Dr. Michael Baumholtz is a board-certified plastic surgeon whose practice encompasses both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Originally from Philadelphia, where he earned his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College, he chose a career in surgery that required years of additional training. Following a residency in general surgery at York Hospital and a fellowship in hand and microsurgery at the Baylor
College of Medicine in Houston, Dr. Baumholtz completed a second residency in his current specialty at UTHSC in San Antonio. Though he returned to Philadelphia for a while, the doctor and his family ultimately decided to return to San Antonio, where he joined San Antonio Cosmetic Surgery, PA. He’s currently affiliated with several local hospitals, including Methodist, the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, the Audie Murphy Veterans Hospital and Christus Santa Rosa Westover Hills, where he also serves as chief of staff-elect. In addition, Dr. Baumholtz teaches aspiring plastic surgeons at UTHSC.
So what appealed to you about San Antonio?
It’s just a beautiful place. I grew up on the East Coast, and if you know anything about the East Coast, you’ll know that there’s a certain hardness to the East Coast. There’s a softness here, a warmth. People are open and friendly… San Antonio is also the land of opportunity. People are pouring into the city, and it’s really a special thing to be a surgeon here at this time. I was also very fortunate to be able to join my dear friend Dr. Delio Ortegon in this practice, and we’ve been off to the races ever since.
Why did you choose to specialize in plastic surgery?
Plastic surgery was my first rotation as a general surgery intern, and it’s the most wonderful discipline. Plastic surgeons are generally regarded as surgeons’ surgeons. When other disciplines need help, plastic surgeons are called upon to provide it, and that appealed to me. It has the broadest field of application, from burns to hand injuries to facial or breast reconstruction, cosmetic procedures, etc. It allows me to look after a wide variety of patients, both children and adults.
Though you perform a wide range of cosmetic operations, which ones do you consider your sub-specialty?
There are four hallmark surgeries that I perform for patients: rhinoplasty (nose job), facelift, breast augmentation and tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty. Rhinoplasty is a technically challenging operation because you have to master both form and function. A nose that looks good — but the person cannot breathe well through it — is no good. A facelift is also a technically complex operation — balancing form, function, and the need to retain recognizable features of the patient.
Are there newer, easier facelift procedures?
Patients have an overwhelming choice of fountain-of-youth options and quick fixes. For me, facial rejuvenation includes a couple of different components. There’s the pre-operative preparation, which involves skin care or skin healing; there is the surgery itself, and then the after-care. For the surgery, the honest answer is that the old techniques are often the best techniques. There’s a push for newer, faster, shorter, but at the end of the day, if you want a durable result, there’s nothing that will take the place of a standard facelift. Fat grafting, which is a relatively new technique, is a fantastic way to augment the facelift and really smooth out some of the finer details, but the basic surgery is still the same.
I must admit that I find facelift scary.
You are at more risk driving to come see me than you are in having surgery in a modern hospital. Getting back to the foundation of my training, I trained for nine years in a variety of different disciplines, all of which come to bear on the operations that I do. In my reconstructive days, a lot of time was spent reconstructing faces after large facial cancers, facial trauma or defects. All of those skills come into play in a facelift surgery. All surgeries have some risk, but I do everything possible to mitigate that risk for my patients. If something does come up, my patients know I’m completely available to them.
How popular is facelift?
Extremely popular! Many women — and men — feel young and vigorous, but they don’t like what they see in the mirror. The person looking back at them is not the youthful person that they see in their mind, so facelift is becoming more popular. The stigma of plastic surgery is fading away. People come in today for things that 10 or 20 years ago would not have even been discussed.
For women — procedures such as vaginal tightening and labiaplasty, for instance. For men, all aspects of plastic surgery, including liposuction, facelifts, rhinoplasty, and hair removal procedures, continue to rise.
I understand that breast augmentation is also in demand.
With most of my breast augmentation patients, the conversation begins with the desire to have more confidence either in clothing or in a bathing suit. We are fortunate to have some very sophisticated tools here to show the woman what she would look like after the operation. With a machine called Vectra 3D Imaging System we can take a 3D picture of the woman and then show her how she will look with the implants in place. The operation itself takes a little less than an hour, and they go home the same day.
What’s the difference between a tummy tuck and abdominal liposuction?
Liposuction is a surgical procedure where fat can be removed from the body through small incisions. It can be applied to most parts of the body and can be a marvelous tool for body contouring as long as skin quality remains good. If that’s not the case, removing fat may cause the skin to sag. Though liposuction is often part of a tummy tuck, this operation involves two other main components — removing excess skin and tightening the muscles underneath. The result is a flat belly and an improved waistline.
How about nonsurgical options for rejuvenation?
There are some very exciting nonsurgical treatments, the latest of which is an injectable medicine called Kybella. It’s a variation of a naturally occurring substance in the body that dissolves fat. It’s used to dissolve the stubborn fat under some people’s chins. With two or three five-minute sessions in the office I have the ability to melt that fat away and tighten up some of the skin. Another exciting procedure is ThermiTight, which uses thermal energy under the skin to cause the skin to shrink from the inside.
Our practice also offers the full range of other non-surgical options, from hair removal and chemical peels to facial fillers and Cool Sculpting, which is another way to melt fat. In CoolSculpting we can freeze a stubborn area of body fat, and over the next six to 12 weeks your body will clear away the dead fat cells.
What are your interests outside of work?
We (his family) are involved in our synagogue, Temple Beth-El, and I am also involved with my children’s school. As an aside, I am studying to be a mohel. Do you know what that is? It’s the person who performs circumcision of Jewish boys. Currently there are no mohels in San Antonio, so circumcision is usually performed by either the obstetrician or the pediatrician. The mohel, however, provides the ritualistic aspects of circumcision in a traditional way that spans back thousands of years. (Being one) allows me to give back to my religious community in a unique way.
You obviously have a very full schedule. How do you recharge your personal batteries?
I enjoy reading, writing, spending time with my family and walking my German shepherd.
By Jasmina Wellinghoff
Photography by Janet Rodgers