We all have a face, and we all have some sort of desire to be presentable. And that is exactly what Dr. Daria Hamrah, one of America’s top Double Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial / Facial Cosmetic Surgeons & a star on social media, helps bring forward for all his patients. Countless celebrities and notable folks have gone to him, and during COVID-19 he’s seen a huge spike in patients wanting their faces/necks slimmed down so they look better on Zoom calls.
And while we still all mostly wear masks, our eyelids, ears and more all shine through… and so we investigated more into what Dr. Hamrah is doing in the facial cosmetic world to help all us Americans look & feel good again, being a proud American + his charity give backs he has been up to with his foundation!
1. Why did you set your sights on becoming a facial cosmetic surgeon?
I get asked that question a lot. It wasn’t until my senior year in residency in the department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Miami, when I was part of the head and neck tumor and reconstructive team treating patients with head and neck cancer. I remember, one day a patient that had just undergone a big facial reconstruction after we pretty much saved his life treating his oral cancer, asking me during a follow up visit, if there is a way to improve his scars. Since that day I started paying more attention to my patients’ needs about cosmetic improvements. I became more curious to find ways to improve their aesthetic outcomes as I noticed how important their appearance is for their self esteem and self confidence. I had realized that “just” saving someone’s life is not the endpoint of the treatment and as those patients, just like all of us do, have emotions and feelings that need to be heard and addressed. This became even more evident to me when dealing with facial trauma patients that were victims of accidents with multiple facial fractures and lacerations that I reconstructed during my training.
2. How do you hope your procedures you do will help to change the lives of your patients?
No part of your body is more exposed than your face. We use our face to communicate, every single day. Our face communicates with others, how we feel, whether we are sad, happy or tired, whether we are ill or healthy. So, it is important that we look how we feel. When we look in the mirror we like to look how we feel. If our body feels young and fresh, we don’t like to look old or tired. Any discrepancies cause a subconscious loss of confidence and self-esteem. Those feelings affect us in our personal lives as well as professional lives. It is not a secret that confidence leads to success. So I like to think of myself as a “self-esteem doctor”. Why? Because I make people look the better version of themselves which gives them the confidence and self-esteem they are looking for. However, this is not to be confused with a person that is unhappy for other reasons or is suffering from depression that has other psychological disorders. Or someone that obsesses about a minor problem that no one else can see, or worse even, doesn’t even exist. Nothing I do with facial aesthetic surgery can help with that and as a matter of fact, many times it can worsen their condition because of their false expectations. Many expect that a surgical improvement will solve all their problems in life, which we all know it clearly cannot. So, am I going to fix their problems? No. Can I help improve their self confidence? Absolutely!
3. How has it been running your practice during the pandemic?
It has definitely been challenging, especially last year when the pandemic hit. No one knew how bad it was and many thought of the coronavirus as the death sentence. Unfortunately the media didn’t help our cause by politicizing and dramatizing the events for ratings and political interests. Not only we were just learning about the virus, but trying to do so in the midst of an election year, which made things even more complicated. Policies kept changing almost on a daily basis and didn’t make sense from a health care perspective and were quite confusing, frequently causing anxiety for our patients and our staff. So it wasn’t easy navigating through those tough waters for sure. But I always try to look at the bright side of things and am an optimist by nature. I used the opportunity to reevaluate everything. From my personal life and the things that matter to me the most, like my family and my kids, to improving our policies and restructuring my surgery center to better serve our patients and guarantee their health and safety. A lot of education, training and logistical restructuring to keep everyone safe. Using Telehealth was a big transformation which we will continue even post-pandemic. It has opened the door for many patients that are interested to see me from out of state and all over the world. Today we are seeing a huge number of out of state patients as a result and are serving patients nationally as well as internationally.
4. Which procedure has been the most in-demand during these times?
As to the COVID pandemic, there has been certainly an uptick in patients coming to me for rhinoplasties (nose jobs) and my popular “Hamrah Facial Slimming” procedure that in essence removes excess fat from the face and neck coupled with tightening of the sagging skin using a new radio-frequency device. As more and more people spend time on ZOOM and FaceTime, they start noticing imperfections and traits they dislike. They simply spend more time than ever looking at themselves and notice things they hadn’t before. The two most common complaints are: “ I don’t like my double chin!” and “My cheeks are sagging!”.
For most patients below the age of 45 years, the treatments include cheek and neck fat removal together with “non-surgical” skin tightening using radio-frequency technology. For patients above the age of 45, common treatment options include face and neck lift which is a surgical option. As to “new trends” most of them don’t really work and are not recommended, at least by the more experienced clinicians (which I consider myself one of them). They simply are what they mean, “trends”. Many of them have come and gone in the past, like “Thread-lifts”, and don’t work and capitalize on the hype, until people that had it realized it didn’t work. So, I don’t offer my patients something that I wouldn’t do for my own family.
5. You also continue to give back through The Alegria Foundation. Tell us about it?
The Alegria Foundation that I co-founded with my fellow surgeons serves children and young adults in underserved areas in South and Central America, that suffer form facial birth defects like cleft lip and palate. It was what inspired me as a first year student to become a maxillo-facial surgeon and has become my “North” ever since. It really gives me a sense of purpose and happiness. I can’t help it but to get goose bumps and sometimes even choke up when I am asked to talk about it. It means so much to me to know that I can make a difference in so many people’s lives. From the children to their entire families, specially their parents who most of the times are helpless, hopeless and even blame themselves for their children’s deformities. Every year when we go back for our mission work and see some of the children that we performed surgery on the year before, it feels like a family reunion. Seriously, sometimes the feelings I have for those children are not any different than the ones I have for my own children. They all dream of having a normal life, to be able to play outside with other kids and go to school or simply into public like other kids do. Without fear of being bullied or worst, not being accepted into the society. So, in short, it gives my entire life a meaning and purpose. For that opportunity I am forever grateful and thank my teachers who inspired me and taught me the art and science of what I do today.
