Even the young and beautiful go under the knife

By XU FAN (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-24 09:50
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Even the young and beautiful go under the knife
Ding Xiaobang is the director of the outpatient department of
the plastic surgery hospital PUMC. Wang Jing / China Daily

Staring gently at a patient awaiting plastic surgery, Ding Xiaobang, director of the outpatient department of the plastic surgery hospital PUMC in the World Trade Center in the east, seems more like a caring father than a surgeon.

Contradicting the commonly held belief that cosmetic surgery targets desperate old women who try to keep young, Ding reveals that young and good-looking people from wealthy families are his main clients.

METRO: How did you become a cosmetic surgeon?

A: At the very beginning, I studied as a medical student at Bengbu Medical College in Anhui province. As a medical student, you have to learn all the basic courses, including internal medicine, pharmacology and surgeries.

I didn't apply for a graduate program in plastic surgery during my last year in college in 1996. But I got a chance to have an internship in a Shanghai hospital. The most prestigious plastic surgeon Zhang Disheng became my mentor. It was his guidance that triggered my interest in plastic surgery.

METRO: What did you learn from Zhang?

A: Zhang was 81 then. He successfully operated on a 9-year-old girl who suffered from a heart malformation. The girl's heart was literally under the skin and could almost be seen which means the heart was without the protection of any bones.

It was my first realization that plastic surgery could change a person's life. So I decided to make it my career.

METRO: Do you still remember your first plastic surgery?

A: Well, I remember I was very nervous and even trembling a little. But I have done too many operations over the past 14 years. I can't remember it clearly.

But I can tell you my first operation in Beijing. A middle school girl who suffered from upper eyelids that drooped visited me with her mother.

She couldn't open her eyes, as the muscles of her eyelids were too weak. The young girl was very distressed, as her classmates laughed at her. I used a 1.5-cm-wide muscle fiber from her forehead for the eyelids. After her recovery - when she opened her eyes the first time - I will never forget how happy she was.

METRO: Has being a cosmetic surgeon provided some interesting experiences?

A: Well, the strangest time was when I met a patient accompanied by her huofo, a so-called "living Buddha". Actually, this "living Buddha" was more like a fortuneteller. The girl wanted to marry a billionaire from southern China, where some rich families believe that the wife's facial appearance can influence the husband's fortune or success. "Peach blossom cheeks" or full-shaped cheeks, are believed to be auspicious. The girl wanted to adjust her cheeks and brought along her "living Buddha" to remind me to be careful about not changing other parts, which might break other taboos.

METRO: Do your clients sometimes behave mysteriously and secretly?

A: Always - I'm kidding. Most of them just believe what their friends say. Those who do behave mysteriously are actors or actresses who want to keep a low a profile and not be recognized. They prefer to come to my clinic at dusk, when there are very few people around.

I remember one young lady, who was from a rich and powerful family, asked her driver to make sure there were no other visitors in the clinic before she came in each time.

METRO: Have you ever encountered any trouble?

A: I guess it's a problem every plastic surgeon faces. Some clients are extremely picky, sometimes unreasonably picky. What a surgeon can do is to improve a client's original appearance they can't make the face look completely perfect. That wouldn't be surgery, it would be magic.

METRO: Are there any new trends emerging?

A: Yes, it's a funny; people usually associate cosmetic surgery with older women who want to look younger and prettier.

But according to my experience, young and good-looking members of the rich second generation seem to be the main clients. About 60 percent of my patients are young people.

Some people would definitely turn heads on the street. They want to look perfect and use surgery like morning makeup. Sometimes, they even invite me to cafes or restaurants to discuss their surgery plans. Their makeup artists and private photographers are also there to let me know which part of the face is not yet perfect.