Monday, August 27, 2012

Cosmetic Surgery From the Inside Out

Reality television and many of self-promoting plastic surgeons would have you believe the experience of cosmetic surgery is much like spending the day at the beach - all sunshine and playful breezes. All it takes is a little snip, snip, snip and life becomes everything your dreamed it could be. No wonder more and more physicians are moving into the cosmetics field whether they are qualified or not. No wonder we are beginning to see the 'abnormal' body features becoming the 'new normal.'
In a day when people want a magic pill to quickly fix whatever needs fixing many people flock to Neiman Marcus or the plastic surgeon when life presents a twist, turn or a downward dip. Like addicts many never realize that external solutions can't solve internal emotional problems. There isn't a Prada bag or Face-lift that can fill the emptiness within.
Which is why I was surprised, and delighted, to hear of a plastic surgeon, Dr. Peter B. Fodor, among the top 1% of U.S. Plastic Surgeons according to U.S. News and celebrity surgeon to the stars. He rules out surgery for about 50% of the people who want to engage his services.
Why? Because if a patient isn't emotionally ready for cosmetic surgery Fodor will tell the patient the truth - this surgery isn't for you and/or I'm not the surgeon you want.
This was someone I had to meet. And I did. Fodor graciously gave me the better part of a day of his time to sit down and discuss his philosophy, what he sees in the emotional and physical diversity of the people who come to see him and give me a personal and private tour of his medical facility. His elegant presence and peaceful environment set the stage for a lengthy and lively conversation that was more about the beauty in wealth of spirit than the ambidextrous artistry of his surgical hands.
Fodor also takes his time when he first consults with a potential patient. Unlike many doctors who rush from one patient to the next, Fodor digs deep to fully hear and understand what a person really wants and expects to get out of the procedure. As he was in our meeting, he is fully present and focused.
As I listened to Dr. Fodor tell me the story of his career and his early experiences I lost the image of a technician and gained the vision of an artist who loves to precisely create and sculpt with his hands. Each movement has purpose. Each tool has a mission to deliver a meaningful positive change.
We talked a bit about the cosmetic surgery industry itself and quickly got to the heart of the conversation. Cosmetic procedures are more about the mind than they are about the body. With a background in psychology, Fodor refers to his work as "psycho-surgery." He treats patients from the inside out.
If a procedure isn't in the patient's highest good, Fodor will opt out.
There are four reasons why Fodor will not move forward with surgery:
1. The patient shows evidence of a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
Such a person is excessively preoccupied with and concerned about perceived defects in their physical features. Sufferers believe that they are so ugly or deformed that they can't function in society until they are "fixed." There isn't a knife in the world that can alone carve away such misguided pain. Fodor's conviction is if what a client wants doesn't naturally exist in human physique he will not create it with his scalpel.
2. The patient expresses unrealistic expectations.
If the expectations are higher than the realities of the procedure, Dr. Fodor will give patients a strong reality check. Instead of ushering me to the payment desk, Dr. Fodor would have politely ushered me to the door oh so long ago when I thought that if I enhanced my barely B Cup into a convincing C Cup my life would change in magical ways. At the time, I guess I was lucky that my first consultation experience made me feel like an anonymous piece of meat ready to be carved and charged. I ran out the door and never looked back. Had I gone forward I would have learned the painful and expensive way that what I wanted didn't come packaged with a boob job.
Unlike the physician I saw at that time, Fodor tells the truth about what to expect throughout the process even if its not what the patient wants to hear. He is intent on giving his patients the tools to be able to make an informed rational decision.
3. When a patient excessively believes 'more is better.'
Dr. Fodor will not produce anything that does not normally exist. Period. If after a discussion on what is in the patient's best interest, a patient still wants an unnatural enhancement Dr. Fodor suggests the patient go somewhere else. "I'd rather have a person be unhappy with me for a day than for a lifetime."
As it is, nearly 50% of the procedures Fodor does do are 're-dos' for patients who have gone elsewhere and are unhappy with the results. The paradox isn't lost on Fodor who realizes that when he says so many will ultimately find a doctor who will say yes - and then end up back in his office for a correction.
4. The patient isn't intrinsically motivated.
If a patient is in his office only because someone else - a significant other perhaps - thinks the procedure needs to be done Fodor will decline.
For Fodor to say YES, a patient needs to have made an informed decision autonomously, have realistic expectations about the outcomes and (hopefully) have a strong support system within the dynamics of family and friends. Engaging actively as part of that support system is inherent in the ongoing care Fodor provides.
Fodor's passion and mission is to serve the greater good of his client. This philosophy is evident in the physical and technical design of his practice - from the soothing decor, state-of-the-art private in-house surgery center and comfy pre-and post-operation recovery areas, the practice was designed to place the attention on the needs of the patient rather than the accolades of the doctor. I didn't see the celebrity photos, array of diplomas and awards or brochures touting the fabulousness of the typical Dr. Nip and Tuck.
There are other equally motivated and qualified surgeons like Fodor who really want to make a positive and powerful difference in a person's life. As with any industry, there are doctors and professionals who care more about their tee-off time than what a patient or client really needs and wants. If you are seeking a cosmetic solution it is your job to discern one from the other. It is your job to fully understand what you're signing up for.
Stand in line in any grocery store and you'll see an array of tabloids spotlighting the latest celebrity surgical blunder. At the same time, there are many people with surgical success stories who feel better about themselves after the procedure. They report improvement in self-esteem and confidence in a way that enables them to enrich their quality of life. These are the people who have a healthy realistic relationship with themselves and what surgery can and can't provide.
It all boils down to your WHY.
What is it that you're really looking to buy with your cosmetic surgery investment?
If it's realistic, intrinsic and you're emotionally ready to adjust to the change in your body image then go into it boldly with full awareness. Chances are you'll be pleased with the results.
If, however, you think it will magically turn you into someone you are not or will never be then think again. You will not be pleased with what you see in the mirror and in life upon recovery. If you're overweight, 50 years old and have no talent as an actor you will never be or look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt.
Do your homework. There are a lot of books available that will give you an education about the essential facts and surgeon insights about the plastic surgery process. A quick search on led me to "Be Your Best: A Comprehensive Guide to Aesthetic Plastic Surgery" written by industry experts with Fodor as the book's Medical Editor.
No two people are alike. Therefore a good plastic surgeon will take the time to consult and collaborate with you to develop a highly individualized surgical plan. Speak with a few board-certified plastic surgeons. In addition to selecting a surgeon who is qualified to do the procedure, you want a doctor who will have your best interests at heart from first consultation to months - if not years - beyond recovery.
Ask questions and keep asking questions until you get answers that you can understand. Discern hype and false promises from fact and realistic expectations. Even if some of the body parts aren't exactly 'real', keep it real in your head and in your heart. That's where your real strength and beauty lives.

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