6. Why is it your duty as an American to still help those around the world?
I grew up in many different countries on different continents and have traveled all around the world. I don’t see the world as “countries” with borders, but rather than one people living on the same planet. Perhaps if I had lived in the same town all my life and hadn’t traveled as much, I would not be thinking this way. We are all the product of our past and to me it doesn’t matter who I help. I wish more people had the opportunity I had, to explore the world with its different people and realize that we are all the same. People with the same wishes, hopes and dreams. To be happy and to have food on the table and more importantly to be able to eat and drink without worrying of choking because of a defect in our mouth or face. Simple things. So to me it’s not just a passion as a surgeon to put my craft to work and serve others, but more so my duty to help others no matter who they are and where they live. Not asking for anything in return. People should try it some time. To me, it is the true source of happiness and most deliberating feeling you can get. I challenge anyone reading this article.
7. What advice would you give to others wanting to become surgeons too?
The biggest advice I can give anyone is that, make sure it is something you are passionate about and see yourself doing everyday for the rest of your life. Whether you want to be a surgeon, a pilot or a teacher. No profession is long term sustainable and brings happiness, unless you are passionate about it. As to being a surgeon, I can tell you that it is a calling and not a profession or a simple job. You never stop being a doctor. Not on the weekends, not during vacation, not even when you are asleep at night. At any time a patient could call you with a concern or an emergency and you’d have to answer or worse even go to the hospital. Whether it is your child’s birthday party or on a Sunday in the middle of a family barbecue. You don’t get any time off, period. So, unless you love what you do and genuinely care about your patients, you won’t be able to sustain it long term. Also you have to be empathetic and kind as well as mentally and physically strong. You can’t help others if you’re weak mentally or physically yourself. You can’t care for someone if you don’t have empathy. So being a surgeon is a calling, you have to want it more than anything else.
8. What things in your industry would you like to see changed here in the US?
I think we are doing pretty well here in the US if we use the rest of the world as a standard. We are definitely on top of the pack and that is why everyone, including myself came to the US to train as a surgeon. Every doctor’s dream is to come to the US and train as a surgeon. Unless of course they don’t wish to be a surgeon. However, this doesn’t mean we cannot or shouldn’t strive to improve. In my opinion, there is always room for improvement.
But if I could change one big thing, it is to bring the psychological aspect of what we do as cosmetic and plastic surgeons into the student’s education as well as our current scientific literature. As a profession we don’t talk enough about it and worse even dismiss it frequently with opinions like: “Well, we are surgeons, not psychologists!” Well, guess what, that will have to change! We affect our patients emotions and feelings in so many ways with what we do and should be better prepared to help them not just with the scalpel, but with more in depth conversations and psychological knowledge. We cannot look at them as objects but rather than vulnerable human beings that oftentimes struggle with their aging process and midlife crises. It is not just transforming their bodies or faces, we transform their lives by improving their self esteem and self confidence. We need to learn more about how to handle that aspect better and not simply dismiss it. So our approach had to change and it starts with educating the students and residents in training.
9. If you weren’t a surgeon, what do you feel you would be doing?
I would probably be a surgeon! No, seriously! I never had a plan B and don’t even know how I would answer this question. Being a surgeon educator, researcher and scientist, I do however enjoy teaching and education. I love inspiring others to become a better version of themselves. By that I mean spiritually from a human aspect, not as a doctor. During my own spiritual journey and self discovery, I came across many amazing people and learned so much about human behavior and the psychology of the human brain, that I became fascinated and to a point obsessed. Every day I try to understand why we make certain decisions or behave a certain way and try to apply what I learn and even teach others. Just today, I had a patient come to my office for her quarterly botox visit and she started choking up by telling me how much she appreciates me, genuinely, for having had an inspiring conversation during her last visit 4 months ago. Apparently I helped her a lot with her struggle by giving her simple advice and perspective about her personal struggles, which according to her, changed her life. So, to me, it is about these little things that make a big difference in someone else’s life, that bring me great joy. Basic human interaction and simply listening and trying to help.
10. Why are you proud to be American?
America to me is the true land of opportunity. It represents who I am as an entrepreneur, surgeon and a human being. It is about new frontiers and limitless opportunities. I have lived in many centuries and can tell you that there is nothing like here. Of course the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But I have come from the other side of the fence and let me tell you, it is simply not true. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but the question was directed at me and this is my humble opinion. I am proud to be American, because America is an immigrant country and I am a first generation immigrant from Germany with Persian heritage, so in essence, a “double immigrant”. As much as I love my heritage and am proud of it, to me, ultimately It doesn’t matter where you are from. It matters more where you are in the present and where you’re going! If you work hard, don’t complain and just follow your passion, this country will give you all you need. One of my favorite quotes comes from former US President John F. Kennedy who said: “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!”. I find happiness in giving back and providing my services to my community. I am grateful for what this country has given me. Opportunity!
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