By giving his patients a new look, plastic surgeon Michael Moses gives them a new outlook
A New Orleans native and avid collector of local art, Michael Moses M.D., FACS, has been practicing the art and science of plastic surgery for nearly 25 years. Dr. Moses earned his undergraduate degree at Yale College prior to attending medical school at Tulane University. He returned to Yale for his general surgery residency, did a plastic surgery residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a fellowship in craniofacial surgery at the Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He has held faculty appointments in the departments of surgery at both Yale and Harvard.
Today, Dr. Moses is chief of plastic surgery at Touro Infirmary, the director of the cleft and craniofacial team at Children’s Hospital and is on the faculty of Tulane and LSU schools of medicine. He practices at two private locations, the first of which he opened nearly 15 years ago on St. Charles Avenue, and the second, in Mandeville, which was born out of necessity after Hurricane Katrina hit and he was unable to access his New Orleans office. Dr. Moses chose to keep both offices open so he’s “easily accessible to clients on both sides of the lake,” and both locations continue to thrive. A father of two sons, Dr. Moses believes that while beauty is more than skin deep, a positive outward appearance is the first step toward a more confident, happier person.
Why did you decide to go into this particular field?
It suits me. Patients are generally happier. In general surgery people are often diagnosed with life-threatening illness, so there’s much sadness, fear and anxiety. With plastic surgery, we make people happy and instill self-confidence, so it’s a much more pleasant place to be. Also, every single plastic surgery operation is different. Everybody’s wants and needs are different, everybody’s anatomy is different, whereas taking out a gall bladder is taking out a gall bladder. I find plastic surgery to be much more personal, individualistic and creative than general surgery.
What’s the difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon?
None really, except that plastic surgery is surgery to make people look better and it does not distinguish between making someone with a deformity look normal and making someone simply look better. Theoretically, cosmetic surgery is taking normal people and making them look better. I like the term “plastic surgery” better because it’s about making people happy no matter what they look like. So whether a woman has a breast removed because of cancer or a woman thinks her breasts are too small, it’s all about the same thing; making that woman happy with her appearance.
What’s the most gratifying aspect of what you do?
It’s all about making people feel good about themselves. If you can make someone happy, then it’s a success. People are miserable when they don’t like the way they look, and it’s a dramatic improvement in their life when they do suddenly like the way they look.
Your office is quite beautiful and serene. Why do you feel that a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere is important?
It’s important for our patients because the office is the way we are. We are about being peaceful and quiet and content and elegant. We designed it to our own taste, but it says something about who we are and what we do. It’s a reflection of our attitudes and our philosophies.
How important is the consultation aspect of plastic surgery?
Very! It’s a mutual assessment. The patient wants to find somebody who is not only skilled but someone they can relate to, somebody they like and somebody they can easily talk to. Similarly for the plastic surgeon, we want a patient that we like and that we feel we can help. The patient needs to find a plastic surgeon that he or she is comfortable with because at some point during the relationship there will most likely be a stressful moment and that trust has to be there. Surgery is stressful, so you need someone you can talk with, which is the very reason I never allow my patients to have surgery after just one visit. Two visits is the minimum and sometimes it’s three or four. After the first consultation they can come back ten times and we never charge for the extra visits, and it’s all because the better the patient knows me, the better that I know the patient, the smoother the post-surgery recovery will be. No matter how comfortable a patient is after they walk out the door for the first time, they have to come back for a second visit. I don’t care if it’s tomorrow or next week or a year from now, but you have to come back at least one more time prior to surgery.
You offer many nonsurgical and surgical procedures, from Botox and liposuction to breast reconstruction, but tell me about VelaShape, one of the newer body-enhancement options.
It’s a mechanical massage that puts heat energy into the superficial fat to loosen it and kill the fat cells. So as it’s tugging and pulling on the skin and the fat, it’s also killing the fat because of the heat energy. It’s a type of heat energy, this radiofrequency energy that penetrates the skin with very little absorption of the skin and that melts the fat just by the nature of the energy. The best application is for cellulite, because as it pulls on the skin and the fat, it lifts it up and pulls it into a smoother layer; it’s also weakening and remodeling the fat, so the skin becomes much, much smoother.
Is there any discomfort associated with the treatment?
It’s hot, not burning or painful hot, but it is hot. I’m not sure you would say it feels good, but it’s not uncomfortable and the patient tells the esthetician when it is too hot and the heat level is adjusted. It needs to be as hot as possible, short of the point where it becomes uncomfortable, to get the optimum destruction of fat cells. When the skin tightens and the fat tightens, the skin looks smoother and it gets smaller.
What are the main benefits of VelaShape?
VelaShape is the first machine approved by the FDA for what they call circular circumference, meaning that if you measure somebody’s thigh or waist circumference then you measure them after VelaShape, the area is smaller. So it not only makes the treated area smoother, but also a little smaller.
How does it differ from liposuction?
It’s totally different. Liposuction removes fat, so it’s permanently gone. It requires an incision and anesthetic, and you get massively swollen and bruised, so there’s recovery time. Liposuction does much more to remove fat, but the recovery time is quite long and sometimes it’s even a year before the skin is smooth. Whereas VelaShape is a 45-minute-to-hour-long treatment. We recommend five treatments about a week apart, then maintenance every three months, and there is no recovery. Liposuction can do a lot more and can remove a tremendous amount fat, but at a financial cost, time, risk and pain.
What are the advantages compared to other cellulite-reduction methods?
VelaShape is the only cellulite-reduction method we use because it’s the only one that I think really works. I think all of the creams and injections are not proven to be effective, and I only recommend things to my patients that I know work.
What areas of the body are most receptive to treatment?
The usual spots for cellulite: thighs, tummy … love handles in men work particularly well. It’s effective on the typical places were there is too much fat and uneven fat.
When are results visible?
Results are visible instantly. When you stand up, you’re smaller. Results are very good, but it’s important that patients are not unrealistic. It’s not like you walk in a size 12 and leave a size 8, but you can certainly loose half an inch in you waist.
Are results permanent or temporary? How long do they last?
It’s important to remain on a maintenance program. You can’t eat whatever you want and not exercise. It’s an adjunct to taking care of yourself. You have to eat sensibly, drink lots of water, reduce alcohol intake, and you have to exercise. But there are stubborn spots of cellulite, and that’s where VelaShape comes in.
How long have you been performing VelaShape procedures?
We’ve been offering it for about a year.
What kind of results have you seen?
Pretty good results as long as the patient knows what to expect. They are not going to be dramatically thinner, a little thinner; they will be smoother and have less cellulite and as long as they do their part and if that’s what they are expecting, then they’ll get it. It’s about being educated and having a realistic expectation. We’re not selling fish oil where you take a pill and you’ll be pretty and rich and famous. But those who come in educated and know what to expect are typically pleased.