Jennifer Walden, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon in private practice for the past five years in a very nice office in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Surprisingly, she is not feeling the pinch of the economy as are others around the country, attributing her success to her patient demographics and her expertise in breast augmentation.  

Her patients, typically females from 29 to 49 years old, “want breast augmentation, no matter what,” she says. “They have been planning for surgery and will find the resources to have the surgery.” This includes an increase in patients using her financing options. Unlike others, Walden continues to offer free initial consultations as she is confident in her conversion rates.

As Walden prefers to work in the operating room, her nurse does the majority of the injectables. “The injectables portion of my practice is also holding steady and serves only a minority of my patients,” she adds.

It also helps that Walden takes insurance to help keep her income flowing consistently; however, she does not perform reconstructive procedures. She concentrates on breast reduction, lesions, and skin cancer.  

“Insurance allows for moles and lesions and that’s the bread and butter of plastic surgery,” she notes. “Insurance cases are the best kept secret and make up 10% to 15% of my practice. Patients will get their nose done and then their breasts at the same time. Just today, I did a female patient’s function septum and cosmetic liposuction of her neck, chin, and buckle fat pad removal.”

What keeps her practice sailing so smoothly through these choppy times? The Internet.  Walden has embraced this medium and it has evolved into a good way to reach out to her preferred patients—younger females who want larger breasts.

Having a strong online presence has been very beneficial for Walden—just check out her Facebook page and Web site, video appearances on YouTube, portal sites, and vendor sites. She is a prime example of a plastic surgeon that has become ubiquitous on the Internet. She contracts with an Internet company to handle maintenance of her Web site.

“I get 60% of new patients from the Internet,” she says, and this online exposure has also lead to name recognition and media appearances—she has been seen offering medical commentary on the Fox Network as well as other national media outlets. “Just living in New York City gives you exposure to the media outlets, so that helps,” she says.

To gain even more name recognition, Walden works with product vendors “when it makes sense,” she notes.

She has partnered with Allergen to promote the firm’s new Natrelle Beauty Patient Pre-Consultation Kit, and has also participated in Allergan’s consumer outreach “nights of beauty,” as well as various community charity events. She’s also sent out vendor postcards to her patients who could be interested in new products and procedures.

Walden has been doing so well that she not only has kept her current staff busy; she even hired a new assistant. However, she is careful with spending. “I have reduced my discretionary spending, so there are not a lot of extras right now.

Is the idea of the future consistently rosy for Walden? Not really. Manhattan has been and always will be a very tough market for plastic and cosmetic surgeons. Actually, the economy could get worse before it gets better, she says. “New physicians just coming out, you should consider going into practice with another physician or a group or in a city and town where it’s not so highly competitive.”

Interview by Catherine Maley; written by Jeffrey Frentzen and Catherine Maley.