DreamLabs Presents: Dr. Sheldon Kabaker
Dr. Kabaker received his medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1964. He underwent his internship at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and subsequently saw active duty in Vietnam. He continued his surgical training at the University Hospital in Cleveland, the Hines VA Hospital in Illinois, and the Los Angeles County USC Medical Center. After this period of extensive postgraduate training, he spent fellowship time in facial plastic surgery, studying under Dr. Richard Webster of Boston, MA, a renowned plastic surgeon.
While maintaining a private plastic surgery practice in Oakland, Calif., Dr. Kabaker has averaged six weeks of continuing medical education annually since 1971. He has studied and taught facial plastic surgery in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Argentina, the UK and Australia.
Dr. Kabakers’ background in facial plastic surgery and hair restoration surgery has placed him in a unique position in regard to doing this procedure, usually performed on women. Dr. Kabaker can make the claim and leave others to contest it, that he has the greatest experience and expertise with the procedure of lowering the female hairline with a direct surgical advancement procedure.
We were able to catch up with Dr. Kabaker recently for an interview:
1. Can you start by telling us your name and provide me with your credentials.
Sheldon Kabaker, M.D. Fellow, American College of Surgeons, Board Certified in Laryngology and Facial Plastic Surgery. I was trained at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Chicago and I have been specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery for 35 years.
2. Do you have any affiliations with any of your local hospitals or does your office have a surgical suite?
I have a surgery suite. Actually, it’s probably the oldest continuing one in California now and it was built it in 1977. I always maintain some hospital affiliations within the community at the University of California San Francisco.
3. So what made you want to become a facial plastic surgeon versus any other types of surgeons?
Well, a cousin of mine got a nose job when she was 17 and made a most remarkable transformation in her life. She went from somewhat of an unattractive girl to a beautiful girl. I was amazed by that, and it was always in the back of my mind throughout going to medical school and choosing a type of residency that would deal with noses and rhinoplasty operations specifically.
4. What are the most common surgery cases that you see in your practice?
I’d say the operation I do the most frequently is the hairline lowering operation for women, and then facelifts are probably my second most common operation, and rhinoplasty has become third. And it has to do with the marketing and the age groups I’m dealing with. Rhinoplasties are usually on the very young, and the facelifts are done on the old, so I’m doing facelifts on women who I’ve done rhinoplasties on 20, 30 years ago.
However, I have de developed some techniques that evolved into this hairline lowering operation, which I get patients from all over the world. It’s something that works well for someone at my stage of practice. These are usually young, healthy people who are greatly concerned about having what they might deem a high forehead or a high hairline, and it just bothers them enough that they would commit themselves to having a surgical operation.
The operation as I’ve developed it, (and I don’t want to say perfected it, but certainly got it to where it has a great rate of success and few problems, mainly because I can select the patients with internet communication,) has become a mainstay of my practice. There’s so much competition for facelifts and rhinoplasties, especially by younger physicians who probably are much less experienced than I am, but I can’t keep up with it. My practice was from word of mouth and patient to patient, but that generation has passed on, and the new generation gets all their information and marketing not by word of mouth but by word of mouth that’s on the internet.
5. What is the most common question you get from potential patients before they go through their surgical procedures?
The major thing appears to be cost. They want to know what it costs. Relating to the surgery, they’re always concerned about pain. And probably the most common question is: When will I look good? How long will it take to heal? How long will it take before I can present myself to my social life and to my workplace? Recovery to where you look good enough is not the real final healing.
6. What separates you or truly makes you stand out in regards to plastic Surgery from your colleagues in the area?
Experience. I don’t believe anyone can match my experience with certain operations especially my hair lowering operations.
7. Are there any other trends that you see taking place within the next few years within plastic and cosmetic surgery?
It’s mostly in marketing. People are reinventing procedures and naming it after themselves or finding creative names – making a small change in perhaps an incision or the placement of a suture, and therefore renaming an old operation. The facelift operation has changed very little from when I first learned it back in the early ‘70s, but it comes by all kinds of different names and terms these days. Each of them have something valid, but they’re still doing the same basic operation – tightening up a sagging, aging, lose face and neck. When someone says, “I’m having a Jones lift or some other named procedure,” I have to ask them what that is. For instance does Dr. Jones do it without a scar in front of the ear? So where does he put the scar? Does it go inside the ear? Perhaps it this feature of the operation that is probably his claim to the uniqueness of his procedure and he has then given a name to it. .
8. What advice would you give your prospective patients that will read this interview prior to considering plastic surgery?
Be sure the doctor is experienced in the particular procedure you want and the problem you have and make sure they are board certified in their specialty that included this operation they are considering. I would also advise the prospective patient to be very careful in regards to the before and after images they may see on surgeons websites as there are techniques that can be implement to make changes with lighting of the image/model, yet not make any remarkable physical changes.
9. What have you been noticing in marketing trends (how practices are marketed) for Plastic Surgeons over the last few years?
Patients have been relying upon the internet to find their surgeons. As I said before, they are looking for the before and after pictures as well as reading the reviews online. I think online reviews are OK, but you never get to know the surgeon like in the older days when it came to the consultation and building the relationship. Too often a patient will rely upon what others say from a review and not so much from interaction with the surgeon or a past patient of their acquaintance.
10. Many are stating that the internet is really the future of marketing. Why do you think so many plastic surgeons are at times even betting their practice just on the internet?
It’s the only thing everybody can really do. We work with visual products or services, and when people think of altering their features, it’s usually some type of spontaneous thought, and they’ll Google it. So when someone thinks of plastic surgery, they may see something that made them think of having surgery. Perhaps it was a celebrity who has had plastic surgery or a program on plastic surgery, and they’ll get information right away.
11. Do you implement video consultation for any of your patients?
I do just that. I use Skype or Face Time frequently, especially with the hairline lowering operation. I want to see if someone is a suitable patient and that is why I utilize the video consultation as I hate to have them travel across country or across the continent and find out they’re not a good patient for the procedure. With a video consultation, I can put them through a number of maneuvers and have them draw some lines and follow some instructions and say, “Is this what you want? Can you move the scalp this way and that way?” I’ve yet to miss someone to the degree that they came from elsewhere and they weren’t surgical candidates when I saw them.
That’s mostly with these hair loss consultations. The facelift and rhinoplasty patients aren’t consulting me much online. Actually I prefer them to be local patients who come in for an actual inpatient visit. I prefer they be local as they need to have different care plans. I can’t just do the operation and send them home a day or two later. I really want them in the area to go through the healing process and post-opp. Plus, the facelift patients are older, and they usually have general health issues that you have to really watch.
12. If you could give another cosmetic surgeon or surgeon in general some advice if they read this, whether it be marketing or how they obtain new patients to build a practice like yours, what advice would you give them?
I think you have to constantly write and rewrite relevant content about your areas of expertise and the procedures that you’re good at or want to increase your volume in. You have to just keep updating that information. I think the physician has to write it themselves; I don’t think there are writers who can really say what a physician would say. That’s the hardest thing for me.
I would also suggest you find a routine or process for gathering reviews from current and past clients.
Thank you for your time today Dr. Kabaker. I know the Audience of “I Love Plastic Surgery” is going to love this and that it’s really going to help patients make a better decision regarding the choice of their surgeon and assist other surgeons in helping them market their practice to achieve the success you have.
If you would like to know more about Dr. Sheldon please visit http://www.kabaker.com or contact him at (510) 451-1116 for a free consultation.