Advances in Cosmetic Surgery for Veterans

Posted on: May 26, 2016

From one veteran to another:  continuing to care for those who have sacrificed so much.

With Memorial Day upon us, our thoughts turn to those who gave their lives in service of our country. This day of remembrance, along with Veterans Day, holds additional significance for me because I served in the Army as a plastic surgeon. In fact, I was inspired to enter the field of plastic surgery after learning how reconstructive surgery helped smooth the return to civilian life for Vietnam Veterans.

by Dr. Michael Rosenberg, MD, FACS, Medical Director of the Center for Plastic Surgery at Northern Westchester Hospital

In my first year of medical school at Columbia University, I attended a career night presentation by the chairman of plastic surgery, Dr. Norman Hugo. He spoke about serving in Vietnam, and his work seemed so vital and meaningful that right then and there, I made an appointment with Dr. Hugo to talk further about becoming a plastic surgeon. As a result, he ended up becoming a mentor for my dual careers of plastic surgery and the Armed Forces.

During my service, I was mobilized for Desert Storm, but the war ended before we shipped out. But as a member of the Army Reserves, I treated first-responders and civilians after 9/11, and Veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. I realized that—thanks to new technologies in protective gear such as Kevlar helmets and armor—more soldiers were surviving combat. But they still suffered devastating injuries to the face, arms, and legs. The demands for reconstructive surgery were huge and remain so.  Many service members suffer life-changing injuries during combat and as a result of training accidents.

For soldiers, reconstructive surgery often doesn’t include cosmetic surgery.

Military medalsWhile soldiers get the best care they can through Veterans Affairs hospitals, often the reconstructive surgery doesn’t include cosmetic or enhancing procedures. It’s important for Veterans to be aware of new advances in reconstructive surgery. Scar revisions can help eliminate obvious signs of trauma, for example. Facial rejuvenation procedures can resolve cosmetic issues from wounds and restore facial symmetry. New advances in liposculpture and body contouring may be helpful in addressing physical limitations.

Honored to serve those who serve our country.

Although I retired from the Army 20 years ago, the unique challenges facing our servicemen and women have always remained present in my mind. I have found working with the young soldiers especially rewarding, and I’m hoping to continue to help our men and women of the Armed Forces by raising awareness of reconstructive procedures that can help them regain a sense of normalcy.

It is important that we honor the fallen on Memorial Day, and that the country observes Veterans Day, but it is imperative that we all continue to care, daily, for those who’ve sacrificed to protect our freedom.