Sometimes there's a hint of what the future holds for people — even in their youngest years — but it may take a while before they recognize and follow their path.
When Nicanor Isse was growing up on his family's sugar cane plantation in Northern Argentina, he used to wile away the time by carving wood, or even chalk.
Nicanor G. Isse, M.D. Newport Beach & Burbank, California
"I used to grab a paper clip or tiny pin and carve on the chalk," Dr. Isse says. "I used to create faces and bodies and give them to my friends." As a teenager, he also painted an entire wall of a basketball court with allegorical figures for Carnivale. His mother was also artistic, but his father was all business. He expected third child of four to become an engineer. Dr. Isse says that was not to be.
"I took the test for engineering, and I failed, of course, because they were talking about formulas and algebra — things I had not a clue about. I did not dare tell my father I did not pass."
Instead, at a friend's urging, he registered for medical school. It was two years before his father found out. His father wasn't happy, but finally came around, according to Dr. Isse.
Dr. Isse wasn't convinced that medicine was the place he should be, however.
"I wasn't interested in it at that point, but I figured I had better get something going. Medicine was very hard."
It was about then that another hint about his future came to Dr. Isse, but he still didn't recognize it.
"We didn't have written tests. All of them were oral presentations and I liked those. There was freedom in our presentation. We could present what we wanted, in the way we wanted. So, I would do anatomical drawings and draw micro-organisms, and my professors really seemed to like that.
"I discovered that I'm a very visual learner and in studying medicine, I liked the shape and form of the anatomy."
What to do with life?
Dr. Isse still had not found his calling in cosmetic surgery at that point. In fact, during medical school, he had taken to his pathology studies so well, he was asked to take an exam and became an undergraduate assistant instructor.
Following graduation, Dr. Isse decided to do a fellowship in oncology in Buenos Aires, but when he returned to Argentina, he says there was no way to apply his knowledge or to practice, so he took a break from medicine and traveled. He did some emergency room work and traveled in Brazil for two months.
"Sitting in the mountains of Argentina one night looking at the sky with friends, we were talking about what we wanted to do with our lives," he recalls. "I was sitting there carving a piece of wood, and said I would like to be either a sculptor or a painter. I thought it would be nice if there was a medical specialty where I could use my carving and painting — then we started talking about plastic surgery."
Dr. Isse returned to the city, but found it would take five years before he could get into a plastic surgery residency in Argentina, so he started exploring residency programs abroad.
Dr. Isse checked into the opportunities in Brazil, Australia and the United States. He decided on the U.S. but had to take more exams — one for English comprehension and a medical exam. He passed the exams and went to Baltimore for a year and then to Delaware.