“On Being on a Magazine Cover”
I recently had the honor of being featured on the cover of Plastic Surgery Practice magazine. Usually people get on magazine covers if they do something really good or something really bad. In this case it was the former. This magazine profiles leaders in plastic and cosmetic surgery and has featured some of the best known surgeons in the country. Obviously, it was a huge honor for me.
When I reflect on what it took to get there the thought takes me back over a decade ago when I first became interested in cosmetic facial surgery. At the end of 1996 I noticed a trend that cosmetic surgery was really starting to blossom and permeate numerous specialties besides Plastic Surgery. Many programs including ENT, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Ophthalmology and Dermatology were teaching cosmetic surgery procedures to their residents. In my specialty, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, cosmetic facial surgery became part of our board exam and was covered by our malpractice insurance. Having seen all of these changes and always enjoying the cosmetic aspects of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, I began to seek more knowledge about cosmetic procedures. I soon became aware of a group called the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. This was a somewhat unusual group as it was made up of members from virtually every specialty that wanted to share their knowledge about cosmetic surgery. This does not sound that unusual now, but in 1996, many surgeons and specialties operated in stealth, not willing to share knowledge with colleagues. All of my life I have become obsessed with my passions and it quickly became obvious that I was about to become obsessed with cosmetic facial surgery. Prior to this time, I had a very successful and enjoyable time practicing routine maxillofacial surgery. I began a solo practice and with the help of awesome partners, grew it to an 8 man, 6 office machine with 75 employees. As much as I enjoyed what I did for a living, there was something missing. I felt withdrawn from academics, as many practitioners do after a decade or so of practice. I was looking for some mental and surgical stimulation and cosmetic facial surgery filled that need.
It did not start out as an easy ride. As my cosmetic surgery acumen grew, I began marketing my cosmetic services and that ruffled the feathers of some local competing specialists. A number of detractors attempted to keep me and others from performing cosmetic facial surgery, mostly by deception with other doctors, patients and politicians. A driven person will not accept defeat at any cost and I was determined to pursue my practice in a cosmetic direction. As my experience grew so did my patient volume and producing good results with happy patients will trump adversaries over the long run.
Around 2003, I decided that I enjoyed cosmetic facial surgery so much that I would limit practice to that discipline. It was a big decision as it is difficult to maintain a practice on cosmetic surgery only, especially a head and neck cosmetic practice. Surgeons performing full body surgery have more to choose from. Cosmetic facial surgeons are limited to that area and there is only one other surgeon in my city besides me who limits his practice to cosmetic facial surgery. Many Plastic Surgeons dabble in cosmetic surgery and fall back on reconstructive surgery to fill the voids but having a dedicated cosmetic practice is much more difficult.
From the onset of my cosmetic surgery experience I meticulously documented my learning and surgical techniques. I began using this information to publish and teach. I have always enjoyed writing and used my free time to publish articles on cosmetic facial surgery. To date, I have published over 200. I have also always enjoyed teaching and seriously considered a career in academics when I finished my residency. In 1997 I gave my first cosmetic surgery lecture at a surgical meeting. As I progressed, I submitted abstracts to more and more meetings from various specialties and organizations. This is a very time consuming process as it requires unbelievable time and effort to lecture. I think I spend more time using PowerPoint than anyone on the planet! Also, a teacher must remain at the cutting edge of what is happening, so it is a significant commitment. Over the past decade, my ability to teach and lecture became appreciated by various societies and specialties and in 2008 I lectured nationally and internationally 27 out of 52 weekends. There have been many drawbacks from this; time away from home, work and family, missing hobbies such as bow hunting and fishing and spending countless hours in airports. There have also been many rewards. I have met thousands of cosmetic surgeons from all specialties, all over the world. Some of my best friends have been made on the road and I cherish this family of cosmetic surgeons. With this experience came committees and board appointments with the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. I have served on numerous committees, was on the board of directors of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation and have served as a co-chair for two annual meetings. Also with experience comes other honors and I have been appointed to editorial boards of such publications as Cosmetic Dermatology, Aesthetic Surgery and Medicine and Cosmetic Surgery Times. Finally, I have been asked by Elsevier, one of the leading companies in medical publishing, to write a textbook on cosmetic facial surgery. This is a supreme honor and my chance to leave something behind.
I feel very lucky to love my job and I am excited to move into our new cosmetic facial surgery office and surgery center which is a state of the art facility here in Richmond, Virginia. This magazine cover comes on the same week that we move into our new facility and serves to make me feel good about all the countless hours I have invested in cosmetic facial surgery. As many of my friends that I trained with ponder retirement, it is my hope that I can work another 20 years, because I love what I do. I also feel great about the fact that I have given back to the community by treating many patients that were unable to pay. There is no better feeling that helping someone who has no other place to turn, especially children.
So, I spend my days performing cosmetic facial surgery and my evenings making before and after pictures, updating my web site, working on my text book and writing on my blog. I sometimes feel overwhelmed and wonder what keeps me going. It is simply that I have a passion for what I do.
So what does it take to get on a magazine cover? It takes passion!
To find out more about Dr. Niamtu or cosmetic facial surgery in Richmond, Virginia visit www.lovethatface.com
Joe Niamtu, III DMD
Cosmetic Facial Surgery