Patient Safety, Ethics, and Mentorship in Medical Aesthetics
Interview with Facial Plastic Surgeon Corey Maas, MD, FACS
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The career of San Francisco facial plastic surgeon Corey S. Maas, MD, FACS, spans over 30 years. Today, Dr. Maas is the primary surgeon and director of quality care at a facial plastic surgery and aesthetic surgery center he founded in 2009; he serves as Medical Director of a medical spa facility where he supervises aesthetic healthcare and cosmetic procedures; he is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, teaching residents, medical students, and fellows; and he’s the incoming President of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS).
Read on to learn the guiding principles Dr. Maas honed throughout his career.
There may be benefits to being involved in professional societies.
Now that he’s leaning into his role as President of one of the world’s largest specialty associations for facial plastic surgery, Dr. Maas is getting to know some of the younger members as well as reconnecting with the close-knit group of physicians he’s known for decades. The most fulfilling part of being involved in professional societies: “Hearing all the ideas and seeing the new technologies and the concepts that people from around the country are bringing to the specialty in general,” he says.
It’s not just fulfilling—it’s also important, especially for younger physicians and healthcare professionals. “There’s no substitute for having dialogue and engagement with the committees within the organizational structure,” he says. “They’re critically important to our development because of the diversity of ideas.” Practitioners need to be involved in discussions about matters of safety and ethics, quality assurance, and outcomes with all the new devices and technologies. “You will never get that experience unless you’re participating in the discussions,” he says.
Mentors can play an important role.
After graduating with honors from the University of Florida College of Medicine, Dr. Maas was drawn to a residency program at the St. Louis University College of Medicine, where the five-person faculty was comprised entirely of facial plastic surgeons, including the Chair. “During my entire residency in head-and-neck surgery, we were doing all kinds of facial plastic surgery,” he remembers. Even as they were treating traumas, they were also doing aging face and rhinoplasty treatments every day, which led Dr. Maas to join a society for facial plastic and reconstructive surgery in 1987. “I was inspired by all those people around me who were so enthusiastic about an organization that brought a lot of energy and did a lot of service for the members of the community, but most importantly focused on patient care, which continues to expand our knowledge and set the expectations for a field that is largely outside the insurance/reimbursement system,” he says. Along with his fellowship director, who refined all that he learned after five years of head and neck and facial plastic surgery, he had other mentors who “taught me all I know about hair restoration, surgery, and rejuvenation in general,” he says.
The facial plastic and reconstructive surgery society, of which Dr. Maas is a member and the incoming President, offers training for people who have finished plastic surgery or otolaryngology-head and neck surgery residencies and wish to pursue sub-specialty training. Dr. Maas has been a fellowship director for some 23 years, with fellows spending a year at a time with him and his staff in San Francisco. There are also international fellowships that bring people in for observerships. “This is one profession in which mentorship and the sharing of knowledge have been a tradition that is central to its existence and is a central responsibility in the practice of medicine,” Dr. Maas says. “It’s really a core principle in medicine that we teach the next generation of physicians and surgeons, and it’s extended to our staff—we’re always working hard to teach each other too.”
"It’s really a core principle in medicine that we teach the next generation of physicians and surgeons, and it’s extended to our staff—we’re always working hard to teach each other, too.” Dr. Maas says.
Ethics are essential, especially in a field that’s constantly evolving.
When Dr. Maas first started out, it was considered unethical to place any kind of advertisement for your services beyond an announcement of your new practice, which was done in the phone book. Today, social media gives doctors many opportunities to market themselves directly to the public. But with that opportunity also comes responsibility. “Most of what we do, at least on the aesthetic side, is about bringing new technologies and the best new ideas and services to our patients,” Dr. Maas explains. “A big part of the ethical component is open and full disclosure with our patients.” That means disclosing information about efficacy, risks, and benefits, and about alternatives to the care being offered. “It’s not just the ethical thing to do,” Dr. Maas adds, “but it also adds to patient understanding and, ultimately, patient satisfaction.”
Patient safety always comes first.
There are a number of reasons patient safety in Medical Aesthetics is paramount. One of the most important ones, according to Dr. Maas, is the fact that many practitioners don’t work within the narrow confines of a large group specialty. “This is one of three or four different fields where you can literally still work by yourself or with a small group,” he says. “And so, you have to set tough standards because in our field, there isn’t an institutional set of standards that are being met with oversight.”
Setting standards boils down to a couple of key aspects of patient education, according to Dr. Maas, including making sure people are aware of what the options are for their treatment and giving them a fair and balanced opportunity to ask questions and discuss the risks and benefits associated with them. “Offering the variety of options that might address patients’ concerns—not sort of channeling them into one area or one particular set of devices or drugs or whatever, I think that’s really important,” he says.
Consider making patient experience your focus.
Although the industry has undergone much change since Dr. Maas first opened his clinic, he continues to be guided by two timeless principles: taking good care of patients and focusing on their well-being. “This is an outcome-driven business and it always has been, so you’re not successful unless you have good outcomes,” he says. “But outcomes aren’t just a perfect facelift or rhinoplasty that was exactly what the patient wanted—it’s also about the patient’s journey through that experience.”
Positive outcomes and patient journeys play a role in the plastic surgery and Medical Aesthetics industry because when it comes to these specialties, he explains, people are unlikely to choose a provider based simply on who’s in their healthcare network. “Most of our referrals are from other patients—not from being in a network,” Dr. Maas says. “So, if you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to think about good outcomes and the patient experience is tied into that.”
About Corey Maas, MD, FACS
Corey Maas, MD, FACS, is a board-certified facial plastic surgeon who has dedicated himself to helping advance the field of facial plastic surgery through his clinical research and sought-after expertise. He is the founder and owner of his practices in San Francisco as well as a clinical research center and was previously the Chief of the Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco for more than 11 years. In addition to his 30 years of experience in the industry, Dr. Maas is also an associate clinical professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, Division of Facial Plastic Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.