Ah, the nation’s plastic surgery hot spots: Los Angeles, New York City…Bismarck, ND?
Okay, so that last one might not seem so obvious. Clearly, in sheer volume, Bismarck cannot come close to matching the number of procedures conducted in large cities like Los Angeles. Still, Rick Becker, MD., one of three plastic surgeons in Bismarck and eight total in the state (Including the “new guy in Fargo now,” he says), is likely to he one of the busiest practitioners you will come across- seeing more than 100 patients a week, some of whom come from as fir away as Montana and California.
“I cover a lot of territory,” says Becker. “Though North Dakota is not a populous state, the area that we draw from does bring those numbers up quite high.”
In fact, lured in by more affordable procedures, cutting-edge techniques, and Becker’s advanced USC of telemedicine, patients are willing to drive hundreds of miles to see this physician who has made it a point to give hack to the rural area he has always called home.
Brought up in Mandan, ND, across the Missouri River from Bismarck in the western part of the state, Becker says he was always a “science geek,” getting interested in science as earls as grammar school. While volunteering at a hospital during his undergraduate studies at the University Of North Dakota (UND) he watched a surgical procedure taking place and was instantly hooked. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he says.
He started medical school, also at UND, and realized that plastic surgery was not “limited to liposuction and breast augmentation and was a full range of things, many of which required a lot of creativity.” Becker decided that plastic surgery was the direction he wanted to go. Unfortunately, however, for a guy with a very strong attachment to North Dakota, studying plastic surgery would require leaving the state.
Becker attended Wayne State University in Detroit and his surgery residency brought him to the Eye and Ear Hospital in New York, but his heart remained in North Dakota. After a fellowship in breast surgery and microvascular surgery in Little Rock, Ark (which makes him the only practitioner with this training in the Dakotas), he was finally able to return home.
Was this always his plan? “It was my hope,” he acknowledges. “It depended on the logistics, and where things were with the number of plastic surgeons there. But, I certainly was going to keep it in the Midwest, and my number one choice was always to go back to Bismarck.”
A Rare Commodity
Being one of only a handful of plastic surgeons within the Plains states is not the only thing that makes Becker unique.
First, the cost of living in a rural area like Bismarck allows Becker to offer prices for cosmetic surgery that would he unheard of in other cities. This means he
will “actually see people from well out of state who happen to have a friend here, and they have heard about it,” he says. “I have people coming in from California and Colorado because they can come stay with friends or family and actually have money left over compared to what they would have spent in their home state.”
But the thing that truly makes Becker’s practice stand out is his utilization of telemedicine, something that recently earned
him a “Best of the Best” award among all physicians by PrimeCare, a North Dakota health care provider network. Telemedicine, according to Becker, is a technology that he has found to be necessary in covering such a vast geographic area.