Dr. Edwards thinks he's found numerous advantages over the current system. Let's find out why.
Name: Michael C. Edwards, MD, FACS
Clinic: Edwards Plastic Surgery
Location: Las Vegas, NV
As a US Air Force veteran, your surgery career included tours that were probably not focused on cosmetic or anti-aging medicine. How did you end up in cosmetic medicine?
My surgical and plastic surgical training had a significant focus on reconstruction but the concept of the aesthetic aspect of Plastic Surgery was always emphasized. The techniques used in reconstructive surgery encompass aesthetic principles at their core. While serving as an active duty Air Force Plastic Surgeon the priority on the operative schedule would always be trauma or cancer reconstruction but the other time in our operative schedule allowed for aesthetic surgery. Many don’t know that the average military family not only gives so much to the service of their country in terms of deployments, time away from family and the associated risks but also the pay received is not high. These service members, dependent family members and retirees could often benefit from aesthetic procedures when the schedule allowed just like any other individual their age. It is also important to note that there were fees paid and it wasn’t all “free” surgery as has been implied in the past.
What types of medical technologies do you have and how did you select them?
I am currently in a solo practice where my primary focus is breast and body surgery with a large emphasis on revisional breast surgery. I am rarely the first to employ a new technology. I prefer to allow any new device to prove its worth both clinically and scientifically in terms of efficacy and patient safety.
I currently do not use any lasers in my practice so my newer technologies involve imaging and patient education. I use the TouchMD system which works well with the Vectra 3D Imaging system by Canfield and PatientNOW.
My patients enjoy the fact that I can review their images with them while they are clothed so they can pay much closer attention and I believe get a much better idea of their anatomy, what they might expect as well as to quickly review images of other patients. I think new technology is a blessing but we have to realize that every new device that is introduced may not give you the promised results.
You're offering a number of treatments like breast surgery and body contouring. Do you see any trends with these less common or fashion driven treatments?
I think the trend that is hottest now in my practice is the great advance made in the proper use of fat grafting and the use of acellular dermal matrices. Fat grafting has been around for years but is finally getting the validation required in terms of short and long term safety. I think it is here to stay but what concerns me is this technology getting into the hands of poorly trained providers. I also see an advance in the use of acellular dermal matrices in more complex breast revision cases.
How intense is the competition in your area of expertise? What extra measures do you take in order to gain an edge over competitors?
I have focused my practice on all facets of breast surgery for the past 10 years. The credo of our practice is to provide the best care that we can to include comprehensive pre, intra and post-operative care. A great majority of our patients come from word of mouth through highly satisfied patients. This, to me, speaks volumes about how well we do our job caring for patients. I try very hard to stay abreast of all that is new in all facets of plastic surgery but we all do our best to provide the most up to date options for our patients.
In terms of competition, that is inherent in what we do. The beauty of being a bit more mature in my practice is that I feel very comfortable telling a patient what procedure would best benefit them in my experience. I can only hope that our patient population knows how to find the best plastic surgeon for their care by doing their homework first. If the patient wants to go with another treatment I do not agree with, I wish them well but by and large don’t allow the patient to dictate their care if it differs from what I think is the appropriate course.
Many doctors have been taking advantage of social media and SEO in marketing their practices. Has it been helpful to you as well?
We have maintained a good internet presence with a lot of educational information on our site(s). Like most would say print media does not help you. I would recommend on focusing on educating your patients and not a lot of flash animation. Many patients don’t have the patience for that and they will move on. I do use some social media but not to the degree that many other plastic surgeons use.
You're using IPL in your clinic. What affected your buying decision? Where do nonsurgical technologies fit in your practice?
I no longer use the IPL however I do perform a lot of non-surgical treatments with neuromodulators and fillers. I purchased an IPL when I opened my practice and it was used for skin treatment as well as hair removal. The proper maintenance did not make the potential profit worthwhile, especially as my practice transitioned away from facial surgery.
Have you ever had any experiences with technologies that you felt were oversold, either to the physician or to the patient?
