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Dr. Rudolf Thompson is a board certified plastic surgeon and founder of the Thompson Center for Plastic Surgery in Colts Neck, NJ. With a constant focus on patient education and safety, Dr. Thompson performs procedures ranging from breast augmentation, reduction and reconstruction, to body contouring and facial rejuvenation, to non-surgical treatments like Botox, SmartLipo and Hydrafacials. Dr. Thompson believes nothing is more beautiful than confidence. His goal is to help his patients feel better about themselves, whether they’re in the boardroom, on the beach or at their child’s soccer game. Dr. Thompson is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Interview With Dr. Rudolf Thompson
Question: You launched your practice in 2009 when we were waist deep in a recession. How did you manage to grow your business in such a challenging economic climate?
I tried to not focus on one single specialty in plastic surgery. I tried to be a true doctor. In other words, I built a practice based on the understanding that I was available for patients for both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures. I took on patients who may have been considered difficult cases, who other surgeons weren’t willing to take on, and I think a lot of hard work and extra call hours in the emergency room showed that I was dedicated. People remember that I was always there for them.
When we launched our practice, I was leaving another practice where I had been for approximately nine years. I was fortunate enough to have an established patient base, many whom followed me, so that definitely helped. My wife, Sharon, did a wonderful job assembling our office staff, and people who visit our practice feel at home. They don’t feel like a number or a statistic.
I spend a lot of time with patients, and some say I spend as much time with them as their primary care physician. I think we succeeded in growing the practice by being there for patients, doing the right thing, focusing on patient safety, and showing them that we were driven by a desire to do what’s best for them.
Question: What is the biggest misconception that people have about plastic surgery?
Most of what people see and hear about plastic surgery on TV isn’t real. It’s sensationalized. Sometimes plastic surgery is portrayed as quick and easy. People think it’s fine to do five or six surgeries at once, expect a smooth recovery and go right back to work. Patients get a lot of bad information from television and, quite frankly, from patients of non-certified plastic surgeons on social media and other places on the internet.
My biggest job from the outset is to educate. When a patient comes in for a cosmetic consultation, I take a complete history, find out their motivations and expectations, and make sure they have an understanding of what they’re getting into. For example, smoking is dangerous if you’re considering cosmetic surgery, and sometimes a person’s body type isn’t right for the type of procedure they want.
Safety always trumps financial gain and even the patient’s desires. It all starts with thinking about the whole patient, their lifestyle and their medical history, and then educating the patient. I actually turn a lot of patients away, not for my sake, but for their own safety.
Question: You’re very active on Facebook and Twitter with more than 2,000 combined fans and followers. How are you using social media to grow your practice?
To Sharon’s credit, as the doors were swinging open to our practice, she was right there, front and center, on Facebook and Twitter, before any other plastic surgeons in our area. Having a skilled social media manager in your practice is not a bonus. It’s a necessity. When people want information, they’re going online, finding out about other people’s experiences on social media. It allows us to share valuable information about things like recovery times, what to expect after treatment, or if a certain type of treatment isn’t right for you, what might be better alternative.
It also allows us to warn people about something they see on TV that they should watch out for. I know what’s new out there, what’s cutting edge, and social media offers a great way to share information. There are a lot of non-certified surgeons performing unsafe procedures, so I always encourage people to speak with me first before they decide to move forward with something they see on TV. I think it’s my responsibility to put proven science ahead of the hype and educate people.
Question: You’ve also had success with traditional advertising and hosting educational events about specific types of procedures. How does the Thompson Center for Plastic Surgery integrate different types of marketing?
Our in-office seminars are more important than ever. We send out announcements through social media and email, invite people to come to our practice, and it becomes more of an educational session than a marketing vehicle. This gives us the opportunity to sit down with patients one-on-one or conduct a group consultation. When they become educated, they can pay it forward and educate their friends.
We present real before-and-after photos and bring in real patients to share their experiences. We might bring in a mom whose pregnancies may have taken a toll on her body. She can tell people about her “mommy makeover” face-to-face and through social media, how we not only helped her regain her pre-pregnancy shape, but just as importantly, we helped her feel more confident.
Aside from growing the practice, our marketing has two goals – educate our patients, and most importantly, keep people safe.
Question: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What can you do to help women affected by breast cancer?
Number one is education with a capital “E.” If I have a patient with cancer, they’re often very distraught and scared about their diagnosis. I give them an honest rundown of what they should expect. I’m a board certified general surgeon as well as a plastic surgeon, so I’m qualified to talk about what they should expect from their general surgeon, and when I come into the picture. We discuss things like proper nutrition, blood work, chemotherapy and what they should look for post-operatively with self-exams.
Reconstructive surgery after breast cancer is a very long process. It involves building the breast through multiple surgeries, and patients really need a lot of emotional support. They’re basically dealing with the amputation of a sacred organ in their body. A cancer patient will become my patient for the rest of their lives. I encourage patients to get involved with various events and fundraisers to help others who might be dealing with breast cancer, and I’m happy to facilitate local support groups.
With my non-cancer patients, they need to know that having a breast-related procedure doesn’t make them immune. I strongly encourage them to keep getting yearly mammograms, regular checkups with their Ob/Gyn and primary care doctor even if they don’t have a history, but especially if they do. Our mission is always focused on education, support and safety.