When Cosmetic Surgeons Go Under the Knife

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Physician, Enhance Thyself! More and more cosmetic and plastic surgeons are going themselves to get a little nip or a tuck. From liposuction, to gynecomastia and hair transplants.

What happens when doctors are also patients? Do they, too, complain about the long wait to see the physician, the high price of medications or the lousy hospital food?

More appropriately, what happens when plastic and cosmetic surgeons are also plastic surgery patients? Do they tell surgeons they need some movie star’s famous face and want to get up from the operating table looking like, say, a mature Brad Pitt or a middle aged Britney Spears?

When cosmetic surgeons have plastic surgery for facial and body enhancements, do they somehow think a nip here and a tuck there is going to solve all their problems and make their lives, like, total living dreams?

Or, in hopes of looking even better and undergoing more enhancement procedures, do they rush to get an audition for “The Swan” or write off for an application to appear on “Extreme Makeover?” Maybe they want their operations filmed and shown on cable or the Internet?

Well, nobody knows the doctors’ reactions to hospital food but CosmeticSurgery.com staff asked a handful of cosmetic and plastic surgeons – who were also plastic surgery patients – why they had a particular procedure, how the surgery made a difference and how the experience helps them relate to current surgical rejuvenation patients coming into their offices.

Elliot W. Jacobs, M.D. in New York City, specializes in chest sculpting for men, among other cosmetic and plastic procedures, and is the designated surgeon who pared down the flabby chest of the 23-year-old man selected on MTV’s “I Want Arnold’s Chest” program. The doctor knows about men’s flabby chests, (known medically as gynecomastia) because he himself has suffered from that condition as well some other pudginess.

“I was teased and shamed as a kid about my breasts and naturally did not want to take off my shirt or go to the gym,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Later, I had my love handles and some other overweight areas taken off by liposuction. It’s paid me back daily, because every time I look in the mirror and see a trim waistline, it gives me a natural high that puts a big, wide grin on my face.”

The experience made a difference because Dr. Jacobs has been on a crusade for many years, speaking about gynecomastia because he wants more guys to know they are not – repeat, not -- freaks if they have a flabby chest or even some pointy, jiggly things that look like a 13-year-old girl in the full throes of puberty. He emphasizes over and over it is a medical condition that can be corrected by a trained surgeon.

Rick Noodleman, M.D., medical director at Age Defying Dermatology in Silicon Valley, California started losing his hair as a teenager and, like many men, did not want to ever be bald -- at any age.

“Right about the time my acne cleared up, my hair started falling out,” quips Dr. Noodleman. “I wore a hairpiece in my 20s and absolutely hated it.”

Because his dad also had a chrome dome, the doctor knew he had inherited a set of genes programmed to cast the hair from his head as fast as water spilling over Niagara. So instead of joining the Bald Headed Men of America or Bald R Us (whose motto is “No plugs, rugs or drugs!”) Dr. Noodleman decided to have hair transplants done by a trusted and skilled colleague. In that procedure, tiny infant, downy hairs are plucked from the back of the patient’s head and replanted atop the pate. It’s time-consuming, tedious and expensive -- but not painful because the donor and implant areas being worked on are numbed.

“All the men in my family were bald so I had broken the family curse,” he says.

The doctor’s wife also likes him with hair so he keeps the transplants up whenever his noggin starts to shine too much.

Dr. Noodleman additionally underwent Thermage, a nonsurgical process that tightened the skin on his forehead and on the fleshy part of his neck under the chin. That worked so well, and made the doctor looked so refreshed, he had Sculptura injected into those craggy folds that run between the corner of the nose and the edge of the mouth.

“Many patients open right up when I mention the cosmetic procedures I’ve had and tell me more about the features in their own appearance they would like improved,” Dr. Noodeman says. “Because I’ve had some of the same procedures, patients are quicker to ask if a certain operation works well, if it looks natural and will last and how much it costs.”

When Susan Schooler, now a physician’s assistant with Bergman Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery in Des Moines, Iowa, was a little girl, her father teased her about a bump on her nose. So she learned early to dislike her nose. Then, when she was fully grown to her current five-foot-two height and 100 pound weight, she found herself shopping for bathing suits in the little girl’s department because she did not have enough chest to fill the tops of garments in the women’s section.

In her workaday life, Dr. Schooler does non-invasive cosmetic procedures and talks to patients daily. So she had a nose job (rhinoplasty) to remove the bump and, eventually, breast augmentation. While her actual age is 45, most patients think she is about 35, Dr. Schooler says.

“After the rhinoplasty, I found I had been going out of my way to never show my profile,” she says. “But after the operation, I felt more confident while the breast augmentation just made me feel more feminine and let me buy better clothes.”

She says the implants and more womanly look make her feel like she has a new car she wants to show off.

Jacqueline Cheng, M.D., a plastic surgeon at the Center for Facial Rejuvenation in Los Gatos, California, knew that many patients of Asian backgrounds ask for double eyelid surgery (Asian blepharoplasty) which reduces the puffiness found in the upper eyelids of many Asians. The procedure removes the fat that occurs in those eyes, making the completed, healed eye look brighter and giving it a more open look while retaining the shape of a natural Asian eye. So Dr. Cheng knew full well what it was like to be put under general anesthesia and awaken in the heavy fog of a drug hangover with a bruised, swollen and stitched face that resembles something carried away from a combat zone.

“I know it’s the most natural thing in the world to awaken from surgery feeling sick, see yourself in the mirror and think, ‘Oh my god! What have I done? Why, oh why, did I do this?’” says Dr. Cheng. “It’s even normal to suffer depression at first. But, then, later, after you heal, the enhancements become worth it and the depression lifts.”

Because she is herself a surgeon, she stopped herself from calling her own surgeon “every hour” just after the operation to ask about the terrible way she looked immediately post-op.

“Having been through it myself, I really appreciate why patients want to call their surgeons so many times just after the operation,” Dr. Cheng says. “They need reassurance they are not going to look like that forever.”

George Wesson, M.D., is one of three plastic surgeons at the Austin-Weston Center for Cosmetic Surgery in Reston, Virginia. Dr. Wesson had eye bags removed because he wanted his face to send a signal saying he looked as good as he felt inside

“When I came into the office some mornings raring to go, my staff would ask: ‘Did you get stuck in the emergency room all last night? You look exhausted,’” Dr. Weston says.

Moreover, his upper eyelids were getting puffy, heavy and starting to fall down over his eyes.    

“I also had my abdomen and flanks liposuctioned because I’m naturally thin but developed fatty bulges as I aged,” he says. “So I looked like a pregnant pencil.”

Because the surgeons at that center know what it’s like to be a plastic surgery patient, they designed some post-op handouts that detail the reactions and emotions a patient can expect right after surgery.

“It’s normal for a patient to look at her face in the mirror after an operation and nit pick, saying ‘What about this? What about that?’” Dr. Weston says.

Oh, yeah. The hospital food. How did the patient-doctors like it? They’re not saying. Diplomacy, you know. After all, they have to work there, too. Suffice it to say, nobody is ordering take out.

For more information, visit http://www.cosmeticsurgery.com


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Brent Frank
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