Oct 13

Today’s so-called “page” is just three paragraphs. That is the way it worked out with the subheads from the original book.

Chapter 2 Page 8 | If You Can’t Beat Them …

I excerpted this aside from a lengthier interview with Oscar Suarez, M.D. in his office at CIMA Hospital, and I quote him more extensively later in the book. I don’t know if he is still head of the Department of Plastic Surgery at CIMA but it is evident that his practice is thriving. That is one of the problems with including official titles in books — people move on from where they were.

When I first walked into the waiting area of Dr. Suarez’s office, his assistant asked me what procedures I was interested in … and it was the first time anyone ever suggested I might need (or at least want) cosmetic surgery. I’m sure it was SOP for the office and no psychological harm was intended. For the record — at 53, I’m unmodified, other than my teeth.

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Oct 13

Chapter 2 Page 8 | If You Can’t Beat Them …

Oscar Suarez, M.D., is head of the Department of Plastic Surgery at CIMA Hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica. CIMA is a modern, private facility where a number of Costa Rican surgeons cater primarily to patients from the United States.

“The surgeons in the United States, the ones I talk to, are of two minds about medical tourism,” Dr. Suarez said in an interview. “Some are against it. And others, they want to be part of it.” Dr. Suarez said he has been contacted by a number of peers in the United States who are interested in partnerships or opening facilities in Costa Rica.

That a patient can find experienced and talented cosmetic and aesthetic surgeons in a number of countries around the world is not a matter in serious dispute. Surgeons can disagree as to the risks involved in traveling and as to the difficulty of choosing a good surgeon. In the end, however, those are considerations for individual patients to weigh. Prominent, qualified, and experienced surgeons from all countries emphatically counsel patients that they should not choose a surgeon based on price alone.

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Sep 21

Introduction Page 4 | Seeking Beauty from Afar: How I Got My Smile Back

It’s so … Foreign …

The mainstream media in the United States didn?t really know what to do with the story. It was so … foreign … and always seemed tainted with desperation and a little craziness. No one seemed to know how many people were getting on airplanes and traveling abroad for inexpensive plastic surgery. Doctors in the United States, when asked, uniformly warned against the practice.

If you paid attention only to newspaper, magazine, and television reports emanating from the United States in 2004 regarding traveling outside the country for cosmetic or plastic surgery, you would reasonably conclude, in fact, that anyone who did so successfully was simply lucky. First-person stories such as my own were few and far between. The bulk of the reporting fell into two broad categories:

  1. Horror stories. If someone went overseas for plastic or cosmetic surgery and came back dissatisfied, disfigured, or, very occasionally, in a box, it was news. As a journalist, I fully empathize with why this was so. Such cautionary tales of … “This could happen to you!” … are a staple of journalism everywhere.
  2. Novelty stories. I would call them success stories, but they were rarely offered as such. As opposed to the this-could-happen-to-you tales, these were stories that portrayed traveling abroad for surgery as though the patient (and the reporter) had stumbled upon something exotic, something cutting edge, not quite ready for prime time. Again, as a journalist, I empathized. As my editor at Northeast said, “It’s new to our readers.”

I was reminded of the last phenomenon on which I’d done significant research and reporting, the rise of the Internet in the mid-1990s. Reading and watching the mainstream media at that time, one could be forgiven for thinking that the new medium was notable only for spreading pornography (horror) and creating instant millionaires (novelty.) Eventually — and it took several years — the media found context, understood what was happening, and started explaining it better.

The same sort of comprehension regarding medical tourism started to evolve in 2004. As I continued the routine of research, reading dozens of e-mails a day, plowing through message-board postings, checking for the latest news, home and abroad, I watched the story change. It would not have happened so fast without the Internet. In fact, it wouldn’t have happened at all without the Internet. But change it did, rapidly.

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