Sheltering in place, working from home, and spending less time out-and-about has given us a lot of time for reflection. The more ambitious types have felt inspired to read more, begin new hobbies, pursue healthy lifestyle changes, or simply catch up on long-forgotten to-do lists. Many are prioritizing self-care as well. Self-care in the form of optional treatments and procedures has surged as cities are reopening. We caught up with Board Certified plastic surgeon Dr. Gary Berger, MD, FACS to discuss how the pandemic has shifted medical services, trends he’s seeing in the office, and what the future may hold with innovation and surgical practices.
Q. Dr. Gary Berger, tell us how long have you practiced your craft, what made you specialize in this field?
I have been in practice on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for 23 years. Being a doctor was always my dream and I began toying with the idea of surgery sometime in college. (In fact, I did Weird Al’s “Like a Surgeon” in a college lip sync competition!) It was five or six years later, during general surgery training that I first became exposed to reconstructive plastic surgery and immediately knew I had found my true calling.
Q. What are some of the trends you see in your office?
The number of male patients having cosmetic procedures continues to rise. Patients having liposuction as a means to improve body contour or using it as a jumpstart to an improved lifestyle, has steadily been increasing for a long time. The male neck lift is also becoming more common.
Q. How have you and your colleagues handled the long closures of elective surgery across the country?
Our New York City office stopped elective surgery when it became clear that there was a possible increased risk of getting coronavirus after surgery. That was shortly before it was mandated by the state. Throughout the quarantine, plastic surgeons across the nation, and even worldwide, met continuously by webinar and Zoom to discuss plans for safely reopening and for helping staff and patients remain safe in the post-COVID world.
Q. Is the demand for services increasing as parts of the country reopen?
Truthfully, patients reached out during the quarantine to schedule surgery while they didn’t have to be at work. We, of course, counseled them to wait until it was safe. Now, we are busier than ever, scheduling all the missed surgeries, as well as many new ones — hoping we can continue to work without stopping for a “second wave.”
Q. Let’s talk about husky executives. In the last few years have you seen an uptick in this group? Is there a stigma for men to seek your assistance?
Liposuction of the abdomen, waist, and male chest is common in the husky patient, who may be trying to fit into clothing a bit better. The stigma is much less than it was in the past. Rhinoplasty has been acceptable in men for many years. But eyelid lifts and neck lifts, for example, were less so. This has also changed.
Q. What kind of procedures are popular and what is on the horizon?
In general, a week does not go by without me doing some form of liposuction. Gynecomastia, or male chest reduction surgery, is also common. In both genders, tummy tucks, as well as extended mini tummy tucks are on the rise too.
Q. One of the concerns we often hear from executives is the issue associated with postoperative recovery times. Have you seen improvements in the time required to take off from work for some of these procedures?
The extended mini-tummy tuck removes the hanging skin across the bottom of the abdomen without the large downtime (and pain) associated with a full tummy tuck. This is not an option for every patient, but overall, I believe the enticement is the faster recovery.
Q. Any advice for those seeking to go abroad for plastic surgery to save a few dollars?
Don’t do it. Simple as that. Find an experienced board certified plastic surgeon nearby and don’t compromise safety and health. We see too many disasters coming back from abroad.
Q. Our readers are Husky Executives and many understand that you can be healthy and not look like a sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What are some things you would encourage them to take a look at sculpting?
The abdomen, waist, and male chest are always at the top of the list (thighs and arms, less so). A better jawline and neck are also on the menu for surgery but the swelling and downtime usually require a longer time recovering at home. However, with most people proficient in working from home these days, this has become a lesser issue.
Q. Where do you see the future of plastic surgery? E.g., Male enhancement, leg lengthening, or other exotic things that may have folks sharing this article for others to read.
Trends in plastic surgery change all the time. In general, most surgery techniques continue to navigate towards more natural appearances, particularly with facelift surgeries and breast implants. (The exception is buttock enhancement, which is still trending larger!) More and more techniques, injectables, and devices are being created and improved to reaching more natural looking results and less invasive procedures. There are new devices for the manipulation of fat pockets for slimming purposes, as well as muscle manipulation for enhancement without exercise! With the continued popularity of weight loss surgeries and techniques, the plastic surgical removal/reconstruction of these patients’ loose skin is becoming a larger portion of many practices. So the management and improvement of scars continues to be an important area for advancement.
Q. Anything else you want to discuss?
We are living in interesting and scary times. No one can really project the future of the post-COVID period. During the quarantine, patients continually requested surgery during their time off of work. This, of course, didn’t happen. However, as the New York area slowly reopens, patients are streaming back to plastic surgery offices, perhaps because of a yearning to do something for themselves after the shutdown. We have followed guidelines to make sure the offices minimize contact between people, and have instituted strict screening and cleaning procedures to promote the safest environment possible.