August 14, 1992
RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGEONS, INC.
Lawrence Colen, M.D.
Earle Matory, Jr., M.D.
FROM: Norman M. Cole, M.D.
RE: New York Times 8/10/92
Perhaps the single most overriding concern among the membership of this Society is the image of the specialty.
Certainly the 1991 image audit undertaken by the Society to determine the public’s perception of plastic surgery and
plastic surgeons was revealing. For a specialty made up of individuals who have spent more time in training than almost any
other specialty group, it is distressing, indeed, to see that the public perceives the surgery we do to be frivolous and plastic
surgeons to he superficial and ostentatious. The negative aspects of the breast implant controversy has further eroded our
image. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that members currently feel more concern about improving the image of our specialty
than at any other time in its history.
After seeing the photo feature in the New York Times of August 10, 1992, it would be irresponsible of
me if I did not transmit to you the fact that this type of display only reinforces the negative aspects of our image. Little
or no meaningful information was contained within that feature that would cause the public to believe anything other than
what the surveys already show they believe. In addition, it is even more distressing to know that many of you are perceived
by members as being leaders and role models for the specialty.
Perhaps you were victims of an imaginative and deceptive reporter. Perhaps there were actually significant
areas of real substance that were discussed in your interview that could have been of significant value to the public. Perhaps
you had every reason to believe that the feature would be informative and that, it would assist people in better understanding
the worthwhile nature of the work we do and scope of our specialty. Perhaps some of the photographs that occurred were taken
in jest and fun. Perhaps many of the questions that appeared in the feature were asked tongue-in-cheek and perhaps you may
have been led to believe they were off the record. Nonetheless, these superficial National Enquirer—type questions
were asked and you gave National Enquirer answers.
Currently I am receiving scores and scores of letters from members quite justifiably concerned
over the serious image problem this specialty is experiencing. This New York Times feature, in my opinion, did not
make any meaningful contribution to anyone except yourselves. It is an embarrassing
example of self-gratification at a time when’ this specialty needed and deserved better.
If this letter offends you then you can perhaps appreciate in some small way how offensive I found the feature
in the New York Times.