Q&A with Adam H. Hamawy, MD, FACS of Princeton Plastic Surgeons

Interview by Taylor Smith | Photos courtesy of Princeton Plastic Surgeons

State the name of your practice, where you are located, and what attracted you to the Princeton community?

I work at Princeton Plastic Surgeons, which is located at 106 Stanhope Street in Princeton Forrestal Village.  I chose Princeton mainly because it is not far from where I grew up in Old Bridge, N.J. This is basically home for me. It also, as everyone who lives here knows, happens to be very strategically located. This part of New Jersey is beautiful and the people are as diverse and intelligent as any large city in the country. It is about 50 miles from both New York City and Philadelphia which is close enough to enjoy but far enough to give me room to build a practice. 

Describe your educational background, time in the military, and how that has informed and impacted your practice as a plastic surgeon.

As I mentioned, I grew up in New Jersey, where I went to high school then did my undergrad and medical school at Rutgers University (what used to be called the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey).  I then ventured across the Hudson and completed my general surgery internship and residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.  When I finished my training in 2003, the U.S. had just entered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the armed forces wanted surgeons who can manage trauma. That is when I entered active duty in the U.S. Army, where I served three years and was deployed in Iraq with the 31st Combat Support Hospital in 2004 as a combat trauma surgeon. That is where I became interested in plastic surgery. I saw devastating injuries to the face and body and realized that just saving these lives was not enough. They need a lot of reconstruction to restore their lives and make them look and feel normal again.  At that time, the U.S. Army only had 12 plastic surgeons, so they were more than happy when I volunteered to get trained. After I got back, the military sent me to best plastic surgery training program in the country, UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. There, I learned under masters of both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Besides my time in Iraq, it was probably the most intense and busy time in my life. After a tour in Iraq and two years in Dallas, there wasn’t anything that I could not handle.

The rest of my time in the military was spent working with service members and their families.  In addition to complex reconstructions there was a long waiting list for cosmetic surgery, which was available at reduced prices when time and space were available. The volume of procedures and the breadth of practice allowed me to perfect the skills that I had gained during my training. The crossover also gave me the perspective of seeing a patient who needs reconstruction as a cosmetic patient who wants to look their best and where attention to fine details matter, even if it’s only in the patient’s perception. I also see the patient with cosmetic concerns at a much deeper level. I don’t just look at the surface and what bothers them, but I try to assess and address all their underlying structures and how that impacts what we all see. I know it is not all about lifting and pulling, but also about building a solid foundation and building on that.

In what ways do you seek to build trust and understanding between yourself and your patients? Give a specific example of how technology has helped to build trust and understanding between patient and physician as it relates to outcome and expectations.

We all think that plastic surgery is about making people look better, but that is not really what it is all about. I believe that the goal of plastic surgery is to allow individuals to feel better about themselves. Sometimes the physical changes that we make are so subtle that others don’t notice them, or are hidden under clothes and others don’t see them. But if the patient notices and sees it and is happy, then that is all that matters. Conversely, if I inject a filler, reshape a nose, or enhance a breast and the patient is not happy, then it really doesn’t matter how good it looks, I still have a problem. That is why I think it is very important to get know my patients and understand what they want.  How can I make them happy otherwise?  One of the best tools for communication that technology has now been able to help with is three-dimensional digital simulations. This allows us to communicate better and actually visualize what we were previously only able to describe in words. It takes the ambiguity out of terms like “natural,” “too big,” or “smaller.” When someone asks for a smaller straighter nose I can show them what I can realistically achieve with a procedure and he or she can say that is right or not.  Or when a woman asks for larger breasts that look “natural” I can show her a simulation of her own image of what she herself would likely look like with a specific implant down to the catalog number. Now she can respond and say to me that it looks too big, too small, or just right. Now the expectations and my abilities are aligned and chances of disappointment are reduced. We couldn’t do that before.

Where are your surgical procedures conducted and how would you characterize the difference between a surgical procedure that is purely cosmetic in nature vs. a procedure that is medically needed to improve the quality of a patient’s life?

Most of the minor procedures are performed in the office, and I perform most of my larger procedures at the hospital. It really comes down to safety and patient comfort.  I also sometimes operate out of one the many ambulatory surgery centers that are in the area. In my mind, there really isn’t a major difference between “cosmetic” and “reconstructive” plastic surgery.  They both have to be taken equally as serious.  Most patients come because they have real complaint that makes them unhappy. Quaility of life can be dramatically improved and confidence restored even when there is no “medical” indication. Cosmetic surgery is still surgery and complications can happen. So they have to be handled with as much attention to detail and care as any medical procedure. Disasters happen when patients and doctors characterize them differently and try to cut costs and corners because they didn’t take them as seriously.

What are some of your most popular MedSpa offerings and where and by whom are they conducted?

Botox and fillers are the most popular MedSpa services offered. Noninvasive services like CoolSculpting, a procedure where we freeze away fat without surgery, and facial skin tightening come in a close second. The classic services like chemical and laser peels, hair removal, IPLs, and Hydrafacials never go out of style. Currently, I personally perform all the injections and laser resurfacing treatments.
I have an aesthetician and a medical assistant that help with other spa services.

Princeton Plastic Surgeons
106 Stanhope Street
Princeton Forrestal Village
609.910.1114