Many patients fly overseas to be treated by Anthony C. Griffin, MD, FACS, because of his television exposure. But that’s not the only reason
Anthony C. Griffin, MD, FACS, runs an all-aesthetic plastic surgery practice in Beverly Hills, Calif.
That’s hardly unusual.
Griffin is also a regularly featured physician on ABC Television’s Extreme Makeover.
In this day and age, that’s not exactly breaking news either.
What does set Griffin apart from other plastic surgeons—even those in Beverly Hills—is that 50% of his patients come to him from outside California, and 20% are from outside the United States.
Many of the patients are from Europe, a part of the world where aesthetic plastic surgery has not mushroomed the way it has in North America, Latin America, and the Far East.
For example, Griffin says, “A huge number of patients come to me from the UK, but I also get a lot from the rest of Europe.”
Why do they come? Extreme Makeover is broadcast extensively in Europe, so, of course, viewers who can afford it are willing to travel great distances to be operated on by a famous surgeon. But there’s more to it than that.
“There’s no one there,” Griffin says, referring to the shortage of plastic surgeons in Europe who run exclusively aesthetic practices. He also cites the lack of outpatient surgery centers in Europe as well as the general notion that the quality of surgery there can’t match the results that people have seen on Extreme Makeover and similar programs.
“Beverly Hills surgeons have become ‘branded’ as the ones to go to,” according to Griffin. “People know what to expect when they come here.
“There’s also the issue of access. It’s actually easier for Europeans to find someone they want to go to here and make the trip than it is to arrange for surgery where they live.” He also notes that many of his patients are European actors who come over to see their agents and “pop in here to get some ‘work’ done.”
The availability of aesthetic procedures in Europe is so meager that patients even come to Griffin for keloid removal or scar revision. He is currently attempting to identify European physicians who can perform these procedures so that patients don’t have to make such a long trip for minor procedures. This summer he is also training a young Swiss surgeon on some of his procedures to improve their availability in Europe.
Which procedures do people come to him for most frequently? One is the gluteal augmentation, popularly known as the “Brazilian butt lift.” Another is rhinoplasty, especially for Europeans of African origin. “Neither of these procedures is available to patients in Europe,” Griffin says.
He also has many patients come for what he calls “mini-makeovers” after massive-weight-loss (bariatric) surgery. “This is relatively new even in the United States and virtually not to be found overseas,” he says.
Then, of course, there are those who can afford to come for a 3-week “vacation,” during which Griffin gives them the head-to-toe makeover they’ve seen others get on television. Before they come, prospective patients e-mail him photos of themselves. He then consults with them over the phone to size up the job.
Because he is well known, Griffin doesn’t need to provide any inducements for people to fly great distances to see him. But he notes that some of the aftercare facilities in Southern California will arrange for them to be picked up at the airport and otherwise make their visit to a strange city more comfortable.
Griffin acknowledges that all the publicity he’s received from television exposure has boosted his practice, but he also recognizes that the unavailability of aesthetic procedures is a major reason that European patients come for his services.
“The world is getting smaller every day,” he says. “As a result, aesthetic surgery is becoming available to people who see what they like and are willing to go where they can get it.”
Michael J. Block is the editor of Plastic Surgery Products.