I love getting up close and personal with Australia’s best plastic surgeons, and today was no exception. When you walk into a successful plastic surgery clinic you don’t even think about how hard it might be to create a name for yourself in such a niche industry. Dr Edinburg moved his family from South Africa to Australia many years ago and we get to chat about how he started and where he is today. I loved chatting with Dr Edinburg, he’s truly humble and realised from a very early age that all he ever wanted to do was just help people.
Trish: Good morning, podcasters! I’m here today with Dr. Mark Edinburg, and Dr. Mark Edinburg heads the Eden Institute of Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery, which is in Sydney, and they specialise of course in all things aesthetic. So he’s one of Australia’s leading aesthetic surgeons, welcome Dr. Edinburg.
Dr Edinburg: Right, Trish, how are you doing? Thank you for having me.
Trish: Oh, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to talk to us today.
Dr Edinburg: It’s such a pleasure.
Trish: Lovely, so I want to do a nice little intro podcast today, just to sort of share a little bit about you with our listeners. So first of all, what actually inspired you to become a plastic surgeon?
Dr Edinburg: Trish, that’s quite a long story, and it’s a good question because you have to sit down and think about those kind of things because you make that decision when you’re a lot younger. So, I think that when I became a doctor, you get this information collectively to ultimately assess, diagnose, and treat patients at a basic level. And then after that, there’s a real steep learning curve to become good at what one does. So, you acquire these skills and you go through post-graduate training, and then you very quickly identify which assets and liabilities and strengths you have. Not liabilities, abilities and strengths you have, and where to channel them.
So, I learned that I was pretty good with my hands. I do painting and woodwork, and in general, fixing things around the house. I was directed towards the surgical pathway. And as time passed, I saw that various surgical specialties of orthopaedics, neurosurgery, urology, general surgery, ophthalmology, and basically I knew that my abilities would be directed towards problems facing the plastic surgery patient.
So these patients have congenital, traumatic, and acquired conditions and they … it’s a really vast area, as you know.
Dr Edinburg: And I felt at that time that I could play an important role in providing and helping these patients. So this realisation was very exciting. You realise this was when I was still young. A very exciting and challenging time, and an honour to go down the pathway to become a plastic surgeon. And realise that the problems that one faced also stimulated a creativity. As you know, the plastic surgery training and setting up practise is pretty challenging, but it gives us also an opportunity to become who we are. And you realise that you become a good plastic surgeon, in my opinion, you have to be a good technician. It takes a long time.
And believe it or not, I’m still becoming a better technician as the years go by. And then you have the desire to be better and to improve the skills that you have. Once you’re a plastic surgeon, you require discipline, meticulousness, and over time, I think a little bit of talent goes a long way. So I think because of the work that I do with my art, sculpting and the painting, the Photoshopping, it allows one to see things a little bit differently. And I think that’s really good for plastic surgeons.
Trish: I totally agree. It’s not just the fact that you need to be good at doing surgery. You need to have that aesthetic, arty eye, because otherwise … the hands might not necessarily … the qualifications might not actually match the hands sometimes, because you need to have some desire for art, really, because it is like a piece of art, what you do.
Dr Edinburg: Well, every patient that you look at has to have that aesthetic thing to it, and you’ve got to be able to see it in 3D, from the side, from the top, left and right. And I think it’s really helpful to have that eye for something.
Dr Edinburg: To be able to put that in your mind and then through your hands, I think that’s a great asset.
Trish: Yeah, that’s so true.
Dr Edinburg: Yeah. But I think also, despite having said that, it’s very, very important to be able to care and have empathy for the patient and to treat them in a respectful manner. So, I think at this stage in my life, I can actually call myself a plastic surgeon with those attributes.
Dr Edinburg: And this concept for me is still really exciting and awesome, and it gives me the opportunity to love my work, and the inspiration to continue.
Trish: That’s fantastic. And where did you grow up? Where did you study?
Dr Edinburg: I grew up in Johannesburg, in South Africa. I went to school there. I went to Wits University. I started off becoming a general surgical registrar there, and then I emigrated to Australia, and my first job was an RPA, and then St. Vincent’s, and then did accredited training through Concord RPA in Sydney, and then I went and did a fellowship in Canniesburn in Scotland, and we were there with a family for about 12 months.
Trish: Wow. So it takes forever to get your qualification, like really from start to finish. It’s a long time, isn’t it?
Dr Edinburg: Well, I think this is what patients don’t realise. I mean, from start to finish for me was 16 years, also given the fact that I emigrated. But you know, it doesn’t stop there because you’re still going to conferences and we’re still learning. You have to keep up to date and travel and see what other people are doing. So, it’s a continuous process.
