• Jennifer Lee, MD

Aesthetics as a Component of Integrative Medicine

An Interview with Plastic Surgeon Jennifer S. Lee, MD

How do aesthetics fit into an integrative medical practice like the Rothfeld Center?

Integrative Medicine is rooted in the understanding that no health concern exists in isolation, but rather each issue affects the whole person, both body and mind. The treatment of long-term health conditions is a process in which it often takes time to see positive progress. For example, functional medicine patients typically need to work with me for 3-6 months before they feel significantly better. Aesthetic procedures, on the other hand, can be a quick pick-me-up to help boost confidence, ease depression, and soften the stigma of chronic illness. Even something as simple as a luxurious skin care product reinforces self-care and mindfulness. This then creates a positive feedback loop for overall wellness. In this way, aesthetics can support the intricate relationship between outward appearance and internal health.

What do you do as a plastic surgeon in an integrative health practice?

I perform procedures on the skin and underlying tissue. At the Rothfeld Center, I will be offering injections, as well as minor procedures such as scar revisions and mole removals. However, because the skin does not exist separately from other body systems, I take a holistic approach to each patient. The best skin health is only achievable when we focus simultaneously on inner wellness. As a plastic surgeon who also practices integrative and functional medicine, I am able to help with both skin health and inner wellness. When the patients I treat for medical issues like irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, and anxiety start to feel well, they also look better, to themselves and to others.

What does appearance have to do with overall health?

Our appearance is our interface with the outside world, and, as such, directly impacts other aspects of our health. Two examples of this are: · Children with obesity or severe acne often have low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, which can be compounded by bullying. The repercussions in turn affect overall mental and physical health, potentially for the rest of the individual’s life. · Several small studies found a reduction of depression scores with Botox treatment of brow wrinkles. An article in the journal Nature reviewed post-marketing safety surveillance data of Botox, Dysport, Xeomin, and MyoBloc (all different brand names) that showed anti-depressive effects regardless of injection site. What we see in the mirror and how others perceive our appearance can change the way we navigate our lives.

How is your approach to aesthetics unique?

I offer patients a holistic approach to aesthetics. With my experience in functional medicine, I will recommend a plan that takes into account chemical sensitivities, allergies, and other health concerns that may have brought you to the Rothfeld Center in the first place. I can help you decide whether a procedure would be safe for you in the context of another illness. I am also able to give you an unbiased second opinion about any other plastic surgical procedure you may be researching, as I have performed many cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries over my career, including wound care, cancer and trauma reconstruction, facelifts, and tummy tucks.

What can I expect as an aesthetic patient in your practice?

I enjoy educating my patients about aesthetics and explaining what I am doing and why. In general, I have long-term relationships with my patients that allow me to adjust and optimize their treatments over time. If this is what you are looking for in your plastic surgeon, you are my ideal patient! Through a thorough interview and exam, I will assess your aesthetic goals and recommend a treatment plan. In general, I use filler injections to restore youthful facial proportions and to soften wrinkles. I will not inject filler that drastically changes how your face looks and moves. I prefer to dose conservative amounts of Botox or Dysport to smooth wrinkles but maintain baseline muscle tone and some facial movement. I will explain to you what will happen to your facial features and movement with a higher dose. Sometimes I recommend no procedure. Sometimes an optimal plan will involve multiple procedures over time. If you have a limited budget, I will work with you to maximize your available options. I will always recommend a skincare regimen to support skin health overall and to help maintain results from any procedure. If you are open to learning about nutrition and lifestyle changes, I can help you to improve your appearance by improving your overall health. My ideal patient also shares my philosophy that we are not defined by our appearance alone.

What is your best anti-aging advice?

Change your mindset! To be honest, the older I get the more I dislike the term anti-aging. Anti-aging buys into the idea that we should be fighting against aging. First of all, it is an impossible task. Even more damaging than denial, anti-aging reduces our life experiences to merely wrinkles and age spots. Looking older is not purely negative, and we need not avoid it at all costs. Yes, there absolutely is age bias in our culture – especially towards women. But changing those biases can only occur if we look at aging in an entirely different way. Let’s shift the focus from erasing and reversing to preserving, restoring and enhancing. An educated approach to facial aesthetics, when integrated with your preferences, mindfulness, and a healthy lifestyle, is going to allow you to look your best – at any age!

Do you have future plans for your role at the Rothfeld Center?

I love to teach, and I plan to continue offering the educational series for both functional medicine and aesthetics. I want to hear from patients regarding future topics they would like me to address. I would also like to form a support group for chronic illness to provide community as an aspect of healing. As the aesthetic practice continues to grow, I will be able to add more services like laser therapy, microneedling, and other complementary treatments patients would like to have available. I welcome any feedback and suggestions that will allow me to best serve you, and I look forward to communicating with you into the future.