements to the face with over 95% of my practice being cosmetic in nature. However, I have noticed that the same principles that initially interested me in reconstruction also hold true for cosmetic facial plastic surgery.
Most patients who come to see me do so due to my expertise in facial aesthetics and my sense of particular sense of facial artistry. They come to see me because they want to improve upon their own identity. What they see in the mirror does not harmonize with their inner view of themselves. They do not like how their bulbous nasal tip or saggy jawline makes them look less like themselves. These features can detract from the individual’s true identity.
Whenever I approach a patient for facial rejuvenation or rhinoplasty, my goal is to enhance their natural features. Frequently, this involves enhancing the facial features, so they are more in harmony with each other. My goal, as an artist and facial plastic surgeon, is to bring out the individual’s natural, beautiful features—the features that make them their own unique person. It is an incredible experience to help a patient achieve these goals and I love that I have the opportunity to work on the most beautiful canvas available—the human face! It is a privilege and an honor to be able to do what I do.
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