Benjamin A. Bassichis, MD, FACS, and his staff team up for excellent patient service
Solo Dallas plastic surgeon Benjamin A. Bassichis, MD, FACS, is supported in his practice by eight employees, but none is a receptionist—because all of them are. And that has been part of the secret behind the rapid ascent of his Advanced Facial Plastic Surgery Center, started just 3 years ago.
“Each of our clinical and administrative employees is trained to perform the receptionist function,” Bassichis says. “So, when prospective patients call to ask questions about our services, it’s guaranteed that the very first person they’re going to be talking with is a college-educated, articulate, knowledgeable individual who can help the caller become eager for an appointment to come in and be seen by us.”
More importantly, those callers will be speaking with someone who holds a stake in the success of the practice.
“I’ve empowered the staff to take ownership over their own areas of responsibility,” Bassichis continues, adding that they each receive bonus pay for every month in which the practice surpasses its financial-performance goals—and they can directly affect the performance by how they do their jobs. “As a result, the staff is motivated to continually strive to improve the running of the practice.”
They also are constantly looking to make patients happier—the most fundamental way to help any practice grow.
As an example, Bassichis describes how the staff will step up to the plate when he falls behind schedule. “Just today, the situation came up where we had a facelift consult in the waiting room. Rather than let her sit there for a half hour until I could get caught up, one of my aestheticians took it upon herself to escort the woman back to the treatment area, where she proceeded to give the patient a complimentary hydrating facial to help her pass the time. The patient was delighted.”
Beyond empowerment, Bassichis motivates his staff simply by treating them well. Twice per week, on busy patient-consultation days, he has a chef who specializes in organic meals prepare lunch for the staff, gratis. And periodically Bassichis treats his entire staff to an all-expenses-paid visit to a high-end day spa for a Saturday afternoon of serious pampering.
He shows no favoritism, either. “If a drug-company representative comes by and wants to take me out to dinner, I insist that the invitation be extended to the entire staff, or it’s no go,” Bassichis says. “My staff is incredible. They have an ideal blend of talent, energy, and personality.”
A Holistic Approach
Bassichis’s practice—which specializes in facial aesthetic surgery—is a market standout for numerous reasons that go beyond the quality of his staff. One of those is that he has decided to take an holistic approach to facial health.
“There are certain fundamental building blocks that lead to optimized results, and we try to help patients put those in place,” he says. “For example, if people are not taking care of their skin, they’re not on a good diet, or they’re not exercising or taking care of themselves, the results that I can deliver in surgery are not going to be as long-lasting as they could be if the opposite were true.”
To support the holistic approach, Bassichis has established subsidiary units within his practice. One is focused on skin care, the other on health and wellness.
“It’s all about what we can do to help patients fight the aging process,” he maintains. “Every new-patient consult not only meets with me but also meets with our skin-care and wellness teams, whose task it is to assess the patient’s lifestyle and make appropriate recommendations for improved healthful living.”
Beyond holistic health, Bassichis believes that optimal results require cutting-edge technologies and techniques—the reason he strives to be as innovative as possible in his approaches not only to surgery but also to preoperative and postoperative care.
“I’m always interested in integrating new techniques that will lead to shorter recoveries with less pain and bruising so that patients can return to their normal routines faster,” he says.
However, Bassichis tempers his ahead-of-the-curve posture with a healthy dose of caution. “I like to see the evidence in the literature that a new treatment or technology is safe and efficacious before I incorporate it within my practice,” he says. “For example, take injectables and nonsurgical treatments. Every year, new ones make their way onto the market. My first rule of thumb is, if a product or treatment is not FDA-approved, I won’t even bother considering it.”
His second rule of thumb is: If a product or treatment is not around a year after a splashy, ballyhooed debut, it was nothing more than hype. “Twelve months is not a long time to wait for the sure signs that a new treatment or technology is valid before getting on board with it. By the same token, it’s a short-enough time that you’re still going to be cutting-edge when you do adopt that innovation,” he says.
From Lifts to Mohs Closures
Bassichis’s practice provides mainly aesthetic services, but he also accepts reconstructive cases. His procedures include: midface lifts, rhytidectomies, revision facelifts, endoscopic browlifts, blepharoplasties, primary and revision rhinoplasties, otoplasties, mentoplasties, submental lipectomies, neck lifts, facial reconstruction, hair restoration, skin-lesion treatments, cheek and chin implants, scar revisions, and skin resurfacing.