As I mentioned I am rarely the first to adopt new technology. I think that many new entries into the market are sold to the public at the same time as to the plastic surgery community. This is not to say there aren’t exciting new technologies but direct to consumer marketing can tend to push a plastic surgeon to make a capital equipment purchase they may not be able to afford or that may not be in the best interest of their practice.
With a staff composed of 5 people, have you ever had difficulties dealing with staff members? How do you keep them motivated? What's the major problem you've had to deal with among staff members?
We have enjoyed minimal staff turnover and as a result enjoy a great working environment. Early in our practice we had some issues but we learned through the school of hard knocks what we needed to do. There are plenty of good resources available to the plastic surgery community for starting and running a practice but I think my best advice to another practice in terms of employees, is to very clearly outline the policies that you will follow and be consistent in your adherence to them. Employees will appreciate consistency if you do this. We incentivize our employees by some degree of profit sharing when appropriate and providing aesthetic services as well.
What is the most difficult challenge you are facing as a 'business' right now and how are you addressing it?
As a purely aesthetic practice, we see the changes everyone else does with a decrease in discretionary income people are experiencing. Although our business did slow, we have maintained a consistent increase in consultations, treatments and surgical booking. My approach has been almost to change nothing about how we practice medicine. We have however taken a very close look at the money we spend for all aspects of the practice to include marketing, office supplies, etc. To do this just makes good business sense.
You're deeply involved with plastic surgery societies, education and research in addition to running your practice. What advice would you give to other physicians about activities that might not directly benefit them financially but open up other opportunities?
GET INVOLVED! The saying goes, “You’re either at the table OR you’re on the menu”. I get tired of physician complaining all the time while they rely on others to make a change. There are many opportunities in both local and national medical societies. I am heavily involved in our local medical society but also very involved in our national plastic surgery societies. I got involved in The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) early after training and I have been on many committees and councils over the years. I will become president-elect in New York this April and I can say that I have enjoyed every opportunity to work with fellow plastic surgeons and highly dedicated staff. Both of our societies have opportunities at every level from medical students, residents, new graduates as well as the seasoned plastic surgeon. Of the many benefits of getting involved is that I have made great friends from not only around the country, but around the world. I have also been able to be part of changes in legislation to help protect our patients. I tell young plastic surgeons all the time to find some aspect of plastic surgery that they either know about or want to know more about and make it known they want to volunteer. The rewards are limitless and lifelong.
To whom do you owe your success as a business? What's the best advice you've ever received as a physician? As a businessman?
I think I am a good plastic surgeon, but an average businessman. I owe the smooth running of our practice to my wife of 35 years, Kathy, who is a nurse but has poured herself into learning how we can do things better and more efficiently. This partnership has led to many 14-16 hour days at the office, especially in the beginning. No one else has more of an investment than you so the hours will pay off. The best advice I have ever received as a physician was simply always to do the right thing whether it means taking a bit more time in the operating room or the extra time in the clinic. I never want a patient to feel like I have my hand on the doorknob while we are talking. I have always enjoyed and tried very hard to practice the quote, “Listening is not waiting to speak”.
About: Michael C. Edwards, MD, is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in private practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Double board-certified in both plastic and general surgery, Dr. Edwards is also on staff at Summerlin Medical Center, Mountain View Hospital, and Southern Hills Hospital in Las Vegas where his practice is focused on breast and body procedures.
Dr. Edwards received his medical degree from F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland in 1988 and completed his postdoctoral education through a general surgery residency at David Grant Medical Center in California, followed by a plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at Wilford Hall Medical Center in Texas. Dr Edwards served in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 2003. Throughout his military career, Dr. Edwards served as Chief of Surgery, Chief of Plastic Surgery and Chief of Staff. Additionally, Dr. Edwards served a tour in Kuwait supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dr. Edwards entered private practice in 2003 and is actively involved in committee work for various professional plastic and reconstructive surgery societies. He serves on the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Board of Directors and the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation. Additionally, Dr. Edwards is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of a number of professional organizations including the American Society of Plastic Surgery, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery the Rocky Mountain Society of Plastic Surgery, and the Clark County Medical Society among others.
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.