Regularly I’m asked, “Why did you become a Plastic Surgeon?” My path in medicine definitely follows an unusual but amazing course, for which I’m thankful.
When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to get a job at Egyptian Hills Marina, now called, The Resort at Egyptian Hills, at Lake of Egypt in Southern Illinois. If I had to point to a key factor to my success in life besides family influence, this is it. This was one of the best experiences of my life as it taught me customer service and the value of hard work. It was not uncommon throughout the summer to work 50 to 70 hours per week enjoying every single moment.
Early on, I actually had an aptitude for software. My parents bought a computer for me before it was common to own one. My mother purchased a 1000 page software programming book for me at the age of 10. She never dreamt I would read it and sure enough, over the next couple months, I read it cover to cover more than once. At the age of 12, with money from working at the marina, I began a bulletin board site (dial up modem for most of you that have no idea what that is) where people of Southern Illinois and throughout the world could connect. This was the entry to the concept of web-pages and the internet.
At the age of 14, my parents heard a friend complaining that they were having difficulty tracking insurance records at her work. They came home and asked if I could write something. At that point, my software development career began. Within weeks, I’d written software that would track the insurance records on loans.
I had very little interest in attending college, but after significant push from family, I decided to attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale to pursue a degree in Computer Engineering. It was clear college was not of interest to me and I dropped out after my first year. I started working just after my 19th birthday. I would oversee the implementation of plant management systems and continue to write software. The skills I learned from this about technology, business management, and collaboration served me well. It was during this time that I began consulting with a medical group. One of the things I discovered early on was how fascinated I was by medicine. How was there an entire field that I had no real exposure to and yet had this pull on me? After spending substantial time investigating, I made the decision to transition to medicine.
I returned to school with a degree in Microbiology and a minor in Chemistry. This time, school had a purpose. I was focused and driven to succeed. I was working full-time running my consulting business, going to school, and for extra exposure, took an emergency medical technician class. That class led me to employment as an emergency room technician at Heartland Community Hospital in Marion, IL. I continued to work full-time through undergraduate doing software consulting, working in the emergency room, and taking a full load of pre-medical classes. I can still remember the day when I got my acceptance letter to Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Carbondale, Illinois. What an amazing day. Upon admission to Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, I sold the company that I had developed to devote my efforts full-time to medical school.
Without all these extra distractions, I was able to focus my energy on medicine. I had been a moderate at best undergraduate student but was now able to shine. As medical school began, I spent time with a local Neurosurgeon in Carbondale, Illinois. I wanted to be a Neurosurgeon and worked hard to make this reality come true.
As I progressed through medical school, I continued to rotate through various specialties to ensure base knowledge in each area, as well as exposure to the field I would ultimately choose. Although I had a love for Neurosurgery, I kept an open mind with each rotation. During one of these rotations, I went into the operating room with a Plastic Surgeon. I had never even considered this field. As we walked in, I saw a child born without an ear and through a short procedure, we were able to change this. This field provided the academic challenge I was looking for with the ability to quickly make such a powerful impact on patients’ lives.
I was fortunate that in my year, there were approximately 42 programs in the United States for Plastic Surgery that would allow immediate entry from medical school. I was offered around 30 interviews and interviewed at 21 of these programs. In my opinion, one of the best programs was in Springfield, Illinois; right where I trained. I was thrilled to be connected with one of my top choices.
The next six years were the most difficult period of my life. The fast pace, time demands, and expectations upon you are overwhelming. It was harder than all the challenges I had faced before. Work weeks more than 80 hours were not the exception but often the norm for those 6 years of my residency. In addition to these hours, there was study time, research time, and other residency demands. It’s when you come out of this that you look back and realize, it was worth it! As I came out of residency and started in practice, I kept waiting for that “I don’t know what to do here” moment. There were definitely challenges, however, that moment never came. I always knew the steps to take, where to look, and who to get help from when I needed it. This was a true testament to the training I received from Springfield, Illinois Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Family has always been important to me. I lived in Springfield, Illinois and grew up in Southern Illinois which made the decision to move to St. Louis, Missouri an easy one. This provided a good location while still having just a short drive to spend time with my family. I opened a practice in Metro East St Louis when I realized this area was underserved for this particular need. I had a clear mission when we opened: to exceed patient expectations. I made it very clear to everyone we worked with. My goal was not only to provide good care to Southwestern Illinois, it was to provide care that would rival anywhere in the nation. Whether this be a breast augmentation, tummy tuck, mommy makeover, facelift, or any other plastic surgery procedure, our competition would not be our neighbors; it would be the world.
From day one, business began coming in and I preached customer service and exceptional outcomes. I would like to think we are accomplishing these goals as evidenced from our rapid growth over the last several years. Our new facility was designed to be more space and service than we could ever need; however, three short years later, we are already outgrowing the space and looking at our options. I believe this is a testament to the service we provide, the amazing people that make up our practice, and our ability to exceed patient expectations.
MidAmerica Plastic Surgery provides skin cancer services to the community through implementation of our Nurse Practitioners. This is an incredibly valuable service to the community for which I am thankful. I have personally transitioned to cosmetic surgery. Even less invasive services such as Botox, fillers, or CoolSculpting are offered at The Spa at MidAmerica. These services give you the opportunity to make a change that the patient can see and appreciate. Often people don’t recognize the power of cosmetic surgery by enhancing self-confidence, or making changes after pregnancy or significant weight loss.
We have a full-service medical spa with an amazing group of people all focused to exceed expectations. We have injectors that are corporate trainers traveling throughout the country to teach others to exceed expectations. We provide services such as CoolSculpting, laser hair removal, Botox, Restylane filler, Halo/BBL laser treatments, and other products.
There are times I’ve thought, “if I hadn’t done ‘blank’, what would life be like?” Perhaps, as I age and develop more perspective, I’m realizing this was the perfect path for me. It is still my mission to exceed patient expectations. This is accomplished through customer services learned at the marina, business skills learned running a business, technology skills learned writing software, medical training learned through medical school and residency, and hard work, determination, and grit learned through it all. What has been accomplished could not have occurred if not for the amazing life journey thus far. I am very optimistic about the future and believe this is just the beginning. There is so much more to come and I can’t wait to be a part of it.