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How Covid-19 pandemic changed plastic and reconstructive surgery

LIPOELASTIC chats with Dr. Rotsaert - How the pandemic has shaped plastic surgery and what are the international trends

Dr. Veerle Rotsaert is one of the UK's leading female plastic surgeons and a co-founder of Tempus Belgravia. Originally from Belgium, Dr. Rotsaert is known for her international l career, and her patients value her for five-star aftercare. LIPOELASTIC was pleased to have a little chat and discuss some interesting topics such as plastic surgery trends, the aftercare and how the field is affected by the Covid19.

When did you decide you wanted to dedicate your career to the world of aesthetics?

I think because I saw from personal experience what a profound impact Plastic Surgery can have on someone's life. Whether that is repairing breasts post-breast cancer to giving trans people breasts and changing their entire life and confidence. Although often considered vain, these procedures change someone's body but also mind and some of my favourite moments in life is seeing my patients after a couple of months living their best life and walking just a little taller.

As a female plastic surgeon, how do you feel about the gender diversity in this field of expertise?

As a female Plastic Surgeon, you can’t help but wonder sometimes about at what point will I get the same level of respect as my male counterparts. Times are changing though... What used to be a predominantly male industry is (luckily) slowly becoming more gender diverse. It is what it is. I think getting underestimated as a female can sometimes be one’s biggest strength, because you can show people just how wrong their preconceived notions are about female Plastic Surgeons. 

How was it to develop a career outside of your country of origin? What was the biggest challenge?

Hard work, but so it was back in Belgium as well. I was born and raised in Belgium, did the biggest part of my training there, it’s a relatively small community, the doctor community in Belgium, so leaving this safety net behind was quite the jump into the unknown. Other countries come with other systems and habits etc. and also the competitive nature of the Plastic Surgery world in London.

You have had an impressive international career from the USA, Sweden, Belgium, Australia, and Spain. Could you compare plastic surgery trends in these countries?

My professional motto is: 'To be the best, you need to learn from the best...', therefore, I have done a lot of fellowships and training with some of the best and renowned surgeons.

The USA is very big, so obviously has major trends divides inside the USA as well. Miami for instance, I would say is all about a more 'obvious surgically enhanced' look. The Kardashian/look. Whereas, in New York and San Francisco, there is more and more a shift from a more obvious enhanced look to fully optimised (striving for perfection) imperceptible surgically enhanced faces and bodies.

Australia is all about breast augmentations and body contouring probably because they are so lucky they can spend much of their lives on the beach :-).

Belgium is very understated, I would say the ‘taboo’ surrounding Plastic Surgery is probably highest in Belgium, so my patients want imperceptible understated moderate improvements.
How would you say the Covid-19 pandemic affected plastic and reconstructive surgery?
In terms of the actual procedures, there are even more stringent safety measures in place to ensure patient safety. There are multiple Covid tests before surgery. And I do whatever I can virtually with my patients.

For the industry at large and what I think is an (indirect) result of the pandemic:
First and foremost, Covid-19 has been a reality check for all of us. So, where do beauty, aesthetics, and Plastic Surgery which are often described or seen as something non-essential and superficial, fit into a post-Covid-19 world?

There has been a DRAMATIC shift away from makeup and I predict exponential growth across skincare and, in its footsteps, treatments and devices. What used to be ingredients and treatments for people over their 40s (e.g. Botox, fillers, retinol, peels, etc) has now become very normalised for people in their 20s. Because of better scientific understanding and lessening stigma, I predict that for a younger generation Botox might even become a very normalised part of their skincare routine and aging prevention arsenal, which isn’t a bad thing when done by a professional and taking into account to never over-treat the under their 30s (meaning don’t treat too often, nor too much).
How did you adapt to the situation? What was the whole process like from the consultation to the procedure?

The first strict lockdown back in March 2020 caused a bit of an initial shock, I must say. I had just launched a clinic in Belgravia together with 3 partners. So the uncertainty of lockdown, and being jobless hit me pretty hard. I did after this initial shock rapidly tried to get a grip. I tried to make a contingency plan for my clinic in Belgravia, so next to a surgeon I am a Business Manager as well. Regarding the patient journey for a good almost 4 months I did all my consultations virtually and have to admit, it may have felt a bit strange at first but it’s quite a powerful tool. I lined up many patients so I had lots of surgeries to look forward to once the private hospital reopened.  In the meantime, I worked hard on building my profile on social media, developing nice collaborations, working on exciting projects together with my sister.

Do you stay in touch with the patients after the surgery? What would you say are the key elements of post-op care?

Where I try to differentiate myself is in my aftercare. I take aftercare as my utmost priority and try to hold my patients hands throughout the entire surgical process and beyond. Surgery is often a big life change and with that come to a lot of emotions and a challenge for the mind. It’s a rollercoaster for patients. An extensive consultation process that involves some psychological roadmapping and managing expectations is a big part of any surgeon’s job, especially Plastic Surgeons. 

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