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More than meets the eye: Northwestern doctor hoping to change stigma of plastic surgery

Plastic surgery might just be the most controversial field in the health care industry. Tabloid pages are plastered with pictures of past vixens who have undergone certain enhancement procedures. Some gossip websites have made it their sole purpose to show botched jobs.

But is this really the light that should be shone onto this profession? Even the most narcissistic person has at least one cosmetic item on his or her wish list, so why condemn those who go for it? Furthermore, should plastic surgery be backed into this one corner? There’s more to it than just looking pretty.

That’s a stigma that Dr. Robert Galiano is trying to change. Galiano is a board certified plastic surgeon and is an assistant professor of Surgery at Northwestern. The doctor got his degree from Washington University and went on to complete his plastic surgery training at the Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery at New York University Medical Center. He now finds himself at Northwestern Plastic Surgery, which is affiliated with Northwestern University. And he finds himself wearing a couple of hats at work.

“I am, first of all, a surgeon,” says Galiano.

Aesthetic, cosmetic surgery procedures range from breast enhancements and liposuction to laser surgery and eyelid procedures. Reconstructive practices range from complex wound care and limb salvage to cancer defects and microsurgery. All of these procedures take up a majority of Galiano’s time. But the surgeon also gets to wear another hat during the workweek.

“I’m also a scientist,” says Galiano.

Research required

The practice where the doctor works, since it is directly related to a higher learning establishment, is rooted in academia.

“I’m very fortunate to have a job that allows me to do basic science research,” says Galiano. “Twenty percent of my is spent leading the lab.”

Even though most of Galiano’s time is spent, one-on-one, with patients, he cherishes the times that he gets to put on that lab coat and learn something new. The work of the surgeon and his colleagues tries to push forward the field of plastic surgery. By looking at and understanding different issues, such as human scarring and stem cells, Galiano can be better suited when it comes to keeping patients happy.

“That’s my motivation,” says Galiano. “To make people happy.”

The doctor thinks that the field of plastic surgery will keep getting grins if the focus shifts to the understanding the needs of patients scientifically.

“I want to make plastic surgery as scientifically based as something like cancer,” says Galiano.

The media, through tabloids and terrible television series, has created hype around plastic surgery that needs to be gone. Once it has hit the road, out comes more subjective, helpful research. Galiano has seen, with the aid of his research, that stem cells are very promising and have a lot of potential. But if it is hyped up too much, there is a danger of overselling the procedure and possibly doing more harm than good.

The doctor hopes his vision of plastic surgery with more emphasis in scientific research will soon be realized.

“I want to do more,” says Galiano. “I want to be part of that.”

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