Jeffrey Frentzen

It was the week before Halloween, and I walked away from the 2009 ASPS Fall Meeting with a big smile on my face. So what, you ask? Well, last year’s meeting was full of “gloomy Gusses”—many physicians wore scary faces, bemoaning the economic tailspin and loss of precious business.

The difference between last year’s ASPS meeting and this year’s gathering was the difference between an extremely dark, cloudy winter’s eve and a golden dawn breaking on the horizon.

The only thing that seemed to matter to attendees last year—the crashing economy—this year weighed much less heavily in the minds of physicians and exhibitors with whom I spoke.

This year, I trolled the meeting’s sessions and the exhibitor’s floor, asking physicians and vendors where they see the economy heading. Few were willing to come right out and say that they see an economic recovery breaking on the horizon.

Some have seen only a slight uptick in business in the past few months; others say that business is up quite a bit over this summer’s doldrums. The attitudes, hearts, and minds of the meeting’s attendees were brighter and more optimistic than I’d seen in months.

I spoke to many attendees about this upbeat-ness. The change did not seem to be due to confidence in the current US government to manage the economic recovery. Clearly, it was coming from somewhere else.

Just as the economy has its ups and downs, its surges and its recessions, likewise, fear has a distinct cycle. The horror of the economic crash is slowly being replaced with optimism and a resolve within people to succeed in what is often referred to in the press as the “new economy.”

In anything so new, there is an opportunity for us to rise above the cycle of fear and lead others into a new day. Plastic surgeons were made for this role. Push the aesthetic field away from the economic chaos of the past few years. Be optimistic. Find the new, bright horizon and tell others about it.

What we believe and how we act on that belief can move mountains or put you in an early grave. Most of the obstacles to success exist within us. If we are willing to take a chance and grow beyond our own insecurities, limitations, and prejudices, the plastic surgery community can infuse the entire medical field with hope for the future.

However, along with a new economy comes a new landscape in which we must all work. They are important challenges ahead. Health care and insurance reform will touch all of us in some ways. The ASPS, for example, has been a leading organization in this area; but individual physicians and groups of physicians should get together and speak out on this important issue.

Plastic surgeons can also continue to take the lead in education and safety—not just for the patient but for the physicians themselves. You are all to be commended for being part of the numerous successful outreach/promotional campaigns that stress patient-related issues. This heightened awareness of aesthetics among patients is a direct result of your excellent communication in all media.

See also “Circling the Wagons,” by Jeffrey Frentzen in the October 2008 issue of PSP.

On another front, the plastic surgery field is growing more diffuse than ever. Unlike the larger issue of government/health care reforms, there are some aspects of the marketplace over which we have no control.

Specialists of all stripes are crowding the field—the ENTs, dentists, gynecologists, and others who now push injectables, facelifts, and other procedures that were once the sole domain of the plastic surgeon.

Although this trend seems unstoppable, the plastic surgeon must maintain high standards in the face of the many noncore physicians and others now working in cosmetic surgery.

Now is the time to take stock and pick up the reins of leadership. As with the slogans promoting our new President, the tone of change must be filled with a desire to make the world a better place.

This goal is within your grasp. You will be on the front lines of building new paths, new techniques and technologies, reineventing your practices. This can lead you to succeed beyond all expectations, even in tough times.