Trish: That’s so true. Because I met you at a conference where plastic surgeons, who obviously were really highly qualified, are going to learn about the latest things, what other plastic surgeons are doing, groundbreaking stuff. So it is a continuous learning, isn’t it? You don’t just learn and you’re done.
Dr Edinburg: No, you have to keep on doing it. It’s a vital part of your practise, and it’s a vital part of making sure that you’re treating patients in the appropriate manner.
Trish: Yep, no that’s so, so true.
Dr Edinburg: Yeah.
Trish: So tell me … I know you perform many different procedures, but do you have a favourite or a favourite few? And if you do, why is it your favourite?
Dr Edinburg: I think you might know the answer to this, but one of the simple procedures that I do, otoplasty, which is setting back prominent ears. The joy that I get out of that … I’ll give you an example. I had a 65 year old man that came to see me because his ears were prominent. And he gave me this long story of how he was teased at school, and when he went to work the guys at work mocked him, and absolutely made his life a misery. And obviously, this had a huge emotional impact on him. So when he came to me, it was a relatively straightforward procedure, and we fixed his ears. And then the first time he looked in the mirror after that, I could see tears in his eyes. And he was just so grateful.
Dr Edinburg: So, I really enjoy otoplasties. But I really enjoy abdominoplasties and breast reductions, because those are the patients that are the happiest in the practise. You can make the biggest changes for them, and they’re just delighted about it. They’re very grateful and very thankful.
Trish: Yep. That’s so true. I am the breast reduction patient, but just going on to otoplasty, so for those of you that don’t know, that’s actually where you make your ears not stick out so much.
Dr Edinburg: Correct.
Trish: Yeah, yeah. Awesome. So you’re into the life changing procedures, yes. I definitely, definitely think those patients are very appreciative. Because it does, it changes their lives.
Dr Edinburg: Yeah, I think it does. But I also do a lot of cancer work, and so the cancer work involves reconstructive surgery. So for example, if you have a big cancer on the face, on the nose, on the ears, or … you can use your surgical skills and your aesthetic skills to try and get the patient back to as normal appearance as possible. So, it’s really a combination of both the reconstructive side and the aesthetic side in all aspects of plastic surgery.
Trish: Yeah, yeah. I do know a patient recently, she had a skin cancer on her face. I didn’t meet her until after the event, and she went and got it fixed by a doctor who did skin cancers. And afterwards, her result wasn’t that great and I just said to her, “Why wouldn’t you go to a plastic surgeon for something like that? It’s your face. It’s right in front of you.” I think a lot of people don’t actually know that that’s what a plastic surgeon can do. I know that sounds really ignorant, but she had no idea that she could have got that fixed by a plastic surgeon.
Dr Edinburg: I think it’s vitally important that patients really become aware of what’s out there. There’s no rules and regulations in this country to stop people from doing those kinds of procedures, even though they may not be appropriately trained for it. There are skin cancer guys that are appropriately trained, but there are some who are not. And I think patients really need to make an effort to try and understand who’s good at what, what is really appropriate for them. And I think that will go a long way to helping them get a good outcome in the end.
Trish: Yep, yep. I totally agree with you. And it’s the classic thing: just because someone can do something doesn’t mean they should, because they may not be able to do it the right way or as good as … you always want to get it done the best you possibly can.
Dr Edinburg: Well, you know as well as I do what the political situation with all of these things are.
Dr Edinburg: Perhaps this is not the forum to discuss that, but I just really urge patients to check it out, to look up the doctors they’re going to, and just feel comfortable with what they’re going to get.
Trish: Yep, yep. Totally, I agree. And so tell me, and that leads on to another question. What support do you and the clinic provide for patients pre and post surgery? Because I know that you guys provide exemplary service. Can you tell us a little bit about your pre and post surgery support?
Dr Edinburg: Yeah, sure. I think this really starts at the basic level with our website, and with the doctors that refer to us, and not to mention, importantly, word of mouth. So, I think that’s where it all starts. And my secretaries, Michelle, Shirley, and Tegan, are excellent on the phone with patients who phone up for the first time to make an appointment. I’ve listened to them. They make them feel comfortable, they try to be as helpful as they can with as much information … sometimes it takes a long time on the phone. But patients are phoning up, they want information, and we’re happy to provide it.
