Chicago — Edward B. Lack, M.D., has climbed a few mountains. Besides hiking and skiing on lofty slopes, he has made ascents in his professional and personal life by pioneering liposculpture in the United States and defeating pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Lack exchanges a dance with Ashley Braun, one of his dance partners at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Chicago.
He helped to change the way many cosmetic surgeons think about traditional liposuction and he led the way in the use of low-level energy, primarily lasers, to promote wound healing. Today, Dr. Lack continues to teach physicians around the world about his findings. All those professional achievements, however, paled three years ago when Dr. Lack learned he had pancreatic cancer.
"I had a 1 percent chance of survival, because 99 percent of patients with cancer of the pancreas die," he says. As fate would have it, Dr. Lack was the last person admitted into a clinical study in which 19 other people with pancreatic cancer were enrolled. Seventeen of those people are still alive today.
"We are the largest and longest surviving group of pancreatic cancer patients ever reported," Dr. Lack says. He recalls how a dying man once told him that life after cancer is essentially the same — except that the sky never looked so blue and the flowers never smelled so sweet. He couldn't agree more.
"Today, I have no evidence of cancer. I am living my second life."
Jewish delicatessen, flirtatious tot
Dr. Lack, a dermatologic cosmetic surgeon who practices in Chicago, sees the humor in life when he relates stories about growing up in a Jewish ghetto.
"When I was 3 or 4 years old, I lived upstairs from a Jewish delicatessen. You might think the most important thing in a Jewish delicatessen is the food, but you would completely miss the point. The best part is that you get to scream at the guy behind the counter and he gets to scream back. The dessert is the corned beef; the meal is the screaming back and forth," Dr. Lack says.
He began to show signs that cosmetic surgery would be a good fit for him early on — as a toddler. At age 4, the doctor-to-be loved to flirt and had figured out that compliments were the way to go.
"It was very common for me to walk up to people on the street ... and I would say to a woman, whether she was 20 or 40 (years old), 'Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?'" he says.
Dr. Lack also spent his childhood and teen years acting in the theater, which, he says, he enjoyed because he liked human interaction. He went to medical school thinking he would be a psychiatrist. But the stress of the specialty swayed Dr. Lack, who instead decided to pursue dermatologic surgery.
While he focused his early years in practice on treating skin cancer, Dr. Lack became disillusioned with managed care, believing that patient care was becoming too impersonal. He considered leaving medicine altogether, until he met Gary Fenno, M.D., a Houston-based surgeon who many have credited as being the father of liposculpture in the United States. Dr. Fenno suggested that Dr. Lack go into cosmetic surgery. Dr. Lack not only took the advice, but also began training with Dr. Fenno to better learn the specialty.
Dr. Lack's pioneering work in liposculpture began during the early 1990s and continued through the mid '90s after Dr. Fenno's death.
"In liposculpture, we are designing the shape of the body as opposed to just making something smaller," he says.
Dr. Lack says he developed several body liposculpture concepts that he and Dr. Fenno discussed.
One had to do with contiguous cosmetic units. The body, Dr. Lack says, is divided into parts, which should blend harmoniously with each other to create natural curves.