Plastic surgeon contemplates artistic form, gender
David Teplica is a photographer and plastic surgeon who contemplates gender and explores people's inner wishes and desires about their bodies. He will be speaking at Indiana University Bloomington on Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. in Woodburn 100. His talks are illustrated by his provocative, surprising and artistic photographs of people as they are -- and as they wish to become.
This lecture is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by The Kinsey Institute and the Department of Gender Studies. His talk is part of Sexploration Week, held on the IU Bloomington campus, Oct. 18-22.
David Teplica spoke with Active for Life about how his passion for photography fits well with his maneuvering of the scalpel.
AFL: How do you combine your love of photography and art with plastic surgery?
DT: Both my photographic work and my plastic surgical practice are about perception of the body. Whether in two or three dimensions, human shape can be altered so that society sees the body differently.
AFL: How do you apply concepts of gender into your plastic surgical practice?
DT: Most plastic surgical procedures were designed for women. If these operations are used on men, then feminization occurs, and men are very unhappy. Sadly, there isn't much dialog in the plastic surgery world about this. No matter how gender is defined by any given patient, gender-specific operations must be offered. I always try to realign a patient's phenotype with his or her gender identity. In fact, plastic surgery is the only field where permanent changes in shape can align a person's body with how they think of themselves.
AFL: How do you make sure that your patients will be satisfied with the outcome of their surgery?
DT: There is no guarantee that a patient will be happy, but by spending many hours face-to-face before agreeing to operate, I feel reassured that I understand a patient's motivations and sometimes false expectations. It's my practice philosophy that careful analysis of a patient's anatomy and frank discussions about insecurities and hopes provides the highest chance for a patient satisfaction. It is important to find out what a patient is thinking, rather than to presume what they want.
AFL: How does plastic surgery help with confidence?
DT: Genetics are unrelenting. I believe it's illogical to go through counseling to "accept your body" when all you want is to make reasonable and safe changes to it. I've had female patients with potbellies or small breasts who would never go on a date and male patients who were insecure about love handles and allowed this to effect job performance as a business leader. After plastic surgery, these patients were more confident in both their personal and professional lives.
AFL: How does your photography fit into your work as a plastic surgeon?
DT: I do highly standardized photography of patients to accurately capture their anatomy before alteration, during recovery, and once all healing has occurred. I've developed rotational techniques that allow digital subtraction of before and after images from the same patient, so that the actual anatomic changes can be measured.
AFL: What is the most interesting scientific concept you've uncovered?
DT: By controlling for anatomic mirroring in identical twin pairs, I determined that our bodies are not affected by nurture to any significant degree. Appearance is almost entirely determined by nature, while environment has nearly no influence on our anatomy. So, if we don't like our bodies, we chose the wrong parents! Exercise and diet can only change our size temporarily, but permanent shape changes can only be obtained using plastic surgery.
Also as part of Sexploration Week, a viewing of the documentary film Orgasm, Inc. will be held on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Indiana Memorial Union's Whittenberger Auditorium. The fim is about pharmaceutical companies' never-ending quest to be the first to get their "female Viagra" FDA approved. After the film's viewing there will be time for questions with the film's director Liz Canner, who worked for the main pharmaceutical company featured in this film. To find out more about the film visit http://orgasminc.org/.