Surgeons are physicians specializing in evaluation and management of problems treated and/or cured by surgery. Cognitive (thinking) and technical (operating) skills are required. To become a surgeon, I graduated at the top of my four year college class, near the top of my four year medical school class, then apprenticed as a surgical resident days, nights, weekends, and holidays in hospitals around the United States for ten years after medical school. Many subjects are mastered, including a foundation of basic sciences such as anatomy (gross and microscopic), biochemistry, physiology (healthy function of the body), pathology (diseases), microbiology (bacteria, fungi, and viruses), pharmacology (drugs), genetics, neurosciences, psychiatry, etc. During my decade of residency, benchmarks were achieved each year to advance to subsequent higher levels of responsibility and independence. We learned about the surgical specialties, saw thousands of patients, and worked with doctors in every area of medicine. Oral and written examinations administered by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery were passed. Training and exams were rigorous and uncompromising, designed to assess cognition (knowledge, reasoning, and judgment), technical skills, and professional ethics. All are critically important for surgery. In practice for over twenty years, I still qualify annually by reporting continuing medical education and occasionally taking maintenance of certification examinations.
Why does this matter? Because quality outcomes can only be delivered in the context of high ethical, scientific, and technical standards. Treatments we recommend should have the highest possible benefit to risk relationship: The most upside and the least downside. Because everyone is different and unique, a treatment that is beneficial for one person may be a disaster for another. To differentiate among patients what is best for one individual, we surgeons must ask questions, i.e. learn about each patient in consultation. We must examine our patients physically to know their anatomy, to understand which treatments may work best and which may not be indicated. Sometimes, we must check additional blood tests, X-rays, or other studies for more information. All that data is analyzed, options for treatment are considered, discussed with patients, and a mutually agreeable treatment plan developed. Every patient should be approached with this stepwise sequence of gathering and verifying information, analyzing the information, prioritizing possible solutions based on the presentation, finalizing a plan, and only then, implementing treatment.
As an aesthetic plastic surgeon, our office fields constant calls for this peel or that product, the latest lunchtime lift, mini-tuck, or new device, diet, or implant. Usually, callers read about it in a magazine, saw a TV show (“The Doctors”), or saw advertising. Media is a business, and media exposure is bought by business. The end game of business is sales. Sales are not necessarily about what’s best for YOU. Sales are about revenue for the manufacturer, producer, and/or marketer of techniques, devices, products, and services. We implement new information and technology in our treatments, but only as appropriate in the upside to downside calculation for each patient.
Nobody comes to us for surgery, people come for results. We specialize in results, not in procedures. Procedures are only means to an end. Often, there are several possible operations that will achieve slightly different results. Results are the solution to a problem. The problem must be properly analyzed first, and treatment solutions follow. Inquiring about solutions, whether a new product or a new procedure, before understanding and analyzing the problem is backwards.
By all means, ask about new treatments and technologies, we’ll answer your questions. As a layperson, you’re not expected to know science, biotechnology, and the human body. But you DO know, more than anyone else can ever know, what bothers you when you look in the mirror or at a photograph of yourself. You know your problem, and in our office, that’s all you need to know. We’ll discuss the rest, and decide with you which solution is the best.