The patients are generally very anxious when they come for a visit … from a skin cancer to a cosmetic problem. So we try and make them feel as comfortable as they can; to try and fit them in as if they’re with family. It’s that kind of setup. Stacy works there, and it provides a beautiful environment for the very talented aesthetician. And from our point of view, obviously I try and make patients feel as comfortable as possible. I try to alleviate anxiety, try to make them, as I said, feel at home. And basically the questioning of the examination is all done above … I have a nurse with me in the room when I do the examination.
And the information that I give them post-operatively is telling them how the operation is done, what their recovery is like, what the potential complications are, and what kind of post-operative care that they’re going to get. I always see the patient before they have the operation, to sit and chat with them and to make them feel a little bit more comfortable. I always phone a member of their family afterwards to say how the operation has gone, and I try and see the patients before I go home from operating, just to let them know that everything’s going well. And I think also importantly, patients have access to me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, if they have a problem or if they’re worried about something, I’m always available for them to talk to.
Trish: And you know what, and that’s huge because the amount of times where I’ve spoken to a patient on one of our closed Facebook forums or support groups where they’ve had a panic about something, they haven’t been able to get in touch with their surgeon, it’s horrendous. And then they start getting advice from people, so it’s fantastic that you’re available for them, because that’s what every patient wants. They want to be looked after.
Dr Edinburg: Absolutely, and they’re paying enough for it too.
Trish: Yeah, yeah.
Dr Edinburg: Also, my nurse, Helen, is also available 24 hours a day. Not that she gets phone calls in the middle of the night, but she calls them on the day of surgery and the next day, and the next day. And she’s available to take any queries that the patient has, even from the simple things like, “Can I get my dressing changed?” And “Can I have more Steri-Strip?” And “Can I get a waterproof dressing?” It’s always available for them. So, I think that the service that hopefully we provide to the patient is really good.
Trish: Yeah. And I’m going to give a little plug about your website, because one of the things that I loved about your website the first time I went on there is the fact that although there’s no off-the-shelf treatment, like there’s no this price for this, this price for that, however, your website actually goes through expected costs, it covers consultation fee, and I love that because you can find out a lot on your website anyway.
Dr Edinburg: Well, you know what I think the modus operandi in the practise is to be upfront with the patient so they know exactly what’s going on. There’s no hidden agendas. Everyone gets quoted before they go into surgery. They know what the costs are. And importantly, you have to be honest with the patient. Absolutely, that’s what is one of the most important aspects. They’ve got to know what this is all about, because they’re taking big steps in their lives and it’s momentous occasions for them. And that has to be respected.
Trish: Yep, I totally agree. I completely love that about your site.
Dr Edinburg: Thank you, thank you.
Trish: Yeah, pleasure. So far, what has been your biggest career milestone to date?
Dr Edinburg: Well, I can tell you it’s not an operative experience and it’s not what degrees I have, because at the end of the day, I’ve come to a point where I feel pretty comfortable with my knowledge and my technical ability. We run a successful practise. We’re able to look after patients well, and I think that I’ve acquired the wisdom to make good decisions. And now that I’ve reached that milestone, I actually feel really comfortable being a plastic surgeon. So, I can call myself holistically a plastic surgeon. So that for me is a great milestone.
Trish: Yep, yep. That’s fantastic, yeah. I really like that you said that. And just as a finish up, because I know you’re busy, I want to ask you one thing. You’ve pretty much actually covered this, I think I know what you’re going to say. But if you could give a plastic surgery patient a takeaway from today’s discussion, or before they go to have surgery, if there’s one thing that they need to do over and above everything else, what do you think that would be?
Dr Edinburg: Well, I want my patients to know that our modus operandi in the practise is to really look after our patients well, in a really exemplary way. And they can come and feel comfortable with this. We’re going to give them all that information … they should also know that my motto is to be able to sleep at night, so I’m really not going to be doing things that are going to keep me up at night. And I think the other thing is just to be excellent and meticulous again in my surgery, and to be caring and compassionate. And I’d like patients to know that about myself and my practise.
Trish: Fantastic, yep. No, that’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your time today. That’s been really, really helpful to us.
Dr Edinburg: Trish, thank you very much for having me.
Trish: Lovely. And listeners, if you’re out there and you’d like to get in contact with Dr. Edinburg, as I said, he’s actually based in Sydney. You can actually contact them on (02) 8814 5800. If you have a problem or can’t get through or can’t remember the number, just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. So, thank you so much Dr. Edinburg. Hope you have a lovely rest of the day!
Dr Edinburg: Thank you Trish, I hope you enjoy your day too.
Trish: Thank you, bye!
Dr Edinburg: Thank you, bye!