Reaching Their Peak: Summit Surgery Center Aims for Excellence

By Lindsey Townsend

One of the most powerful motivating forces in the world is a person’s image of herself at her best. Our self-concept can either inhibit and hold us back or elevate us to do and be our best. In fact, Dr. Joyce Brothers has said that developing a strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success in life.

Luckily, there are a number of tools available today that people can use to improve their self-esteem, appearance, and quality of life: a good haircut, attractive clothes, tasteful makeup, avoidance of cigarettes and excessive alcohol, getting enough rest, exercising and eating nutritiously. Thanks to the advent of modern medicine, there are also a number of cosmetic surgery procedures that can now help with this mission, and more and more people choose them every year. The number of people who had cosmetic surgery procedures in 1999 nearly tripled those who had them performed in 1992, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Dallas residents who are interested in self-improvement will find they are lucky enough to already have two of the world’s best plastic surgeons right in their own backyards: Dr. Peter Raphael and Dr. Scott Harris. After striking up a professional friendship a few years ago, Dr. Raphael and Dr. Harris found that they shared a similar vision: to create a surgical center committed to the advancement of plastic and cosmetic surgery in a nurturing environment that provides a pinnacle of excellence for its patients.

To achieve that goal, the two board-certified physicians recently announced they are joining forces to create the American Institute for Plastic Surgery, a world-renowned, 15,000 square-foot center located adjacent to the Medical Center of Plano. Now under construction, the new facility is scheduled to open in April. Its mission? “To provide patients from all over the world with a benchmark of exceptional quality in plastic and cosmetic surgery,” says Dr. Raphael.

At the heart of the Institute will be the Summit Surgery Center, a premier 10,000 square-foot surgical center that will feature four operating and two minor procedure rooms, along with a patient recovery room and state-of-the-art central monitoring equipment. A staff of 25 experienced health-care professionals will assist the doctors in attending to patient care and comfort. “Our entire staff loves what they do and believes in our philosophy of self-improvement. They are all committed to helping the client achieve a healthy body, mind and spirit,” says Dr. Harris.

The Institute will be Medicare-accredited and certified by the Texas Department of Health, the highest level of certification that a surgical center can achieve. Both physicians will perform a comprehensive list of plastic and reconstructive services, including liposuction and body sculpting, breast augmentation, reconstruction, reduction and lift, facial surgery, including nose and eyelid surgery, facelifts, forehead lifts and facial rejuvenation, chin, cheek and jaw implants, tummy tucks, buttock and thigh lifts, hand surgery, laser surgery for both face and body, and lip enhancement.

“If you’re interested in improving a particular aspect of your life, our job is to work with you to help you emerge with an enhanced feeling of self,” Dr. Harris says. The two physicians often use modern imaging techniques to help determine the outcome of various procedures before they are performed. This enhances communication between doctor and patient and helps them work together to achieve optimal results.

In recent years, cosmetic and plastic surgery has become more affordable and more accessible to the public than in the past. And thanks to medical advances such as lasers and radio frequency electrosurgical devices that reduce tissue trauma and recovery time, recovery time from procedures such as facelifts and skin resurfacing is quicker than ever.

In addition to plastic surgery and reconstruction procedures, the Institute will offer many skincare and laser services, including chemical peels, endermologie (cellulite treatment), hair removal, scar revision, tattoo removal, and sclerotherapy (treatment of spider veins). The list is broad, but all are designed with one goal in mind: to enhance a patient’s appearance and give him or her the ability to look and feel her best.

Benefits More Than Skin Deep

In many ways, the new Institute will become the physical manifestation of the two surgeons’ passionate commitment to continuous self-improvement of mind, body and spirit. Both are quick to point out that many people in our society still have a misconception that the benefits of cosmetic surgery are merely superficial.

On the contrary, its real advantages may be as much, if not more, internal as external. The improved self-esteem and confidence that patients experience following a procedure often motivates them to reach goals they otherwise might never have achieved. “The concept of self-improvement is not just skin deep,” Dr. Raphael maintains. “Your appearance goes to the very core of who you are, how you perceive yourself, how others perceive you. We’re dealing with a deeper sense of personal growth and a person’s spirit here, not just personal vanity. When you look better and feel better, you perform better in both your business and your personal relationships.”

He cites a common scenario in his practice: “A lot of women come in and tell me that they are so embarrassed about a particular aspect of their appearance that they won’t undress in front of their husbands. That makes me feel sad for them. We enjoy having the opportunity to help them and to see how happy they are when they come back and tell us that now they are proud of the way they look and feel.”

Many people choose cosmetic or plastic surgery out of this desire to improve a particular aspect of their appearance. In many cases, personalities blossom after a problem such as a crooked nose or sagging eyelids has been corrected.

Another common motivation for having a procedure done is to help maintain youth, health and vitality. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, “anti-aging” will be the hottest health trend of the next decade, and plastic surgeons and endocrinologists will be the leaders in this new integrated field. Anti-aging includes everything from plastic surgery to chemical interventions, hormone replacement and vitamin therapy, nutrition, and mind/body medicine.

