A Perspective From Fellowship: Where Has All The Vanity Gone?
Friday, April 24, 2015
Dayne R. Jensen MD, DMD, is a 2014-2015 Cosmetic Surgery Fellow at Cosmetic Surgery Affiliates in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
I was a second-year resident when I knew that I wanted to pursue cosmetic surgery. I was mesmerized by the combination of surgical techniques and anatomical artistry. At least for me it seemed that no other arena could have possibly been a better fit. As I began to vocalize, my career ambitions most agreed that the surgical procedures were second to none; however, an equally strong sentiment followed concerning the cosmetic patient population. I was told how these patients were difficult, vain, and impossible to please. Others voiced the unimaginable torment it would be to deal with these patients on a daily basis. I have to admit, this feedback was, to say, the least alarming. If this was going to be a miserable career choice, then maybe I should re-evaluate my desires. I began to explore other avenues with the hopes that my passion for cosmetic surgery would be overtaken and superseded by another more acceptable field. My disappointment availed, and I could find nothing that excited or inspired me like cosmetic surgery.
I remember vividly the night I sat down with my wife to share my unfortunate decision to pursue cosmetic surgery. When I informed others of my decision, I was given their condolences and the proverbial "I'm glad it’s you and not me" pat on the shoulder. It was with this frame of reference that I packed my little family into a U-Haul with all of our tattered belongings and headed to fellowship. What happened next turned everything I thought I knew about cosmetic surgery upside down.
Every year, during the first week of July, my fellowship director returns to his home town for a family reunion. The surgical schedule was appropriately cleared and all patients were advised. Our practice manager took advantage of this time and scheduled a studio to film the patient testimonials for our new website. As no surgeries were scheduled, I was invited to the studio to learn the marketing side of the business. A total of thirteen patients were invited to the studio with instructions to wear what made them feel confident. No script or coaching was provided. I imagined what the patients were going to look and be like - skimpy clothing and shallow perspectives.
The time had arrived, and our first patient was brought on set. She was an older woman and very modestly dressed. I watched and listened to her as she spoke about finally looking the way she had always felt she should. She spoke of being a better grandmother since her surgery because she had regained her self-confidence. She spoke of taking control of her life, and for the first time feeling as if she were living it to its fullest. She proudly reported that she had always met and attended to the needs of those around her and this was the first time she had truly done something for herself. She beamed with confidence. Her testimonial was inspiring and emotional. I thought to myself after she left, certainly this will be the only patient of substance; soon those vain and shallow patients will arrive. I was amazed when patient after patient arrived, and all with a story more inspiring than the next. Where is the vanity? I thought. When will I meet “those” patients?
The truth is that this was a precursor for most of my future patient interactions. My fellowship director quickly taught me that the most important aspect of a consultation is to listen to the patient. They all have a story, and in order to truly provide a service, you must understand who they are and where they are coming from. I took this advice to heart. I have tried to truly understand where the patient is coming from and I have been fortunate to meet some inspiring people. Most of whom were dealt situations in life, at no fault of their own, that appeared near impossible to overcome. However, overcome they did, and each would tell you that they are better because of it.
I have come to learn that this career choice isn't great in spite of these patients, but it is great because of them. The surgical component of what we do is second to none, but participating in renewing one's self-worth is priceless.
Before every surgery, my director says to each and every patient,
"I wish I could guarantee you that everything in this surgery is going to turn out perfect. If I could, I would. There may be challenges ahead and I am honored that you have chosen me and my practice to accompany you as we move forward together on this journey. I promise you I will do my very best and that during this time, you will have my undivided attention. While you are under my care in this surgery, you are the most important thing to me in the world. We will make it through this together. Again thank you for trusting us."
These patients have chosen us because they believe we can help them. This short time I have spent in this wonderful field has taught me that it is simply our privilege to join them in their journey towards bettering themselves.
This article first appeared in Surge 2015 Issue #1.