The Misunderstood Facelift

Facelift procedures have been a part of the plastic surgery lexicon since the early 1900’s. At that time, there were no board certifications, Teddy Roosevelt was President, the Great World Wars had yet to begin and antisepsis and anesthesia were in their infancy. Against this backdrop of medical history facelifts, eyelids, and rhinoplasty were performed in doctor’s offices and in front of crowds of people for marketing purposes. Howard Crum, MD wrote of his experiences with live surgery demonstrations in front of “thousands” of rapt on-lookers as well as a number of psychologically disturbed voyeurs hoping to see some blood and maybe a mishap or two. Cosmetic surgery was done in hotel lobbies, at conferences, and in ballrooms to standing-room-only crowds punctuated with a police presence. The surgeons performing these dramatic operations were the “rock-star” doctors of the day carrying reputations about reproach. As the market for these surgeries expanded the number of unscrupulous practitioners increased dramatically. The unskilled and poorly trained surgeons were making a mockery of cosmetic surgery and in fact, became dangerous to the point where one such surgeon tried to make a patient taller by breaking her legs and resetting the normal bones. Unfortunately, the patient lost both of her extremities. Reputable surgeons responding to these rogue doctors tried to limit physician marketing seeing these advertisements as a way to circumvent the tried and true patient referral sources which tended to enrich doctors with good results at the expense of those whose results were not as good. Marketing expertise had taken the place of surgical expertise. Plastic surgical training programs began to spring-up across the country after WWI where the horrific injuries associated with “trench” warfare were shipped to England and the USA for reconstruction. The best surgeons were on the front lines of repairing war injuries and as far back as the 1920’s Sir Harold Gillies of England and New Zealand was of the early proponents of the so-called “cosmetic reconstruction.” That is, reconstructive surgery of the face with the ultimate goal being not only a good or reasonable appearance but an attractive face. Dr. Gillies and his famous trainee, Dr. Ralph Millard, wrote a textbook to this effect in 1954 and Dr. Millard continued to be the “poster child” for the relationship between reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. It sounds foolish and ignorant for a surgeon to claim some sort of providence in facial aesthetics yet offers no educational training or pertinent experience as a surgeon to back up their improvable claims of superiority in our field of plastic surgery. In fact, aesthetic considerations are so pervasive in the plastic surgery residency that almost every patient and every challenge, whether cosmetic or reconstructive, is evaluated under the prism of Drs. Gillies and Millard. We aspire to surpass the normal and attempt to achieve the “Ideal Beautiful Normal” (D. Ralph Millard, MD).

Trying to answer the question “who are the best cosmetic surgeons” is impossible because the question applies to each individual surgeon and not entire groups of surgeons. On a group basis, competence can only be determined by training and education, and subsequent certification and not by marketing skill.

Dr. Howard has been a Top Facelift Plastic Surgeon for over 20 years.  To learn more, please visit his web sites:

Read more about top facelift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard in Birmingham, Alabama.

Read more about Dr. Paul Howard’s popular short incision face lift with no general anesthesia.

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