Plastics, that’s the career path Dustin Hoffman was encouraged to pursue two decades ago as “The Graduate” in the motion picture of the same name.
Today, plastics are being pursued by many, and in a variety of different venues. One venue is plastics surgery. Lori Hodgson Saltz, M.D., is a plastic surgeon practicing at the La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre on Prospect Street. She has been working at the center, which opened in 1988, since January.
Besides her extensive training, she said she also brings the perspective of a female into the practice. Skilled in many areas of plastic surgery, including facial cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, her particular interest is in breast reconstruction. Why?
“I think I can relate to the women better,” she said in an interview at her office. “Not that I can’t relate to a woman having a face lift. What I feel when a woman comes in for a breast augmentation is an instant bonding. In plastic surgery we have to be really in touch with what a person is feeling. Sometimes women, if they have reconstructive surgery, haven’t had the time to adjust to the fact that they are having a breast removed. I feel it’s one area where I can make a difference. It’s nice to be here. I love the people.”
“When patients thank me for surgery, I feel like thanking them. I still get a thrill when I take a stitch and the skin comes together perfectly. I love doing this.”
Breast surgery also includes breast reduction. “It’s all a matter of personal image,” Dr. Saltz said. She noted that a lot of the center’s patients are also men who have face, brow and neck lifts.
She said the cost of those lifts and other plastic surgeries at the center are reasonable. “Our fees are very competitive,” Dr. Saltz said. As an example, a face and neck lift at the center ranges between $2,500 to $3,850. The fee for a chin augmentation ranges from $1,000 to $1,500, plus a $250 charge.
Dr. Saltz said she carefully explains to patients what the “life expectancy” of one of those face lifts actually is. “What we tell people is, ‘You will continue to age at the same rate,”‘ she said. “Some people age faster than others. You don’t ever have to have it repeated, but generally people will consider having it again in five to seven years – or never. It’s not like it’s just going to collapse in five to seven years. We just turn back the clock a bit. Some people never consider having another.
“I think you shouldn’t have plastic surgery if someone else is pushing you into it. But I think that corollary is also true: If you want something done, then you should get it done, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else says – unless the doctor doesn’t think you should. And just because your husband or wife says you don’t need plastic surgery, doesn’t mean you don’t.”
Aside from the practice with Dr. Merrel Olesen, Dr. Saltz said she also voluntary operates on children through a program in Mexico. She and a surgical team repair cleft lips, palates and other congenital defects.
She said they operate first on “the ones who are the worst. The severe cases we have to bring here to the United States for surgery.” She said children born here with those types of birth defects are repaired soon after birth, but in Mexico the necessary resources aren’t available.
“A lot of people don’t realize how lucky we are,” she noted.
Dr. Saltz joined the cosmetic surgical staff after having completed ten years of medical and surgical training. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1976 and her doctor of medicine degree from the University of Oregon in 1980. She then trained for three years in general surgery at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, FL., and completed a three-year residency in plastic surgery – a year more than the two years required in the specialty-at Loyola University Medical Center in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, IL., in 1986.
In Chicago she served a residency at a children’s hospital which services an area of 10 million people. “For six months all we were doing were lips and clefts,” she said.
She took time off from practicing surgery after she had two children. But, she said, when friends encouraged her to continue by reminding her she had invested 14 years in higher education, she returned to “plastics.”
Working with a needle in hand runs in her family. Dr. Saltz, who was most recently awarded a first place ribbon in this year’s Del Mar County Fair for French hand sewing a child’s christening dress, said she learned to sew from her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother teaches quilting seminars around the country.
Dr. Saltz comes from an accomplished family of physicians. Her father and brother are both ear, nose and throat surgeons in Portland, Oregon. And her husband Steven is a practicing physician in pulmonary care at Tri City Hospital.
Because she “grew up” around male physicians, she said she’s able to bring a female perspective to the center.
She offered advice for those opting not to have a face, chin or brow lift to help turn back the hand of time.
“Certain things make your skin better,” she advised. “Don’t smoke, drink lots of water, stay out of the sun, and keep your skin moisturized and clean. Take care of it. When you take care of your body, it helps your skin, and when you take care of your skin, it helps your body.”