Many of the reconstructive cases he sees involve closing the hole left by cancer surgeons after a Mohs procedure—an intricate intervention designed to completely remove the cancer while maximizing the amount of normal tissue left intact.
“I do about 250 Mohs closures a year,” he says. “What’s interesting about these is that my surgical plan is never completed until the patient has had the Mohs procedure and I get to look under the bandage to see what’s actually there. So to be successful with these requires a lot of on-the-spot creativity.”
In a typical case, Bassichis begins the planning process days or weeks in advance when he first meets with the patient, who at that point will not yet have undergone the Mohs procedure. “I look at the affected area and come up with a couple of anticipatory scenarios for the reconstructive work I’ll do after the cancer is excised.
“For example, let’s say the patient has a cancer on his lip. I have a book of Mohs closures that show the options available for a lip reconstruction depending on the size of the cancer. Letting the patient review those photos is a worthwhile exercise, because it helps mentally prepare him or her. Some patients come in thinking the post-Mohs surgery defect is going to be little when in fact it will be large.”
Bassichis normally performs the reconstruction the same day as the Mohs surgery. Afterward, he follows the patient at 2- to 3-week intervals. At or about the sixth week, he may, as appropriate, perform dermabrasion to help camouflage the scars.
“In some cases, we postoperatively use a laser that targets blood vessels,” he says. “That can be necessary because the body often responds to Mohs surgery and the subsequent wound closure by enlarging the blood vessels to supply nutrients to the area that was operated on. Frequently, those blood vessels remain enlarged, so we use the laser to shrink them back to a more normal size.”
As proficient as Bassichis is with Mohs closures, he confesses it isn’t easy blending these cases with his regular aesthetic practice. “My surgical schedule stretches 6 to 8 weeks out. If someone shows up with cancer on his face, I have to be able to accommodate that patient right away. I can’t let him languish eight weeks before he gets on the surgery schedule.”
Consequently, Bassichis—who performs his regular aesthetic operations 4 days per week—must work longer hours to accommodate those Mohs patients. “Instead of going home in the late afternoon, on most days I head over to the surgery center to perform Mohs closures until 7 o’clock or later in the evening. But I don’t mind the extended hours; I’m willing to endure those because I know it’s going to make an enormous difference in the quality of the result for the Mohs patient.”
Bassichis’s willingness to go the extra mile for Mohs patients, combined with his ability to obtain good results, has made him a first choice among referring physicians. That explains why his Mohs practice has been growing exponentially.
Meanwhile, his satisfied Mohs patients often cross over to become elective aesthetic surgery patients, returning for facelifts and other services at a later date. But approximately 10% of them cannot wait that long and ask to have the additional aesthetic work done at the same time the Mohs hole is closed, Bassichis says.
Putting Patients at Ease
The Advanced Facial Plastic Surgery Center occupies a 3,000-square-foot office. In the spa-like environment, many of the clinical attributes are downplayed to help patients feel more at ease. “We wanted the office to have an elegant, modern look, so it’s very uncluttered, very streamlined—yet it’s also very serene, very relaxing,” says Bassichis’s wife and office manager, Michelle Mantel Bassichis, MD, who designed the office interior.
“The idea was to make patients as comforted as possible so that they would be less reticent to discuss their interests, goals, and desires during consults,” she says. “We believe that the better able we are to communicate with patients, the better the result we can deliver for them.”
Toward the back of the office is a medical spa where laser procedures, microdermabrasion, spa facials, chemical peels, and other nonsurgical treatments are provided, primarily by two full-time aestheticians. Near the medical spa is a room for minor surgical procedures.
Bassichis enjoys relationships with several state-of-the-art surgical facilities ringing Dallas so that he can deliver services nearer to where patients live. “If I’ve got a patient in north Dallas, she doesn’t have to drive to central Dallas to have the work done,” he says. “She can instead go to my facility closest to her home, and I’ll meet her there.
“To me, the question is: How can I make things more convenient for the patient without sacrificing quality?” he continues. “The use of facilities in each part of the city is one way of accomplishing that.”