As part of this growing field, cosmetic surgery offers a viable way for professionals who deal with the public-real estate professionals, television and radio reporters, actors and actresses, and the like--to remain competitive in their industry. “Let’s face it, looking young and attractive does carry a certain degree of importance in the business world,” says Dr. Harris. “And most of us don’t relish the thought of looking older.”

A Meeting of the Minds

The new partnership is a truly synergistic one. The similarities between the two physicians, both in lifestyle and philosophy, are remarkable. Both were raised in Dallas and went to medical school here, and both completed both full general surgery residency trainings in plastic surgery.

Dr. Raphael and Dr. Harris share an enormous personal interest in art and architecture and art. Both are painters, and both of their mothers were artists. Both have a tremendous appreciation for music, literature, and theater.

Because of this sensitivity to the artistic realm, the two physicians bring an unusually strong aesthetic sense to their work, a keen understanding of balance, proportion and beauty. They consider the enhancement of a person’s physical appearance to be another form of art-a melding of modern medicine with artistry. “We like to think that what we’re doing is a renaissance,” says Dr. Raphael.

Other similarities abound: both believe strongly in physical fitness as a path to self-improvement, and both are sports and exercise enthusiasts. Dr. Raphael, an avid mountain-climber, even coined the name Summit Surgery Center to reflect not only the name’s emphasis on the pursuit of excellence but also his passion for mountain-climbing.

This lifelong commitment to fitness also allows both surgeons to remain at top of their game mentally and physically. “In this business, you have long hours and long days which require stamina. You can’t deliver your best service for each patient if you’re tired,” remarks Dr. Harris.

Both physicians are also devoted family men who spend a lot of time with their children. Dr. Raphael has three sons, age 20, 17 and 4. His wife Linda also gave birth to a baby girl in January. Dr. Harris has two sons, 16 and 10 and a daughter age 13.

Institute Will Be International Magnet

Dr. Raphael and Dr. Harris routinely treat patients who make the trek to Dallas from around the country as well as Europe and South America. Why do these people come to the Metroplex when they have access to local facilities in their own city or state? They’re looking for a rare combination of service: the highest level of artistic, technical and professional excellence available in the field, along with the down-to-earth, caring approach that characterizes the doctors’ styles.

Dr. Raphael and Dr. Harris both place a strong emphasis on taking the time to develop real rapport with their patients and listening carefully to their needs and desires. “We take a very personalized approach with each client. It’s so important to be able to talk to your doctor, because many times patients are sharing their most intimate concerns with us,” remarks Dr. Harris.

Dr. Raphael adds: “We feel the patient-physician relationship should be a team approach. When we consult with a client, the first thing that we do is sit down and talk with her to make sure that what we’re capable of doing is something that the patient feels will achieve their goals. If what they want is what we can deliver, we form a partnership.”

Integrity is also a hallmark of both surgeons’ philosophies. If a potential client’s expectations are too unrealistic or they want a procedure for the wrong reasons, both say feel it is their professional responsibility to advise against it. “Our first goal when we consult with a patient is to really get to know that person and assess whether or not they’re here for the right reasons. If they’re not, we won’t send them down the wrong road,” says Dr. Harris.

In addition to a strong focus on developing personal, one-on-one relationships with clients, the Institute will also become home in the near future to the Athena Clinics, a brainchild of Dr. Harris. The online clinic will give the two physicians the ability to consult with other plastic surgeons around the world by sending photos over the Internet.

“The world is getting smaller, and we want to be able to serve the multinational population of Dallas and take advantage of the benefits that the Internet can offer,” Dr. Harris says. “For example, if I have a Japanese patient who wants to hear what the best surgeon in Japan has to say as a consult, we can do it.” The end result? Instant access to the best minds and ideas that are available in cosmetic and plastic surgery on the planet today.

Both the doctors are looking forward to the opening of the Institute because it will give them the opportunity to further expand the superior service that they offer to their clients. “It’s truly a privilege to be able to help other people in their quest for self-improvement,” says Dr. Raphael. “To see someone in tears of joy who tells you that you’ve changed their life and the way they look at themselves is a wonderful thing.”

Cosmetic Surgery Continues to Gain Popularity

The popularity of cosmetic surgery procedures continues to explode in the U.S. Since 1992, cosmetic surgery procedures have risen 175%, according to the ASPS. Liposuction, breast augmentation and eyelid surgery now the most frequently requested cosmetic surgery procedures among women. In 1999, almost 500,000 women had one or more of these three popular procedures, up 26% from 1998.

Visiting board-certified plastic surgeons for cosmetic procedures is also becoming more popular among men. In 1999, almost 11% of cosmetic surgery procedures were performed on men. Liposuction, which removes localized fat that doesn’t respond to dieting and exercising, was the most popular procedure choice.

“Cosmetic surgery is more popular than ever,” says ASPS president C. Lin Puckett, M.D. “Men are becoming as concerned about remaining fit and trim as women, and both women and men are choosing cosmetic procedures to keep their youthful appearance and feel good about themselves. Also, the technical advances made in plastic surgery over the last few years have made cosmetic procedures easier and safer than ever for the patient.”