Dr. Barnett has integrated her cosmetic and reconstructive techniques with the wisdom of ancient Eastern healing arts to create a new healing vision.
That's interesting: Dr. Barnett is a double board-certified cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon, licensed in both Hawaii and Florida.
Giving back to the community is an integral part of Dr. Barnett’s philosophy and commitment to health and wellness. She actively participates in local charitable events year-round with the Wellness Community of Southwest Florida; United Cerebral Palsy of Sarasota; and The Women’s Resource Center. One of the most popular ways Dr. Barnett supports charitable events is through her expression of Indonesian and Balinese dance.
Can you give us a picture of how your clinic is organized and runs?
My clinic for business accounting purposes is split into two sides. The doctor’s practice and the medical spa. The concept was to have the high-tech, scientific “western” doctor’s side balanced by the luxurious ancient rituals of the eastern spa side. Of course there’s an overlap and that’s exactly how I wanted it. If the massage therapist spots a weird mole on their client’s back, the client can run next door to have me look at it. If I encounter a patient who needs skin care for best results, I can shoot her over to the medical aesthetician. Post-op patients benefit from acupuncture to lessen pain and my employees and patients benefit from stress-reducing yoga and meditation. The overall design which has an Asian flavor is comforting and inviting to all. I was nervous at first because it was not the typical doctor’s office but on the day of moving in, I lost my fear completely when one of the movers, a Bronx native judging by his accent, dropped his box and said “Whoa! This place feels healing! You the Doc? What kinda Doc are you?” He got it!
You're double board certified cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon licensed in both Hawaii and Florida. How do the different states that you practice in differ in terms of medical operations?
Well, I haven’t lived in Hawaii for almost 30 years but what my friends in the state communicate, Hawaii seems to be ahead of Florida in many aspects. They have a much lower rate of uninsured population and a more cohesive public health initiative, important when you’re dealing with an international, multi-cultural population with extreme disparities in wealth and education.
Florida has these issues as well but we’re not handling them as well as Hawaii. Maybe the fact that Hawaii consists of several small islands sharpens the sense that these issues must be addressed or the lifeboat will sink. It’s harder to ignore these problems on an island. Also they do not have a governor that turns down billions of dollars in federal aid.
What percentage of your patients are specifically looking for a female plastic surgeon? Do you feel that being a female gives you any advantages in appealing to potential patients?
I’ve been surprised that many patients feel having a female plastic surgeon is a plus. It's probably less embarrassing to discuss body issues and disrobe in front of the same sex and maybe because they figure I can identify with them better because I am facing the same issues. Over 90% of our patients are female but many men also deliberately seek out female doctors. There is a perception that women pay more attention to detail (more than a perception- NASA used to hire only women to place thousands of heat tiles on re-entry nose cones because they made fewer errors) and are better at communicating. Patients, for that matter all human beings, want to be heard and understood! That’s a skill anyone can use no matter what gender.
Are your patients inquiring about nonsurgical options? Has that changed in the last year or more?
Everyone is eager to avoid Surgery! We also want results. When the recession first hit, many people went to non-surgical options because in general, they are less expensive but in general results may be less (there is no way a laser will tighten the neck skin like surgery). The pendulum is now swinging back. I do hope the lessons learned during this time frame will stick, like how important volume is in the aging face. We need artistic balance. With time I’m seeing many over-plumped faces. As I’ve harped on before (and I am not talking about lasers) the surgeon with many tools in his/her armory will be best positioned to help patients because one procedure does not fit all.
Where do you see the most competition from other physicians in your area? How do you position your clinic in order to compete with them?
With increasing turbulence in medicine, many doctors are attempting cosmetic surgery because they can avoid the hassles and limitations of dealing with insurance companies. In this county alone, we have over twice as many non-plastic surgeons performing cosmetic surgeries over certified plastic surgeons including some who have had no formal surgical training! Florida law allows this although after a recent tragic death from LS performed by such a doctor, The Board of Medicine is keeping a close eye on these things. Amazingly, many people rely on slick marketing rather than doing research. I am not sure I need to do anything about this. There is no way someone with a weekend course on plastic surgery can match my results, not after 7 ½ years of post-graduate training and years of experience. Unfortunately, when the public suffers a bad result from one of these untrained doctors, all plastic surgeons may be tarnished. All I can do I educate the public about the difference.
What have you learned about business that has helped you the most?
Trust but verify. When I started, I was incredibly naïve and believed most people wanted to do their best and have the best for others. That is true for 98-99% but there are a few bad apples and another 10-15% get led into trouble. So it is important to poke your nose into everything every now and then. Open your eyes and be curious. Little details are never as little as they seem.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a physician and as an entrepreneur?
To follow the golden rules – we’re not on this planet to simply make money.
Yes, money is important but I believe we’re here to be happy and create happiness. Self-involved people as a rule do not seem very happy to me. Once you look at it in a different perspective, it becomes simpler. Sustainable businesses understand this principle.
What do you think that you do better than most other physicians that help you succeed?
Besides being a speed reader I think it’s my perseverance. I cannot take “no” for an answer. I will go over, around or through the obstacle to do what I must. Life is not for the faint of heart.
About: Dr. Barnett has come a long way from her origins as an orphan immigrant adopted by an Army chaplain in Japan. She is a double-board certified Harvard-MIT trained plastic and general surgeon active in medical politics (current Sarasota County Medical Society president, 21 year delegate to the Florida Medical Association, past AMA delegate). She is on the board of The Women’s Resource Center and owner of an award –winning medspa. Oh, yes, she’s also a professional dancer performing styles as diverse as fire dancing to Suli whirling in venues ranging from the circus to The World Music International Film Festival.
She credits her accomplishments to a combination of genes, kismet and hard work. She always wanted to be a doctor, a trait she believes she inherited from her natural father, a general practitioner she tracked down in later life (her mother was a dancer). She chose general surgery because it allowed her to practice the widest variety of medicine. Because her adopted father was opposed to her attending Harvard, she turned to an army scholarship for support, serving eleven years on active duty. Unfortunately, general surgery in the army meant frequent tours to undesirable locations all over the world, so Dr. Barnett, hoping to continue her military service, made the switch to plastic surgery, reasoning that she would be assigned to a major medical center in this subspecialty which again allowed her to use the greatest variety of skills in service to her fellow mankind. This was not to be, so after another tour of duty in which her skills were utilized to fill sandbags in Central America, she made the reluctant decision to leave the military in the early 90's and settled in Florida for "beaches and warm weather". She operated happily for many years in a medicare dominant, reconstructive heavy practice until she foresaw the looming reimbursement cuts. At thispoint she reinvented herself as a cosmetic surgeon. Freed from the constraints of insurance, she could devote herself to medical politics because of her understanding that the solution to many of the problems medicine currently faces is political. On the practice side, she opened the spa nearly a decade ago in response to the issues facing her patients. Incorporating everything from nutritional counselling to acupuncture/ hypnosis to break bad habits to yoga/massage for stree-reduction, the spa has led the way in holistic healthcare and earned the respect of her entrepreneurial peers in business as well as medicine. Thanks to her background which involved exposure to multiple cultures, the doctor's natural conservatism and respect for tradition is balanced by her curiosity and lack of fear of the new. Avoiding "trendiness", the balance results in a hubrid vigor which benefits all.
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.