Argentina: a surgical trip of a lifetime

My academic cosmetic surgery travels have taken me to six continents over the past 15 years and I have been lucky to share the beauty and friendship of many countries.  This summer I lectured in Turkey and had an awesome trip.  Last week, I returned from Buenos Aires Argentina with phenomenal experience and memories.

I was honored to be asked to lecture and operate at the clinic of world renowned plastic surgery Guillermo Blugerman in Buenos Aires.  I was further honored to be invited as a visiting professor at Northeast University Medical School with the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery.  My good friend and AACS colleague, plastic surgeon Jane Petro, M.D. was also invited and present.

 Invitation for visiting professor

I have always heard that Buenos Aires was the “Paris of South America” and the name is apropos.  This city is truly a mix of New York, Berlin, Madrid, and Paris.  The architecture and sights are amazing.  The people are welcoming and it is the most fit city I have ever seen.  It appears that every citizen in Buenos Aires is a jogger.  Obesity does not seem to be a problem there.  It was their winter, but they also have palm trees and fruit trees, so it is a bit of oxymoron.

Plastic Surgeons Guillermo Blugerman, M.D. and his partner Diego  Schavelzon own B&S Cirugia Plastica (Plastic Surgery Clinic) which is a four story edifice in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires.  This is an amazing facility and the host of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Live Surgery Workshop.  The Argentinians are as much (if not more) into cosmetic surgery as any country.  The clinic is a combination of many rooms and some really beautiful art.  Guillermo and Diego are local celebrities and hosted a shows similar to Extreme Makeover (the Argentinian version) for 3 years.  People come from all over the world for their plastic surgery expertise, but they also do a lot of pro bono surgery on those less fortunate.

Watching a maestro play the piano, a ballerina dance, a thoroughbred race, or a talented surgeon operate is magic in motion and these docs can really do it.  They are good, innovative and fast.  In all, we performed 52 surgeries in 3 days including face, breast, body and vaginal rejuvenation.  I, of course, stayed on the head and neck.  Surgery there is pretty much like surgery here, although the anesthesia is lighter and the patients less sedated.  Guillermo and Diego have 4 plastic surgery residents or fellows and usually a host of international physician observers, medical students and surgical fellows.  The place is truly a hustle and bustle of action and surgery.

Plastic surgeons Dr. Jane Petro, Dr. Guillermo Blugerman, and Dr. Niamtu in Buenos Aires

B&S Plastic Surgery Clinic in downtown Buenos Aires

Dr. Niamtu teaching and operating in Buenos Aires

I had a really touching experience while there.  I am no stranger to operating free of charge on needy children and have a long history of such.  On this trip, I was expecting the usual affluent cosmetic surgery patients, when Guillermo asked me to consult on a 14 year old girl from an outlying village.  This beautiful young lady was named Andrea Fernandez and she was severely burned as a child while her brothers were playing with fire.  Dr. Blugerman and Schavelzon have performed many pro bono surgeries on Andrea and I was asked to perform cheek implants to fill out her scarred face and to a lip reduction on her lower lip to improve the aesthetics of the burned and reconstructed area.  The touching thing about this case was the family brought the doctors a sausage in payment for the surgery.  Andrea has been in my thoughts since the trip and I hope I can communicate with her.

Dr. Niamtu and his patient, the sweetest girl in Argentina

A sausage as payment for surgical services

There were about 20 doctors from all over the world at his course and it was a packed three days of lecturing and operating. Dr. Jane Petro (who is also the editor of the American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery) gave some great lectures, including one on surgical nutrition that was really important and often overlooked.  I spoke on browlift, facelift, otoplasty and cheek implants and performed these surgeries as well.

Socially, you have to go to a Tango Club in Buenos Aires, which was pretty cool.  Also, Argentina has to be the meat eating capitol of the world.  We at about every type of meat that you can think of and I also became a fan of Malbec wine as Argentina is very serious about their wine. My good friend, plastic and pediatric surgeon Honorio Labaronnie and his wife Sonia (and their adorable son Alfie) were kind enough to haul us around Buenos Aires to see the sights and cook us some traditional grub.  Really an awesome family.  Speaking of families, Guillermo and is wife Monica allowed us to join them and their six children at their country home on July 9th, which is Argentine independence day.  The Argentinians barbecue at the drop of a hat, and for sure on every Sunday, but especially on their Independence day.  We went to a small town celebration complete with Gauchos and the largest barbecue I have ever seen.  Hundreds of chickens, miles of sausage and an entire cow (yep, entire cow, teeth, horns, fur, tail) split down the middle on the world’s largest grill!  April and I were honored to be part of their family.

Dr. Joe, April, Sonia and Dr. Honorio on a personally guided trip of Buenos Aires

Dr. Joe in front of the biggest barbeque ever; and entire cow.Viva Argentina!

Barbeque with the Blugerman’s

Dr. J drinking mate, traditional Argentinian tea

I could write a book on this trip and the many memories and experiences.  I love cosmetic surgery for so many reasons and one of them is meeting friends like Guillermo and Monica and seeing their surgical skills and their homelands.  I hope they will allow me to return the favor in Richmond in the near future.

To find out more about cosmetic facial surgery by Dr. Joe Niamtu, III in Richmond, Virginia, visit www.lovethatface.com

Joe Niamtu, III DMD

Cosmetic Facial Surgery

Richmond, Virginia