A facial plastic surgeon to watch in the Denver area is Christopher R. Cote, MD. After a 12-year career in the US Army, he has brought impressive talents and experiences to his Colorado practice.
SOLDIER TO SURGEON
“I have always wanted to help others feel better about themselves,” he says. “And every patient I see has a unique need or circumstance that ultimately impacts their self-esteem—whether it is a disease state, related to an accident or injury, or simply a desire to improve upon what nature provided.”
Cote’s career began with the Army, where he served overseas and gained extensive experience in facial reconstructive surgery. He served in several high-level assignments, including chief of otolaryngology for US Forces in Korea. He also treated many of the soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and served as the otolaryngology consultant to the White House Medical Unit.
He holds dual certification in both otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery, which provides an uncommon perspective. His experience as a military physician offered the opportunity to solve problems and treat a wide range of surgical needs and patients.
“I served as chief of facial plastic surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and had the opportunity to be closely involved with the complex injuries affecting soldiers,” Cote explains. “Seeing the kinds of injuries I saw and watching the way these brave men adjusted their lives always humbles me. Those emotions and empathy are what motivates me—and every patient deserves that kind of commitment.”
IT’S ALL REAL
His experiences in the military had a significant impact on his approach to patients. “Seeing lives changed by injury in the blink of an eye really makes you wake up,” he says. “I hope I am more empathetic as a result. I really understand that every patient has a challenge that affects their life and their self-esteem.”
He believes the key to being a good plastic surgeon is developing an honest relationship with his patients. “I consider myself a physician first and a surgeon second,” he explains. “And that’s an important distinction. It’s not just about cutting and changing something—it’s about really understanding the patient and why they’ve come to me in the first place. I can’t fix a situation if I can’t diagnose it first.”
He recognizes a need to educate his patients to help them make the best decision. With the multitude of noninvasive therapies available, it is important for patients to understand the facts and be aware of the kinds of questions they should consider.
While at Walter Reed, Cote used leading-edge 3D imaging and modeling technology to optimize craniofacial and microvascular reconstruction. “The Army was a cooperative environment where good ideas were shared,” he says. “There are a lot of positive developments in plastic surgery, and as physicians we have a duty to guide our patients and provide appropriate treatment.”
THE NOSE KNOWS
When it comes to procedures, Cote is an expert in rhinoplasty who has trained many surgeons. “Every nose is different,” he says. “Some patients present with a cosmetic issue they want to address, and others have a breathing issue that needs to be corrected. The diverse needs of each patient are what makes each nose challenging and what makes it an important procedure.”
He works closely with his patients to address their individual variables, and works hard to set common goals and expectations. “There are three keys to success,” he says. “First, I have to be able to address patient needs technically and surgically. Then, we need to be able to work together to understand the healing process. And finally, we both have to be on a level plain when it comes to expectations.”
Empathizing with patients and really connecting to understand their needs, wants, and desires is so important.
In Denver, Cote practices all aspects of facial plastic surgery, including full facial and eye rejuvenation. He is routinely called on for difficult skin cancer reconstruction, and has quickly gained the attention of his colleagues for his versatility and results.
“I’m in the ‘Making People Happy’ business,” he says. “And I think that’s a pretty good place to be.”
Schae Kane is a contributing writer for PSP. She can be reached at [email protected].