An international plastic surgeon and a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Dr. Stanley Okoro, talks about plastic surgery with MOTUNRAYO JOEL
How did you become a plastic surgeon?
I studied Medicine at Meharry Medical College, United States and then trained at Emory University as a general surgeon. Following general surgery, I served in the US Navy for about 12 years moving up to the rank of commander. I then went back to school to train as a plastic surgeon.
I am now a double board certified plastic surgeon with practices in Atlanta Georgia, US and Lagos, Nigeria. I am certified by both the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. I have received numerous awards and recognition for my work and belong to many prestigious and exclusive organisations such as the American College of Surgeons, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the Southeastern Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.
In your view, what are the most popular plastic surgeries performed in Nigeria?
The most popular procedures for women are liposuction, tummy tuck and Brazilian buttock lift. Brazilian butt lift is also called fat transfer, fat grafting, BBL, or what I am starting to refer to as the NBL – Naija Butt Lift. During BBL, we remove fat (liposuction) from other areas on the body, sculpt down the waist, take the fat and transfer it to the buttock and hip area. This restores that feminine, youthful silhouette and really gives women that “wow” factor. For men, I would have to say the most popular procedure is excess fat removal with liposuction. A lot of men struggle with excess fat on their chests, abdomens and even chins. Gynecomastia is a very common condition where men have excessive volume in the chest. Liposuction is the only way to reduce this volume to restore a natural and masculine chest. Enhancing the definition of the jawline with liposuction is also a very common procedure – allowing for minimal down time and regaining the youthful, manly contour they desire.
What are the merits and demerits of plastic surgery?
The merits of cosmetic plastic surgery are many. It has the ability to improve people’s quality of life. It is a known fact that men and women feel good when they look good. Plastic surgery allows people to look good. Plastic surgery also improves self-esteem and confidence for many people. Poor self-esteem can affect one’s career choice and personal relationship. I am not saying that plastic surgery will save a marriage or get one a job. However, it will not hurt you to look good and feel your best at that job interview. In terms of attractiveness, men are drawn to attractive women, and women love to look good. My job as a plastic surgeon is to assist patients in achieving their aesthetic goals. It is very personal for everyone.
There are few demerits of plastic surgery – unqualified doctors. Plastic surgery can lead to undesirable complications especially when performed by an unqualified doctor. Many doctors who perform cosmetic plastic surgery procedures are not trained in this field. It is up to the patient to do proper research before selecting a good plastic surgeon. I have spent a lot of time educating patients on how to select a plastic surgeon.
How should patients choose a plastic surgeon?
It may sound obvious, but many people do not realise that any licensed doctor can call him/herself a cosmetic plastic surgeon without any surgical training. It is important that prospective patients select their doctor carefully. Asking the basic question of board certification is not enough these days. The real question is – what area of medicine is your board certification?
First, you want to be sure that you choose a certified plastic surgeon who is well trained and board-certified in plastic surgery. Although the board certification process is not the same in Nigeria, patients should still demand the same standard of care that they can receive around the world.
In the US, a board-certified plastic surgeon is different from a cosmetic surgeon. A cosmetic surgeon is a doctor who could be called an anesthesiologist, paediatrician, obstetrician/gynaecologist or emergency care doctor. He or she has taken interest in cosmetic surgery and decided to perform plastic surgery procedures without the proper training.
Their only interest is to make extra money, without proper education and training, hence putting patient’s lives at risk. A board-certified plastic surgeon is an experienced medical doctor who undergoes a residency and fellowship to receive specialty training in surgery and then plastic and reconstructive surgical procedures. A board-certified plastic surgeon is much more highly trained and capable. Although they may be slightly more expensive – this is an industry in which you truly do get what you pay for.
Some Nigerians are still skeptical about undergoing plastic surgery in Nigeria. What is your view about this?
If it was not safe, I would not be performing plastic surgeries. I maintain the same standard of care that I practice in the US in Nigeria. We utilise only the best of anesthesia, medical facilities, staffing and surgical technique to ensure that our patients are well taken care of. I take no short cuts and do not tolerate compromise of care when it comes to my patients. I think of my patients as a part of my family and I am involved in every single step of their care.
Since you practice in the US, why did you decide to do same in Nigeria?
It is because there were few well trained cosmetic plastic surgeons in Nigeria. Given the absence of well-trained plastic surgeons, many Nigerians are travelling abroad for plastic surgery procedures. Many of them do not perform proper research on the doctors hence do not receive the excellent care they deserve. Worst, they may never see the doctor again. Some of these doctors do not take the time to understand Nigerians and our culture. As a Nigerian- born plastic surgeon who trained and practises in the US, I feel that well-trained Nigerian plastic surgeons are best qualified to deliver the best plastic surgery services to Nigerians and Africans alike.
Another reason is that I want to offer the same service that is available elsewhere in the world to Nigerians in Nigeria. This will prevent Nigerians from going overseas. My long term goal is to make Nigeria the plastic surgery hub for the African continent. Since 2012, we travelled to Nigeria from the US every two months. We now have a full-time plastic surgery service in Lagos and hope to expand to Abuja soon.
What are the most common concerns of your clients in Nigeria regarding plastic surgery?
Most often, Nigerians considering plastic surgery are concerned about safety. Many Nigerians ask me about the late Nigerian first lady who passed on after or during plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is a wonderful thing when performed by a well-trained plastic surgeon and on the appropriate patient. Nigerian patients should also be concerned about the training and experience of their plastic surgeon. An ethical plastic surgeon should be able to inform you if you are a good candidate for a procedure. The primary concern of your plastic surgeon should not be only monetary. After safety, the next most common concern is “looking natural.” They do not want to look too artificial or “over-done” but still want to be able to tell a difference in their look.
Do you feel that Nigerians are moving in a more positive direction regarding their perceptions of beauty?
Africans are naturally beautiful and Nigerians have always been positive about keeping that beauty colourful. Nigerian men and women are colourful in the clothes they wear. Nigerian women are proud and love to look good all the time. Nigerians love to wear makeup, hair, and nails. Cosmetic plastic surgery is becoming popular among Nigerians. Many men and women in Nigeria have realised that plastic surgery allows them to enhance those areas that are beyond their control either due to ageing, pregnancy or weight fluctuations. Our 2013 study shows that Nigerians are most interested in liposuction, tummy tuck, Brazilian buttock lift and correction of gynecomastia. Many of them were travelling overseas for the service prior to Abuja plastics offering these services in Nigeria.
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
I would have to say the ability to positively affect my patients is the most rewarding part of my career. When people look good, they feel good and that affects their lives. I have seen marriages made and saved, relationships defined, careers advanced and positivity ignited after patients undergo successful plastic surgery. This transformation of confidence turns patients into the best possible versions of themselves and I love being a part of it. The blossoming of happiness that occurs is such a blessing and always uplifts me. These happy patients make everything worth it – they are the reason I get up in the morning.