As cosmetic surgeons progress through their education, training and the development of their practices, they come into contact with innumerable people who can influence them — with either positive or negative results.
Some Best Advice
On Track talked to cosmetic surgeons around the country and asked them to recall the best piece of advice they ever received — and whether they followed it. Many surgeons recalled more than one suggestion.
Mennen T. Gallas, M.D., of Katy, Texas, says the best advice he's ever received is a variation on one of the basic tenets most of us are taught as children: "To treat all patients as I would want to be treated myself.
"Where did that come from? I guess that grew out of my training years as a resident, mentors along the way — I probably can't attribute that to one person, quite frankly. It was probably from my general surgical training, really."
In practice for seven years and a consultant at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Dr. Gallas says those words have impacted the way he conducts his practice.
"I come back to it often when there's a decision to make — it comes into play in terms of making a recommendation and giving a patient advice.
"Obviously, there is more than one avenue to pursue in any given treatment, and I always tend to recommend what I would want to do for me — knowing what I know. I think that's what patients want to hear; that's what is of most value to them. What would I do if I was in their shoes, knowing what I know and having the insight that I have as a professional in the field, and speaking with the wisdom and experience of the years?"
The patient's best interest
In Knoxville, Tenn., Tom T. Gallaher, M.D., says his chairman while in training at Vanderbilt — J.B. Lynch, M.D. — had a saying that has stuck with him.
"You make your fortune off the patients you operate on, and you make your reputation from the patients you refuse to operate on."
"I thought that a very wise thing, and it stuck, for some reason."
For Dr. Gallaher that means, "You always have to take into account the patients' best interests and not necessarily consider any financial implications of your decision whether or not to operate.
"People often ask you to do things, to achieve things that are not achievable. You try to put yourself in a situation of always trying to do things that you requested to do — but sometimes that's more harmful than not fulfilling those requests. We're taught as physicians to first and foremost do no harm.
"I think in the specialties of plastic surgery, and (in) medicine in general, sometimes that's overshadowed. Things are done at the patient's request. Some doctors will push the envelope, and judgment sometimes gets clouded by the monetary gain of a given procedure. This is something we could all learn from — keeping in mind that what we do are medical procedures, and you always need to respect the limitations of what's available, and not overpromise what you can do."
But even when a surgeon wants to follow the advice, Dr. Gallaher says that can be difficult.