As a plastic surgeon in Scottsdale, Dr. Rober Cohen specializes in cosmetic surgery of the breast.
That's interesting: Dr. Cohen published a textbook chapter on technology and robotics in plastic surgery while at Dartmouth.
Let's get started with a little info about your clinic. How is it organized?
I run a boutique-style practice that is focused on quality over quantity, and places patient safety and excellent results as top priorities. Everything in my office is focused on providing my patients the best possible results. This starts with my excellent staff, which is friendly, attentive, and works with me to make sure my patients’ needs are cared for appropriately. Mary Skyles, my office manager, has been with me since day one, and she has always been a patient advocate making sure their experience is great from their first phone call to their final visit. My front office staff is also exceptional, and I frequently receive compliments from my patients regarding how friendly and helpful they are. I have my own State Accredited operating room where I have performed over 1500 surgeries. My OR staff of nurses, scrub techs and board certified MD anesthesiologists are just as focused on safety and excellent patient care as my front office staff are.
You've operated outside the US with a charity. How did you get involved with that and what was the experience like?
During my residency, I had the opportunity to travel with Project Vietnam to North Vietnam in order to perform cleft lip and palate repairs on underprivileged children. I was there for a few weeks and performed multiple surgeries every day. The parents and their children were incredibly brave, and it was really an honor to be able to help improve their lives. This was an amazing experience that I will never forget, and it helped to reinforce my interest in charity work. I am currently starting a relationship with a group called 1for1 Medical, which allows me to connect my aesthetic practice with overseas charity work. With this program, for every aesthetic surgery I perform, that surgery will directly fund a cleft lip or palate surgery in a third world country.
You published a textbook chapter on technology and robotics in plastic surgery. Where do you see technologies being adapted in cosmetic medicine and what does this mean for physicians? Is this an opportunity or threat for surgeons?
I have had the privilege of publishing many articles on plastic surgery in our leading journals. During my residency, I also co-authored a textbook chapter on technology and robotics in plastic surgery. As far as cosmetic surgery, I do not see a significant role for robotics in the near future. Most robotics studies are oriented towards limb replacement. However, there is constant innovation crossing between reconstruction and aesthetic surgery. The use of stem cells for tissue regeneration will likely play an increasingly important role in the future in both these categories of plastic surgery. Advances in technology should generally be viewed as an opportunity for plastic surgeons to improve their patient care and outcomes. Plastic surgeons tend to be innovators, so we generally embrace change and progress, as long as new ideas are tempered by the appropriate scientific studies to ensure safety.
Where do you think breast enhancement procedures are going in the future? How are the procedures changing?
As far as breast enhancement procedures are concerned, I think the overall trend (at least in my office) is towards a more natural and harmonious appearance. The days of greatly oversized implants are thankfully waning, as patients realize that there can be long term consequences to the skin and soft tissues from having large, heavy implants that don’t fit their frames. With more implant options available, there are more choices for patients, and the quality of implants continues to improve. With so many prior breast augmentation patients in the general public, I am also seeing more and more revision patients who want results from other surgeons updated and improved. For many of these cases I incorporate a cutting edge material called Strattice, which is an acellular dermal matrix which can be used to improve soft tissue support. Strattice is one of the many tools I have available to get my patients the best possible results.
What have you learned about staffing and operations? How do you compensate and motivate your staff?
With regards to staffing, I have found that they can make or break an office. Thankfully, I have been able to put together an excellent team over the years that works well together and really cares about each of my patients. I don’t really need any tricks to motivate my staff. They are so genuinely interested in the patients that they are essentially self-motivated by their pride in providing excellent service. I make sure to keep a pleasant, low-drama office environment which also helps quite a bit.
Have you recently added new products to your practice?
I am always looking at new technologies to improve results for my patients. Two of the newer products I have been using are Strattice, which I use for difficult breast cases, and Exparel, which is a new injectable numbing medication which is liposomally bound, so it lasts for up to 72 hours. Exparel does not affect my long term results, but certainly improves postoperative comfort levels significantly- especially with tummy tucks and mommy makeovers. I have also recently added an aesthetician, Marie Rosepink, to my office to expand the range of skincare we can provide. Marie keeps up with all of the latest advances in skincare products to help my patients maintain as healthy and youthful an appearance as possible.
There are a growing number of physicians who are focused on nonsurgical cosmetic medicine that are now competing with both plastic surgeons and dermatologists. What do you think of this trend?
With regards to non-plastic surgeons performing non-surgical cosmetic procedures, I have mixed feelings. Certainly, I think non-plastic surgeons performing actual plastic surgeries can be a disaster, as you cannot learn how to do these complex procedures properly just by attending a few classes or seminars. It literally takes years and thousands of cases to achieve the skill set needed to perform cosmetic surgery safely and effectively. Non-surgical treatments like Botox or Juvederm are definitely lower risk than surgery, but they still require significant experience and care. I feel that if a non-plastic surgeon has had appropriate levels of training and supervision, it is reasonable for them to perform these procedures. Potential patients should be aware of who they are seeing for their treatments. Sometimes saving costs upfront by going to a less experienced injector can cost more down the line if you get a suboptimal result or complication.
I really don’t focus too much on other plastic surgeons in my area as “competition”. We have an excellent community of board certified plastic surgeons in the Phoenix area, and we all tend to work well together and honestly enjoy each other’s company at local and national meetings. From my standpoint, I am always competing with myself in order to continually improve my results and make each patient’s experience as enjoyable as possible. I believe that by pursuing excellence in my own office, I will naturally become more competitive in the community without having an adversarial approach. I also focus continually on improving my website so patients have access to as much information about my practice and plastic surgery procedures as possible.
You have a blog on your site that shows some knowledge of how the web works with prominent keyword placement, etc. Are you writing that content yourself? How have your online marketing efforts paid off?
My blog and website are primarily designed for patient education, but obviously the content needs to be optimized in order to reach as many patients as possible. I write all of the blogs and I also wrote all of the text for my website. (Writing a thousand papers as a philosophy major and honing my composition skills in college finally paid off!) I do use an excellent website company called Etna Interactive. They helped me design and manage my website, and they continue to optimize my content. I have been extremely pleased with how effective my website is for communication with my patients, and it is probably the largest source of patient referrals after word of mouth.
What is the best advice you've ever received as an entrepreneur and physician?
I have received many great pieces of advice over the years. I think the best advice was to always put the patient first. If you truly try to do what is in the best for each patient, you can sleep well at night knowing that you are doing the right thing. My entire practice is based around this philosophy, and I fully believe this is what has allowed me to be successful and fulfilled in my practice.
About: Dr. Robert Cohen is a board certified plastic surgeon in solo private practice in Paradise Valley, Arizona. He was born in Montreal, Canada, but moved at a young age to Scottsdale, Arizona where he grew up. He had an early interest in plastic surgery, and as a result, many of his educational choices were geared towards this eventual goal. He attended Emory University in Atlanta for his undergraduate education, Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans for his MD degree, and Dartmouth (Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center) in New Hampshire for his plastic surgery residency. He completed an additional one year aesthetic fellowship in Marina Del Rey, California with Dr. Grant Stevens. His practice in Scottsdale/Paradise Valley was established in 2005, and he has performed primarily aesthetic surgical procedures since he started his practice. Although he takes care of a wide range of problems, he is most known for his breast surgery and body contouring.
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.