As one who has written about the topic for a couple of years now, I feel generally pretty open to plastic surgery for patients with informed, realistic views of what they want to achieve and why. All the same, since what’s most often in the news are startling tales of cosmetic surgery gone bad, I can understand why plenty of people are down on the idea of surgically altering your looks.
Due largely to sensational news stories, some people see plastic surgeons as doctors who care about money first, with the well-being of their patients further down the list of what’s important. And I will admit that I did some work for one of those — once; a surgeon who actually admitted to using bait-and-switch tactics on women interested in looking younger but reluctant to commit to traditional surgery.
My experience tells me, however, that the great majority of plastic surgeons choose their field with excitement about helping others feel good about themselves. Occasionally a plastic surgeon makes news with heartwarming, groundbreaking work, like Dr. Maria Siemionow of the Cleveland Clinic and the first U.S. face transplant.
But there are many heroic plastic surgeons who serve people in need without fanfare. These are the physicians who give their time to those who otherwise would not be able to have plastic surgery. In most cases, surgery goes well beyond merely improving looks - it truly transforms lives.
One such person is Dr. Debra Johnson from Sacramento. Like some plastic surgeons, she was invited to join a mission to the developing world as she was about to complete her schooling. But unlike many young doctors, as her private practice began to take off, she didn’t stop traveling to countries like Guatemala, Myanmar and the Philippines. In fact, she is nearing her 40th journey and now helps coordinate trips for other doctors.
How does Dr. Johnson find the energy for this kind of commitment? She explains that in countries she has visited, life can be hard for everyone. If you’re born with a deformity like a cleft palate, it’s that much harder; in fact, you have very little chance for a normal life. No marriage, no family and limited work opportunities.