Steven B. Hopping, M.D., divides his time between helping the haves and the have-nots.
Helping the have-nots of Nicaragua — as well as the haves stateside — is a big part of Dr. Hopping's life. Here, Dr. Hopping (left) works on a child with a cleft lip and cleft palate in Jinotega, Nicaragua. Photos: Steven B. Hopping, M.D.
As a busy facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon practicing in Washington D.C., and clinical professor of surgery at George Washington University Hospital, Dr. Hopping has become well known for his work in rhinoplasty and facial rejuvenation. But he also makes time each year to travel on medical missions to the rural areas of Nicaragua. His commitment to the area runs deeper than reconstructing children's cleft lips and palates. The surgeon and his wife, Julia, founded the Future of Nicaragua Foundation, which provides medical, education and cultural assistance to children in Julia Hopping's native Nicaragua.
The work abroad, Dr. Hopping tells Cosmetic Surgery Times, has been some of the most meaningful in his 24-year career. The calling to use their craft to help others who cannot afford the help or do not have access to it is an ethical obligation for physicians — especially cosmetic surgeons, he says. "I think that especially those of us who treat the super-privileged need to take some of that time and share it with the underprivileged," he says.
Influenced to do the work by other doctors who did medical missions, Dr. Hopping says reaching out on medical mission trips completes the circle of life. But he admits that even he made excuses about why not to go at first. "It was always that I was too busy or had something else to do. I kept making excuses for a number of years until I finally went. And then I never missed a trip," he says.
Pioneering the S-lift
Dr. Hopping performed one of the first (if not the first) S-lifts in the United States.
The limited incision lift, he says, started the move in the profession away from radical surgery toward more minimally invasive options. In the last decade, Dr. Hopping has taught hundreds of surgeons the S-lift through American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery "live surgery workshop" courses.
"I have championed minimal incision approaches to cosmetic surgery, published on the S-lift and lectured for many years on minimal incision and maximal results in cosmetic surgery. That has been our theme over the past 10 years," he says.
Dr. Hopping's philosophy is that not everybody needs to have aggressive cosmetic surgery, and, in fact, most people — especially those in their 40s and 50s — prefer to emerge from procedures without that operated-on look.
In essence: "Less may not always be more, but in many patients it is more than enough," he says.
Dr. Hopping did his fellowship training under the auspices of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery with Richard Webster, M.D., world-renowned associate professor of plastic surgery at Harvard University, Boston. It was through Dr. Webster that Dr. Hopping says he learned an understanding and passion for rhinoplasty surgery.
"It is the quintessential cosmetic surgery because it is truly sculpting. It is also something that is important functionally, and form must follow function," he says. "In Washington, I probably do more rhinoplasty procedures than anyone in the city, because of my background."
The most common mistake made with rhinoplasty is similar to errors often made with facelift, eyelid surgery and other cosmetic procedures: over-aggressiveness, according to Dr. Hopping.