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Cultural Contours

Has any medical specialty been as influenced by the popular culture as aesthetic surgery?



For better or for worse, the media klege light on J. Lo's gluteal endowments and Angelina Jolie's bee-stung lips have helped forge the discipline this decade past — driving the increasingly empowered "medical consumer" to the surgeon's office with the latest episode of "The Swan" fresh in her mind.

Second only to the media-celebrity influence on patients, this cultural landscape has been impacted by the approval of medical devices and the refinement of techniques which have, as one commentator observed, "made possible both the desirable and the endless."

The "retailing" of aesthetic procedures to a broader consumer base — as more practitioners employed less invasive techniques — emerged from who were and how we lived. Culture watchers as "inside" the discipline as ASPS spokesmen predicted that the events of 9/11 would further spur the aesthetic boom as more patients assumed a carpe diem attitude stemming from their fresh recognition of the brevity of life.

The key touchstones within the past decade's aesthetic timeline were the points at which science and society intersected.

1997

Somatic cell nuclear transfer produces Dolly, first genetically engineered sheep

Web site of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, featuring images of the Pathfinder's landing on Mars, becomes most popular in history with over 45 million hits in one week

Mattel manufactures one billionth Barbie

1998

Europeans agree on a single currency, the "euro"

FDA approves Viagra

Former WWF wrestler, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, elected governor of Minnesota

Dow Corning Corporation consents to $3.2 billion silicone breast implant settlement

ASPS reports 132,378 breast augmentations in the U.S. — with 32,262 breast implant removals

1999

Surgeons in Louisville, Kentucky perform first human hand transplant

World awaits consquences of the Y2K bug

Dr. Marlen Sulamanidze develops Aptos, first barbed thread for facial tissue suspension

Nobel Peace prize awarded to Doctors without Borders

Singer Carnie Wilson's gastric bypass surgery broadcast live on Internet

Number of Internet users worldwide reaches 150 million; 50% are from the U.S.

2000

Mad cow disease alarms Europe

FDA approves nonablative laser, NLite, for periocular wrinkles

Tech bubble bursts; NASDAQ drops 45.9% by year end, an estimated $8 trillion dollars of wealth lost

AOL acquires Time Warner

California firm starts eBay-like web site for online auctions of cosmetic and other surgeries

Human genome deciphered; expected to revolutionize the practice of medicine

RU-486 wins FDA approval

2001

Anthrax scare rivets nation

Embyros created at a Virginia clinic to harvest stem cells

Apple launches iPod

Neurotoxin injection procedures top 1.6 million, a 2,356% increase over 1997

Serena Williams defeats her sister, Venus, at Wimbeldon


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