The miracle worker

Published: 10 November, 2013 06:02 IST | Moeena Halim |

New York-based Dr David Funt, noted for his expertise as a cosmetic surgeon, has been named Top Plastic Surgeon by The New York Times and Newsday this year. The doctor, who has a significant number of clients from India, talks to Moeena Halim about the positives of cosmetic surgery, how he helps patients' boost their confidence and why surgery is not a nip or a tuck but based on an understanding of the anatomy

Congratulations on being named among the top doctors of Long Island once again.
It is very gratifying to have been selected by your peers to be part of this elect group and is a validation of the quality of your work. It is still of greater gratification to me to have my patients tell me how my surgery has positively enhanced their lives and they feel that it was a decision they have never regretted.

The doctor performing a surgery on a patient. He says even in competent hands there are adverse events but such incidents are extremely rare

What prompted you to take up a career as a cosmetic plastic surgeon?
I have always had a sense of aesthetics and wanted to carry that into my medical career. I also receive a great degree of satisfaction from the feedback I received from my patients. I became interested in a career in plastic surgery when I was eight years old. My family travelled to Washington, DC and visited the Smithsonian Medical Museum. I viewed an exhibit of a facial reconstruction after an attempted suicide with a shotgun. The miracles that the surgeons were able to achieve struck me immediately and my course was set. Of course, I vacillated throughout my postgraduate career but ultimately I wanted to be a surgeons’ surgeon; well trained and able to operate on any part of the body with confidence. I initially performed a great deal of reconstructive and microsurgery and feel that has given me enhanced self-confidence in performing aesthetic surgery. Surgery is based on an exact understanding of the anatomy and technique and I feel that my training in general and reconstructive surgery in particular has made me capable of excellence in aesthetic plastic surgery.

Dr Funt got interested in the field of cosmetic surgery when he was eight years old

Why do you think plastic surgery is a boon? Can you talk about how it helps people’s lives?
We are in a time when youth is venerated. No one wants to ‘feel out of the game’. My patients come to office saying they want their exterior appearance to match their mental image of themselves. They don’t mind aging but they want to be their personal best. There are other patients who have always had aesthetic insecurities based on physical characteristics such as asymmetric, large or small breasts, a large nose, protruding ears or other genetic physical characteristics that they cannot alter without surgery. There is also the group of patients who have had children or gained and lost weight creating changes in their bodies that they want to correct. When these aspirations can be achieved without significant risk they are anxious to undergo surgical correction. When performed by a properly trained scrupulous professional, the surgery becomes one of the most gratifying experiences of
their lives.

What has been the most memorable or most challenging surgery you’ve done?
Challenging and memorable are not always the same. Correcting prominent ears in a child so that their peers no longer ridicule them is memorable and gratifying. Reconstructing a patient that has had multiple breast or nasal procedures with devastating results can be difficult. There is no question that correcting a patient who has multiple previous cosmetic procedures with poor results is the most challenging. 

Why do you think cosmetic surgery is such a rage in the USA? Even with the backlash they have received, botox, face lifts and the like are still on the rise.
I think like in all other aspects of human endeavour, the media emphasizes the negative and ignores the positive. Though aesthetic procedures do have their share of negative results, for the most part patients are very happy and gratified with their outcomes. The backlash occurs because unscrupulous, poorly-trained individuals motivated by financial gain perform procedures beyond their competency level. Even in competent hands there are adverse events but the incidence is extremely small (less than 1 per cent).

I’ve read about instances where people from ethnic minorities have attempted to alter their facial structure to get a more Caucasian look. Have you had patients making such demands? What are your personal views about this?
An attempt to try to change your ethnicity is usually an entrée into complications. My goal is always to achieve harmony and balance in facial features, correcting those features that are not in balance, creating a natural aesthetically appealing result. If you are trying to create a new face, you are going to see your work in a negative light in the tabloids.

Can you recall an incident, a particular patient perhaps, that boosted your faith in what you do.
Young people in my practice have strengthened my enthusiasm for my work. Whether it be new less protruding ears, a less prominent nose, a strengthened chin or an improved body contour, their expressed feeling of self worth, confidence and security warms my heart and puts a smile on my face.

You also instruct residents at a teaching hospital. Do you enjoy teaching?
I love teaching. There is an incredible satisfaction that comes from giving back. You benefit from the experience of others and have an obligation to pay that forward. I teach residents at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City as well as have residents observe surgery in my office. I am a course director for a multi section anatomy course taught in the United States and Europe. I have lectured nationally and internationally on complication of neuromodulators (Botox) and dermal fillers (Juvederm, Restylane, Radiesse and Sculptra, etc.).

If there was one person from the public sphere you could perform cosmetic surgery on, who would that be? And what kind of surgery would you do?
There are multiple figures in the public eye that have exaggerated and unnatural results after aesthetic surgery. Good plastic surgeons are not trying to create a new species “homo sapien plasticalis”. I would like to correct the errors of my colleagues to allow the public to have greater confidence in the skills of the well- trained, board-certified, experienced plastic surgeons.

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