In making things more convenient for patients, Bassichis also is paving the way for more growth. Thanks to cutting-edge technologies and techniques—coupled with one of the best staffs in town—his still-nascent practice seems well positioned to gain in size and stature in the years ahead. PSP
Rich Smith is a contributing writer for Plastic Surgery Products.
A Helping Hand
The practice of Benjamin A. Bassichis, MD, FACS, is blessed with many assets, but none so valuable as the helping hand of his wife: women’s-health specialist Michelle Mantel Bassichis, MD.
At present, Job One for Michelle is raising their two young children. She helps out in the practice only as time permits, about 10 to 12 hours per week total. “When I’m in the office, I play a lot of different roles,” she says. “Sometimes I use my own medical skills in providing wellness services to the patients, or as an aesthetician stand-in. I’m trained to provide microdermabrasion and laser hair removal, among other things.
“Sometimes I use my artistic skills to keep the office and our Web site looking great, and coming up with fresh ideas for our advertising,” she continues. “I’m sort of a jack of all trades around here, doing whatever is needed to make sure the office operates smoothly and our patients are well satisfied.”
Michelle hails from Detroit, but became a Texan after marrying Ben, a Lone Star State native. Their wedding took place in May 2003, following a whirlwind courtship. “Ben and I were introduced by mutual friends who thought we might hit it off,” says Michelle, who at the time was employed at an HMO in Boston operated by Harvard University, her alma mater. “Ben was in fellowship training in Chicago and went to the trouble of catching a flight to Boston just to take me out for drinks. That was our first meeting. Four months later, we were married.”
Actually, they didn’t begin that initial encounter as total strangers. They knew quite a bit about each other from things they had been told by those mutual friends, and they had chatted at length by phone several times before they ever laid eyes on each other.
Even so, Michelle says it was love at first sight. “He showed up at my door, and I was struck by Cupid’s arrow. I thought he was the most amazing man I’d ever met. We hit it off immediately.”
Strolling a Common Path
Of course, marriage was far from Ben Bassichis’s mind while growing up in College Station, Tex. As a teenager, many of his thoughts centered around a career in medicine, which technically began during high school when he landed a part-time job drawing blood samples and running tests on them in the office of a local family physician.
In medical school at the University of Texas in Houston, Bassichis settled on otolaryngology as his chosen specialty. He performed his residency in otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at the University of Texas’s Southwestern Affiliated Hospitals in Dallas, eventually becoming the service’s chief resident. The Chicago-based fellowship program he later entered provided advanced training in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, and placed him under the tutelage of University of Illinois plastic surgeons J. Regan Thomas, MD, Dean M. Toriumi, MD, and Steve Dayan, MD.
Today, Bassichis is double board-certified: first, by the American Board of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, and, more recently, by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The author of more than 50 scientific chapters and papers, he also serves as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at nearby University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and holds a clinical faculty position in the surgery department’s Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital, also in Dallas.
Like her husband, Michelle Bassichis is the child of a physicist—and that’s how she became interested in medicine as a career. “When you’re 10 years old, and your father keeps talking about all this cool technology he works with in the lab, you tend to pick up a strong interest in science,” she says. “So, instead of wanting to become a ballerina, like other little girls at that age, I was making plans to become a genetic engineer.”
Those plans changed direction while Michelle was in medical school, where she developed an interest in women’s health care. “My residency and fellowship training at Harvard University were in pathology, but I specialized in diagnostics—all of it centered on medicine for women,” she says.
Michelle says she finds it a delight that her and Ben’s professional and personal interests have so neatly meshed. “We make a great team,” she says. “The best part of this is we get to spend so much time together. The downside is it’s sometimes hard to leave the office behind when we come home at night, although I’m not sure how much of a downside that actually is.
“We’ll be out at dinner with the kids, noodles flying everywhere, and Ben will get a glimmer in his eye and a big smile on his face and announce he’s suddenly got a great idea for a new ad campaign or something,” she relates. “It’s just a lot of fun having our work and family life integrated in this way. We’re business partners and life partners, headed along a common path. It’s a real privilege to be able to work alongside the man I love. It’s incredibly fulfilling.”