Dr. Steven J. Pearlman is a plastic surgeon practicing in the heart of Manhattan.
Name: Dr. Steven J. Pearlman
Location: New York, NY
That's interesting: Dr. Pearlman is the Founding President of the New York Facial Plastic Surgery Society — a society founded in 1993 to promote advanced education for Facial Plastic Surgeons in the New York Metropolitan area. It provides a forum for accomplished, practicing physicians to exchange ideas, new techniques and procedures on a continuing basis.
How did you end up as a plastic surgeon in Manhattan?
I did my Otolaryngology training at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Our clinical training was heavily weighted in head and neck oncology and facial plastic surgery. Mount Sinai ENT department has been running courses in facial plastic surgery, including rhinoplasty, facelift, blepharoplasty and browlift since the mid 1970’s. That extensive experience beginning as early as residency along with first rate teachers and mentors gave me the spark to pursue facial plastic surgery, so I furthered my education by taking a fellowship with the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Following my fellowship I had the unique opportunity to teach and operate with residents from the Columbia University ENT program. After a number of years of performing and teaching both Head and Neck Cancer surgery with reconstruction as well as Facial Plastic Surgery, I realized that to become a master, I would need to limit my practice to Plastic Surgery.
Can you tell us more on how you started building our practice and how it's organized?
I left a big ENT practice in 2000 to go solo and concentrate on Facial Plastic Surgery. I built a 2000 square ft. office at 521 Park Avenue with a state of the art AAAHC accredited OR facility. I like to tell people that my office is 1 block from Bloomingdales and 2 blocks from Barneys. My family is in construction and design so using my background along with my aesthetic sense; I built a beautiful, comfortable, patient friendly office. Patient flow was carefully mapped out for maximal convenience. We offer all aspects of Facial Plastic Surgery as well as laser hair removal, facial fillers, neurotoxins and skin care. I also have two physicians who rent from me one day a month who provide full body Plastic Surgery.
How do you hire the best staff for your clinic? What's our best hiring practice?
The most important trait I look for in employees is enthusiasm. I look for people who are looking for a career and not just a job. Some of the best ways to find good staff is word of mouth from the vendor reps. They know who is leaving a job or looking for a job and might be a good fit with your practice. When advertising for a reception manager, I post under hospitality, spa, salon, hotel services, anything but medical.
What are your thoughts about the technologies you’re using now?
We currently have a combined IPL/Yag laser that can do photofacials, hair removal and treat spider veins. I also have a SmartLipo laser for the operating room. I prefer to send out the more aggressive skin resurfacing patients to a dermatologist who does these treatments all day every day since the technology is evolving so rapidly.
First and foremost, I am a surgeon. I do like fillers and Botox but I would much rather be in the operating room doing Rhinoplasties, Revision Rhinoplasties, Facelifts, Blephs and Browlifts.
What marketing programs work?
I spent a lot of time writing my website. For websites, content is King, so I spent countless hours writing all the content and would never leave that up to any companies that offer to provide a website “soup to nuts.” Posting quality before and after photos on my website (with proper consent of course) has been a big draw for potential patients. They want to see if you can really deliver on the claims found elsewhere on the site. As for existing patients, I still strive to send a quarterly e-blast newsletter. I have just started venturing into social media and still on the fence on how effective it is and how to leverage it most effectively for my practice.
What have you learned about practicing cosmetic medicine?
For cosmetic surgery, one of the most important things is patient selection. I have heard and given a number of lectures on this topic. When you choose to operate on a patient, you are entering into a relationship. It’s important to ask yourself: do I want a relationship with this person? It may be as simple as, do I like this person? I learned from one of my mentors that staff needs to be involved in the patient selection process. Patients may be very flattering and polite with the doctor yet very rude and demanding to the staff. If things don’t turn out 110% to their liking, they may turn on you, so I have a policy that any employee in my practice has the right to veto surgery on a patient.
What advice would you give to other physicians based upon your experiences?
It’s important to maintain ethics in your practice and in your life. We are constantly being bombarded with new technologies, new techniques and sometimes new names for old techniques. You should be honest with yourself and your patients to evaluate everything you will be offering them. Verify that the claims for a new laser are backed up by quality studies and not just because “it’s been on Oprah.” Also, it’s tempting to discount left and right, but if you keep on doing so, you become a commodity instead of a specialist.
What’s the worst decision you ever made as a physician and what did you learn from it?
The worst decisions I have made as a physician were related to patient selection. Looking back, the most troublesome patients and vexing problems universally came from patents that from the beginning I had second thoughts about operating on. I let my ego get in my way thinking I can get results that will overcome any hesitations I had or let their flattery push me into operating on them. There is an old quote that you will never regret who you chose not to operate on.
What’s the best advice you ever got as a physician?
I do a lot of speaking around the world on facial plastic surgery. When invited to a meeting, I am sometimes asked for topics and other times assigned topics. I remember back to my fellowship, my fellowship director said that if you really want to master and understand something in depth, offer to speak about it or write a book chapter on it. That way you are forced to understand the topic and subtle nuances that go into getting superior results.
About: Steven J. Pearlman, M.D., F.A.C.S. is dual-board certified in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. He is a past president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, founding President of the New York Facial Plastic Surgery Society, clinical Associate Professor at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, and Director of the Division of Facial Plastic Surgery for the New York Head and Neck Institute.
Dr. Pearlman is widely published and has authored numerous book chapters and scientific articles on rhinoplasty, revision rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, facelift and facial laser resurfacing. His legacy includes pro bono surgical support to Face to Face, an international facial plastic surgery program, the Little Babyface foundation and the National Domestic Violence Project. Dr. Pearlman is in private practice in New York City, New York, USA.
His personal favorites for surgery are rhinoplasty and revision rhinoplasty. He finds that these procedures are the most challenging in cosmetic surgery. They combine both art and science in surgical planning and execution. Many areas of cosmetic surgery change over the decades, rhinoplasty and revision rhinoplasty change almost year to year in advances and new techniques.
This interview is part of a series of interviews of physicians running medical spas, laser clinics and cosmetic surgery centers. If you'd like to be interviewed, just contact us.