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Proving the Haters Wrong

Tackling the times in our lives when people doubt us and our chances to succeed.

I often have the privilege of meeting people at a point in their lives when they’re dealing with a personal challenge. Usually, it’s something physical about themselves that they’ve decided to change through surgery in hopes of feeling more confident.

Success is never handed to you. There’s rarely a one-size-fits-all solution (surgical or otherwise) or one road to get there. What all challenges require? Ongoing hard work. 

Most people who pursue cosmetic surgery understand that surgery is not a ‘cure all’. Cosmetic surgery (including hair transplants) can absolutely help with self-esteem and confidence for the right patient, but surgery isn’t a one and done. Successfully overcoming challenges (all challenges in life) is often a work in progress.  

In the spirit of appreciating challenges, today I want to share some of the strategies I’ve used to tackle my own life challenges, including how I persevered, and the important life lessons I learned from each one.   


Coming to America

Like many, many Americans, my family has an immigrant origin. Along with the opportunities comes challenges to overcome. 

My parents left Soviet Ukraine (U.S.S.R. before the fall of the Soviet Union) when I was very young and moved us to Brooklyn, New York, hoping for a better life and more opportunities. 

Ironically, one of the first challenges I dealt with was being an immigrant – different. I had what to American kids (and teachers) was an ‘exotic’ first name (Igod/Igor) and it made me stand out. My solution was to Americanize my first name while I was in grade school (I chose Gary), hoping that would solve the problem. 

Did changing my name help me? Sure, but it didn’t make the problems that came with being different go away. Even when I switched schools and everyone met me as Gary, eventually kids discovered I spoke Russian and the label of communist was thrown around (ironically why my family left Soviet Ukraine).  


What did I learn? Ignorance and prejudice are something many (if not all) of us experience at some point in our lives. Kids can be mean, and it isn’t something that’s always extinguished as you get older. 

But I also learned that changing something about yourself won’t make all the problems go away. You can’t control how people see you, only how you see yourself.  


Small Fish in a Big Pond

My next big challenge came while I was in college. I graduated from Cornell, but I started at Hofstra University on Long Island, the cheapest option available to me and closest to home. My dad had lost his job and money was tight. By staying close, I was able to live at home and commute and the tuition didn’t cripple us.

Chances to test yourself aren’t infinite – don’t squander the challenges that help you grow! 

But after a year, I was craving more of a ‘college experience’. My grades were great, I had the opportunity, and I was ready for a challenge. 

There were some naysayers close to home however, people who cared about me and I respected. Cornell was hard – the pre-med track was rumoured to be cutthroat (page theft from the library was a big one – to prevent other students from studying the material). I was doing well at home – a big fish in a small pond – why risk it?

Fast forward a couple years and I went to Cornell anyways – and I excelled. In fact, I got into Columbia med school – one of the Universities I hadn’t gotten into originally and that had been one of my first choices. I felt like I made it, and that all the hard work had paid off. 


What did I learn? That challenging yourself is the only way you’ll ever know if you can succeed. What would have happened if I had played it safe and never challenged myself? 

I would have stolen from myself the opportunity to learn that I can excel at a top university.

Life is short – don’t squander opportunities to test yourself! 


The Road Less Taken…

My next big challenge came during medical school. Licensing exams. It’s an important step to getting a great residency and the outcome of your licensing exams can really shape the rest of your medical career. 

The well-trodden advice in medical school is to stay focussed on your specialty and take the right classes. There’s a protocol to follow, and the advice is not to get creative. Your licensing exams will suffer. 


I got creative.

 I went against the crowd and got creative in med school with my program.

I knew I wanted a residency in head and neck surgery, but it was also important to me to pursue other interests and med school experiences – clubs, research, societies – I decided to expand my horizons.

As predicted, my licensing exam scores took a hit. They were mediocre, and I hadn’t applied for a back-up specialty. 


So, what happened? Well, people read past my licensing score and looked at everything else I brought to the table. I also refused to let a single score on one exam define me (or my residency applications) and I made that clear in my application by highlighting everything else I brought to the table. Might I have lost a few options due to that score? Sure, but considering my priorities and values, that might be a good thing. 


The takeaway is not to let people define you by any single thing, and I think it applies to many things beyond test scores, including a feature you may be seeking to change through cosmetic surgery. 


Tortoises and Hares

You know the old children’s tale about the hare and turtle? During my residency I was a turtle. 

I like to take my time and make sure things are done properly, thoroughly, and to my standard – the best thing in my mind for my patient. That’s just my personality. During my residency, I was meticulous with procedures and surgery prep, but I took my time.  

I had it brought to my attention during my residency that I wasn’t getting through surgeries fast enough. Sometimes speed and efficacy can coincide (and sometimes speed is critical), but not always. Unfortunately, the medical industry (especially in the USA) prioritizes speed, and it’s partly due to how insurance companies reimburse clinics, hospitals, and doctors. 

That posed a problem when I was ready to start out on my own. I still felt strongly that it was more important and satisfying to do the best job possible every time until I was satisfied. Which is why I decided not to take insurance and went entirely the aesthetics route, offering services I wasn’t yet known for and having to start from the ground up, building trust as I built my portfolio. 

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What did I learn? How important it can be to stick to your own style and not compromise your values. It would have been much simpler (and easier) to take a split of insurance when I started, but I wouldn’t have been happy with that. If I had taken insurance, I would have needed to focus on a lot of other procedures that I wasn’t as keen on, and I might not be where I am today. 

Instead, I developed my business in other ways. I published articles about techniques I was developing, went to conferences, collaborated with colleagues, and focused on building my reputation. 

Sometimes the easy way won’t be the right way for you. 


Trolls Under the Bridge

Finally, we come to the haters: online trolls, forums that spread misinformation… There really seems to be no limit these days of ways and places to spread hate. 

You’re a hair surgeon with no hair?! Why should I trust you?

I feel bad for people who feed on negativity and spread it to others. It can’t be easy to live with that much hate. 

I’ve shared my story and the type of hair loss I experienced (alopecia areata universalis), which is very different from the hair loss I typically treat (androgenic alopecia/male pattern baldness), but many haters aren’t particularly interested in the nuance, or the fact that my experience with hair loss gives me insights not all surgeons have. 


What has been my takeaway from the trolls? As a public person who’s experienced my share of online hate, I’ve realized that there are some people out there who see success as something to attack. I’ve had to learn how to deal with things and not take the trolls personally, but mostly, I find myself feeling bad for the negative people – it can’t be easy to live with that much hate.


Last Thoughts

And, on that note, remember to keep things positive! Though change can be great (like surgery) it won’t eliminate all the difficulties in your life. Learn to cherish life’s challenging moments for the opportunities they are and remember that no one thing defines you nor can anyone else dictate your priorities. 

Walk a path you can be proud of! 

If you are considering a lip lift, lip augmentation, or a hair transplant, visit us at City Facial Plastics to book a consultation and explore your options. For other cosmetic procedures and plastic surgeries, visit our Confidence Star list of recommended providers.


Written by
Kristi Charish
Edited by
Dr. Gary Linkov
The content of this newsletter is for entertainment and educational purposes only. This content is not meant to provide any medical advice or treat any medical conditions. Patients must be evaluated by an appropriate healthcare provider on an individual basis and treatment must be tailored to meet that patient’s needs. Results and particular outcomes are not guaranteed.


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