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Real benefits arise when surgeons become the patients

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Participating in continuing education, attending medical symposia and keeping abreast of the latest research can help cosmetic surgeons arm themselves with the latest knowledge in their field. But there's another step that surgeons say is unparalleled when it comes to gaining perspective into their patents' experience and using it to make improvements in their treatment process: undergoing cosmetic surgery.

Undergoing cosmetic surgery and tangential aesthetic procedures helped two surgeons interviewed for this article gain insight into the patient experience in ways that no course or textbook could, they say. Last year, Joseph Niamtu III, M.D., F.A.A.C.S., had bilateral upper blepharoplasty, cheek implant surgery and facial laser treatments.

"I think every surgeon should have the experience of being on the other side of the scalpel," says Dr. Niamtu, a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon with a practice limited to cosmetic facial surgery in Richmond, Va.

Surgeon Thomas Jeneby, M.D., of the Plastic and Cosmetic Center of South Texas in San Antonio, has had anti-aging treatments including botulinum toxin and filler injections, as well as liposuction and laser hair removal. "Patients love to hear that I get the same treatments that they do," Dr. Jeneby says. "When I talk to them about these treatments it makes it much easier for them to relate, which in turn makes it easier for me to sell the procedures."

Dr. Niamtu
DR. NIAMTU'S STORY Rather than having the procedures done at the operating surgeon's practice, Dr, Niamtu says he had the surgery performed at his own practice so he could experience exactly what his patients do. "I think most surgeons have a pretty good understanding of the entire patient experience, but there's nothing like firsthand experience to highlight the positive aspects and even the deficiencies in your practice and your total treatment consortium," he explains.

Dr. Niamtu says he decided to have the procedures done for the same reason most of his patients do: He wanted to look better and reverse some sun damage. Gaining insight into their experience and applying that insight to make improvements in his practice's procedures was an added bonus. "I think it's a lot easier to talk to patients about a procedure when you've had it yourself, but that wasn't the rationale for doing all this. The rationale was like anybody else: It was vanity," he says.

Dr. Niamtu says he planned to take nine days off of work postoperatively because of how he expected to look following the laser treatment. "I have been an outdoorsman and sun lover all of my life, so we planned an aggressive treatment of multiple passes of high-density, high-fluence treatment with a Lumenis Encore laser for my face and scalp, and less aggressive fractional resurfacing with the Lumenis ActiveFX for my neck," he says.

Initially, he says, he wanted blepharoplasty and laser resurfacing, but then he decided to add cheek implants to the surgical plan. "I figured since I was going to take the time off of work and be sedated, I wanted to have the cheek implants done as well," he says. "Also, I am a huge believer in volume restoration and frequently recommend cheek implants or fillers to my patients. Having them myself and letting patients see and feel them makes their recommendation much easier."

Dr. Niamtu says he chose a surgeon who had been a mentor of his, and he gave very specific instructions of how he wanted the procedures performed. This, he says, was amusing, given that "surgeons are used to giving orders, not taking orders. But I wanted everything done the same as I treat my patients so that I could fully relate to their experience."


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