Straight Talk on Plastic Surgery

Grateful, Honored, Humbled

Posted by: Dr. Suber

One of my highest priorities professionally is to personally invest myself into my patients. I feel strongly that an essential key to providing the best experience and outcomes possible for the patients who I am privileged to serve go well beyond me having the proper training, experience and surgical skills required to appropriately manage a patient's issue(s). This practice philosophy I believe is essential when the goal is to go beyond healing just the obvious injury, correcting just the obvious deformity or addressing just the stated patient issue. No matter what the reason for a consultation or emergency room visit, the fundamental similarity with every patient encounter is that I am treating a whole person every time...not a body part, not a diagnosis...but an unique individual. By my definition, successful interaction in the context of that seemingly obvious truth requires relationship where both parties are personally invested.

I am not going to belabor the point with a dissection of how I believe this is best accomplished. But I will share with you that I firmly believe that there are key elements in how a plastic surgeon's office is run that either promote or deter an ideal physician-patient relationship. I feel strongly that this cannot be accomplished if an office nurse is the one who spends the majority of face time with you during a consultation, while the plastic surgeon does a "30 second fly through" for a quick exam and is out of the room almost before your hair settles down from the breeze created. This cannot be accomplished when a patient gets the sense that her questions are not being fully and completely answered by the plastic surgeon personally during consultation. This cannot be accomplished when a patient does not feel comfortable and even encouraged to call her plastic surgeon 24/7 for any questions post-operatively, and have a genuine faith that he will be able to address the matter at hand successfully and with genuine concern.

I will resist the "soapbox moment" that I feel coming on regarding "beside manner" and how often it saddens me to hear all too frequent stories of even intelligent and well-trained physicians missing the boat so broadly regarding how they mismanage patient relations. When reflecting upon these stories, I am further pained by the reality that a career that should be a calling to service of others more than anything else, falls woefully short in either the execution or in rejection of my philosophy altogether. If there is any silver lining here, it is that these anecdotal stories motivate me personally to be fundamentally different.

I suppose it is the nature of this format, but I find it amusing that I am 450 words into this blog and I have yet to get to its purpose, which is the following. In order to give those visiting the website a clearer picture into the type of physician-patient relationships we foster in my office, a "Patient Testimonial" page was designed. One of the tasks necessary to create this site the way I envisioned was to gather together patients' correspondence with me from over nearly a decade of service. Much to my relief this potentially overwhelming responsibility was voluntarily taken on by my wife. I knew that these letters, notes and cards were around. Each had generated in me a humble smile upon the reading. While I knew that none had ever been discarded, I supposed that each ended up in the chart of the patient from whom it came. And I was sure that there was no separate documentation of even a fraction of the names of patients who had corresponded so genuinely and sincerely. So I assumed that the task of retrieving the correspondences was going to be monumental. But unbeknownst to me, my wife had been surreptitiously collecting these all along, apparently for some far distant retirement party planned for the mid-21st century.

So there I sat at my desk, stacks of paper at my side. I was for the first time reading together at one sitting each collected note card and letter, one after the other. The effect on me was substantial. I was reminded of house calls made, late night unscheduled office visits to manage an unexpected injury, and even surprising positive responses to my (sometimes dry, sometimes well-worn) sense of humor that apparently soothed some of my younger patients (and their parents).

As I poured through the collected stories detailing the impact that the type of physician-patient relationship I have created had on my patients, I at first struggled to put into words my feelings. But in the end what I concluded was that I am grateful to have been given the skill set to do what I do and (perhaps) the smallest sliver of wisdom to pursue the style of patient-centered practice I have created. I was honored to have the opportunity to encounter and intervene on behalf of individuals for whom I have cared, and perhaps in some small way improved their quality of life...perhaps even beyond the scope of the surgery. I was humbled that those patients would honor me with their trust and then they, as well as other physicians in my community and beyond thought enough of me personally and professionally to refer me new patients to care for.

I am grateful. I am honored. I am humbled. I thank each and every one of you who has to date trusted me to your care. And I am motivated more than ever to continue to foster an environment in my office that promotes the ideals of a truly patient-centered practice. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback ( And always remember, no matter where you are, Life is good.

Why This Blog?

