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Can plastic surgery be holistic?

It's a term that's used often in acupuncture clinics and nutritionists' offices. But in the world of tummy tucks and facelifts?


Holistic is a term that’s used often in acupuncture clinics and nutritionists’ offices. But in the world of tummy tucks and nose jobs? Not so much.

Enter Dr. Shirley Madhere, a New York doctor who is now providing breast augmentations and Botox under the banner of “holistic plastic surgery.”

“By definition, the term holistic doesn’t mean non-surgical,” Dr. Madhere says, when asked about the seeming contradiction in terms. “It means paying attention to complete systems instead of individual parts.” She’s right about the semantics, but it’s still a concept that sets off marketing alarm bells, especially when applied to cosmetic or elective beautifying procedures (as opposed to surgeries resulting from medical issues). So, can plastic surgery really be holistic?

The inspiration

Dr. Madhere says she was inspired by a patient who came in for liposuction and had fantastic results from a medical perspective. But in a post-op appointment with his wife, the two expressed concerns about how the surgery had affected his, well, groin area. “I thought, “OMG, even though I did everything by the book—I got him medically cleared, everything went supremely well—there’s still some concern, there’s worry. I’m not fully embodying the role of healer.’ I thought, ‘I have to do something a little bit differently.'”

Dr. Shirley Madhere (Photo: Dr. Shirley Madhere)
Dr. Shirley Madhere (Photo: Dr. Shirley Madhere)

The approach

To make changes that would put the “person before the procedure,” Dr. Madhere got trained in alternative therapies like homeopathy and Reiki and developed a protocol that involves six weeks of preparation before an individual’s surgery. During that time she may recommend an individual get acupuncture or take vitamins that boost collagen production, for example. She also shares a nutrition plan to reduce inflammation in the patient’s body so that they’ll be able to heal faster and fight infection later. “I want to help your body do what it needs to do, instead of just doing things to your body,” she says.

The controversy

All of this sounds like a good idea, but what about…not getting plastic surgery? Doesn’t the act of surgically altering your body automatically go against holistic principles that say you should embrace your whole, natural self?

“Inherent in that comment is a judgement,” she says. “I’ve heard a lot of it and I’m sure I’m going to hear a lot more. It’s really about my vision of how I would like to see my patients through whatever they’re choosing to do…in the interest of helping the person feel like they’re living their highest life and maximizing their potential.”

And the judgements and ideas people have about who’s getting plastic surgery and why they’re doing it are not always in line with reality, either, she says. “Do you know how many yogis ask for Botox in the third eye?”—Lisa Elaine Held

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