Dr. George Volpe leaves you with two separate impressions; one as a charming, modest, next door neighbor and the other as a vastly experienced and accomplished surgeon with over 500 breast augmentations to his credit. It’s refreshing to witness this seeming contradiction; a genuine person inside the white coat that can sometimes intimidate a patient. His humanity is evident by his work in Ecuador, where for the last ten years he has selflessly given his talents to third world children suffering from facial birth defects. Constantly seeing patients at his local practice, he took a few minutes to answer our questions.
BI411: What originally interested you in plastic surgery?
Dr. Volpe: I was always interested in plastic surgery in medical school after working with plastic surgeons. Plastic surgery allows you to use all the combined knowledge and skills you obtained through your training and in addition, you can be creative and artistic. I consider myself an artistic person and plastic surgery has given me one way to express that self in my work. Another great thing about plastic surgery is you get to treat the young and the old. I get to travel and do volunteer work with children in the third world. It’s a very fulfilling specialty in medicine.
BI411: Are you involved with Interplast or Operation Smile?
Dr. Volpe: In addition to Interplast, we have our own organization, known as CHANGE. For the past 10 years I’ve been going down to South America to the same small town performing clef lip surgery on children. It’s a wonderful thing to do. A lot of doctors will go to many different places, but with our program, I go to one place, so I’ve been able to watch the children grow over the last ten years. Many of them have multi-stage problems and you have to do a number of different operations on them. You get to know the parents and the children.
BI411: Is there anything from that experience that you’ve brought back to your practice?
Dr. Volpe: Everything you do in plastic surgery contributes to everything else. From learning technical nuances to working with people, learning their goals and helping them improve their lives.
BI411: Are there complications that can arise in Ecuador that can’t be addressed by local surgeons once you have all returned to the States?
Dr. Volpe: Most serious complications would occur in the first week or so. We actually bring down a pretty high-powered team. We have contracted plastic surgeons down in Ecuador, who although they don’t usually work with children with birth defects, we train them in taking care of these children for when we’re done. We’ve set up a very nice network to take care of any complications down the road.
BI411: Some of these kids must be growing up now. Do you ever see them?
Dr. Volpe: I see them all the time. They come and visit, even if they’re not having procedures, their families will bring them down. It turns into one giant, extended family.
BI411: What should a woman expect during her first consultation with you?
Dr. Volpe: At the first consultation we sit down and talk and I ask many questions about her health in general as well as her breast health. We discuss the procedure and she has a breast exam. We spend a lot of time discussing sizing issues in general. The consultation lasts about an hour and we go over all aspects of the procedure as well as things to expect immediately after surgery. I spend a lot of time talking about the healing period and the changes to expect during that time. I make sure she fully understands the procedures and risks involved with the surgery. I also spend a good deal of time going over what to expect psychologically. It’s amazing that women often go through the same feelings.