Posted by: Dr. Suber

Blogging is a new endeavor for me. And I daresay that if my initial ideas about this long-term project come to fruition, then I anticipate that a great deal of time and effort on my part will be required over the long haul. Consequently, I had to first appraise the merits of the project. In so doing, I first had to evaluate critically and objectively its purpose, and lastly, its potential benefit and value to readers ("Is this worth the effort? Is this worthwhile to the readers?"). Lastly, I wanted to outline some "rules of the game" as a framework so that you, the reader, will better understand the context of the blog. These include things that are true about me as a plastic surgeon and concepts to which I will adhere in my blogs.

I anticipate that many of the topics will cover my thoughts on the latest advancement in plastic surgery, while others may simply be designed to help you better understand what makes me tick as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. In any case, it is always my hope that the information is useful to you so that you are more educated and better informed on a given topic.

Rules of the Game

Straight Talk on Plastic Surgery
There is a great deal of material out there on the subject of plastic surgery. From the internet to print media to cable television, reams of content abound and a lot of it is not helpful as an educational tool, though oftentimes it is promoted that way. I have found over the past several years, as plastic surgery has become a mainstay on the radar screen of popular American culture, that I have had to spend more and more time un-educating patients about what they've heard or read, and then re-educating them as to the true facts of a given procedure or service. It's the reality show that skips the detail on recovery from a procedure, or the magazine product advertisement that over-promises result, which can lead to unrealistic expectations with patients about what I do.

My promise to you here is that I will give you straight talk on plastic surgery. I will tell it like it is and as I see it. I have no conflicts of interest with any business or vendor to cloud my objectivity. Yes, I will voice my opinions here, but it will be based on facts and data available to me at the time, my experience, and my professional philosophy of putting the well being of the patient first.

This blog is not designed to sell you anything.
This blog is not designed to highlight my practice or me. This may be hard for some to believe in a time of overzealous marketing in the medical field (more on that in a future blog), but it is true. Furthermore, I anticipate that many who may benefit from this blog will never have the opportunity to meet me professionally, due to geographic limitations. I am in a service industry, and in my mind, there's an emphasis on service. And this blog is an extension of the service I wish to provide. This is not to be construed as an advertising catch phrase. I truly believe this, and try to live my professional life this way. To that end, I have surrounded myself with like-minded team members in the office. Two caveats here are the following: (1) while I obviously do need to "keep the lights on" so to speak via my work, I have for many years been able to do that without this blog and the extra work it entails, so this endeavor is not a means to that end, and (2) if reading this blog gives you a better idea that you and I are a good (physician-patient) fit, then the overall experience will be more beneficial to you, and I'll welcome that benefit.

This blog is a more casual, conversational approach to the topic.
Plastic and reconstructive surgery is a serious subject. Whether covering any number of topics on cosmetic procedures, or simplifying a complex issue in the world of reconstructive surgery, all this stuff can be overwhelming to a layperson. Despite that, I will be communicating with you conversationally. It will be more casual talk than when I am giving a formal presentation, preparing an article for a medical journal or speaking to peers in a suit and tie.. As you read, think of this conversation occurring one-on-one at a backyard barbeque, for example.

Opinions vary.
In the context of my "straight talk," there may be other opinions out there from sources with the same patient-centered philosophy as mine who arrive at a different conclusion, and that's okay, and even preferable, in the big picture. In any field of medicine, differences of opinion, in the long run, benefit the patient. This occurs because each course of treatment can be carefully and objectively evaluated. Outcomes are studied. Benefits are assessed. Safety is evaluated. And the end result is a safer, more effective treatment plan for a given condition. The bottom line is, two well-trained, well-meaning and experienced plastic surgeons can disagree. I can respect these differences so long as we share a patient-centered philosophy.

I am a "Top of the Bell Curve" Guy.
There are so many new products, tools, procedures and ideas that flood the world of plastic surgery that it would boggle the mind. What is seen as "new" today in the media at a given time is, in reality, only the tip of the iceberg at that moment. This reality puts a special burden on me as a plastic surgeon. I have to thoroughly and objectively evaluate these new potential tools before integrating any one into my practice. After all, the well being of my patients is at stake. As such, I don't jump on the bandwagon with the newest thing to hit the market (left of bell curve). This may be done by some practitioners in an attempt to "corner the market" on a product or service before it's been proven safe and effective (bad idea). Nor do I sit around and let a well-tested and proven treatment option remain unavailable to my patients (right of bell curve). I balance these two extremes by first waiting on solid data (on proven effectiveness and safety) to be presented before offering a new service to my patients.

So thanks for being here. I hope that through the blogs to follow and other resources on my website, you will find yourself a more well informed patient. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback ( And always remember, no matter where you are, Life is good.