“I just want to be well balanced in my chosen profession, in my community, in my giving back. What I strive for is a balance. I think the Greeks called it arête.”
My goal is always to be some sort of a Renaissance man, in my career and in my outside life,” says Jeffry B. Schafer, MD. “To not make my whole life medicine, but give a lot of time to that, but still have a lot of time to grow in all possible directions.” That he has done through scaling the mountains of medical success, cultural, charitable work, and his other great love, the great outdoors.
Schafer has been called the “father of modern laser liposuction.” His clinic, New Image Cosmetic Surgery, Coronado, Calif, not only serves the Southern California and San Diego areas, but has also been a place of mentorship for more than 100 physicians and 20 nurse trainers in the early days of laser lipolysis.
He has been awarded fellowships at King’s College of The University of London, and The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, DC.
However, in addition to his medical credentials, Schafer is active in cultural activities. He has been a board member of Mainly Mozart, The San Diego Opera and Partners Against Crime. Schafer feels strongly about giving back to the community and is a supporter of the Salvation Army and numerous children’s charities.
The Korean Sons
As far as his adventurous side, Schafer admits, “I enjoy being outdoors because I find that I’m cooped up in the operating room a lot of the time, and so I really enjoy hiking, international fishing, and hunting—just the opposite of being locked in a surgery suite.”
Photos in Schafer’s office depict a peacock mask from the Amazon, a fish caught in Costa Rica, petting a cheetah in South Africa, and ice hiking on glaciers in Alaska. “I used to ride a motorcycle, but as I got older I’ve gotten more conservative,” he adds.
His travel plans for the next year include Italy, Greece, Bali, and Singapore. “We’re just trying to get out and see the world and meet interesting people and try interesting foods.”
Being from a military family, international traveling has always been a way of life for Schafer. He characterizes himself as from all over the world, but he met his wife in San Diego and has enjoyed a long, happy marriage of 23 years. They don’t have any children of their own, so, keeping with his Renaissance man approach, he gathered a couple of “honorary Korean sons” together with a standard poodle named Jolle and managed to create a unique, beautiful family.
In Korea on a speaking engagement, the Schafers befriended two young men and, when they met, “We jokingly said these are our Korean sons,” he says. “We kept in good touch, they’ve been out here five times, and we’ve been out there several times and celebrated their weddings. So, we just feel very close to them.”
Although Schafer always knew he wanted to be a physician, there was a time that he actually had wanted to be a veterinarian.
While in a private school in Hawaii, though, Schafer met humanitarian Thomas Dooley, the US Navy physician who became increasingly famous for his humanitarian activities in South East Asia during the late 1950s until his early death from cancer.
“I was so impressed with his work that I decided to go back to being a [medical] doctor again,” Schafer says. “He was just so impressive and so full of good; and such a wonderful person. He just changed my life, he just lifted me up, hopefully up to somewhere near his level.”
That level shines through in Schafer’s work with the Spirit of Caring Mobile Healthcare Clinic in Chula Vista (Calif), as well as his plastic and reconstructive volunteer work for the Rotary Foundation’s Thousand Smiles in Mexico. He looks forward to when he gets near retirement so he can spend more time doing mission work.
“That was my original goal,” he says. “It seems like aesthetic plastic surgery is further away from that, but I hope that I can use my skills when I retire, and still continue to travel. Then the medical aspect may be more from a missionary aspect.” As for now, he’ll have to stick with his work as the father of laser lipolysis.
First Out the Gate
Schafer was one of the first six people in the country trained on the SlimLipo product (Cynosure Inc, Westford, Mass). Schafer helped develop the SlimLipo and, as such, was one of its earliest users. He has taught more than 120 physicians how to use the device. In addition, he came up with the idea of the infrared thermometer used to measure the heat produced by the laser for skin tightening and laser lipolysis.
In addition, Schafer was instrumental in the development of shortening the duration of the recovery garments worn by patients. Originally, patients had to wear a compression garment, much like a girdle, for 6 weeks, he says. Now, patients only have to wear it for 3 days before switching to under armor, which he describes as “more like panty hose compared to a girdle. They only wear that for a week.
“We enjoy using the new technology as it comes out,” he adds. “When I first started using the laser liposuction, there were a lot of doctors in my town that criticized me on TV programs. But I can tell you now, they all have lasers.”
Schafer was the first physician in the United States to purchase the BodyJet liposuction system (Eclipse, Dallas), and demonstrated the system on The Doctors television series. “I first heard the guys from Germany talk about it 2 years before it got FDA approval,” he says. “I was in contact with them, and the moment the machine came out, I ordered one.”
Needless to say, Schafer follows new technology closely. “I started spending more and more time studying and visiting with a lot of professors with new trends,” he says, “and I’ve always been really impressed with new technology and learning new techniques—going to some country, learning it and coming back, teaching my staff, teaching new doctors that want to learn new techniques, writing articles and publications about the new technology.”
When asked what he most wants to be known for, Schafer replies, “I’d just be glad to be known as a good person.”
This much is already true, if one goes by a staff that trusts him so much that not only have they let him work on them, aesthetically speaking, but they proudly wear T-shirts around the office that declare, “Body by Schafer.”
Sarah Russel is a contributing writer for PSP. She can be reached at [email protected]