Hello, and welcome to Beauty and the Biz where we talk about the business and marketing side of plastic surgery, and how Dr. Kontis booked a seat into space.
I’m your host, Catherine Maley, author of Your Aesthetic Practice – What your patients are saying, as well as consultant to plastic surgeons, to get them more patients and more profits. Now, today’s episode is called “Booked a Seat into Space — with Theda C. Kontis, MD”.
Like most people, I set goals to help me stay on track. Usually, they are money goals, optimal weight and health goals, with travel goals sprinkled in.
However, after interviewing Dr. Theda Kontis, my mind has been blown and I am rethinking things.
Dr. Theda Kontis is currently the President of the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) so we talked about her goals with the Academy, and managing her large, private practice, patient retention, and you have to hear her lifetime goal……
….it has to do with a spaceship 😉
This was truly mind-bending!
👁 DON’T MISS THESE INTERVIEWS 👁
Catherine Maley, MBA: Hello, welcome to Beauty and the Biz, where we talk about the business and marketing side of plastic surgery and how Dr. Kontis booked a seat into space. I’m your host, Catherine Maley, author of “Your aesthetic practice, which your patients are saying”, as well as consultant to plastic surgeons, to get them more patients and more profits. Now, I’m very excited about today’s guest.
It’s Dr. Theda Kontis, who booked a seat into space. She’s a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in a private multi-surgeon practice in Baltimore, Maryland, and the name of the practice is The Aesthetic Center at Woodholme. Now, Dr. Kontis completed her residency and fellowship. At Johns Hopkins and is currently an associate professor there as well.
Now, her bestselling textbook, “Cosmetic injection techniques”, is in its second edition and has been translated into five foreign languages. She’s also authored numerous, and I repeat, numerous research and review articles, book chapters, editorials, as well as conducts research clinical trials. Now, Dr. Kontis has been very active in the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery for the past 30 years, and was recently elected to serve as the AAFPRS President, making her only the second woman to hold that title.
Dr. Kontis, welcome to Beauty and the Biz, and congratulations on your presidency and how you booked a seat into space.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Thank you so, much Catherine, and thank you for inviting me. It’s quite an honor.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Absolutely. Let’s just talk about that for a minute, because I didn’t realize you were the president right this minute. I thought it was you were still president and elect.
I’m sorry. So, how busy are you juggling that plus your practice, plus your family? How’s it going? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Well, I never could have done it if I had little children, but luckily my daughter’s all grown and in medical school. So, it’s, it’s quite a challenge. It takes a lot more time than I thought it would, but it’s really fun.
It’s fun to be involved and to be able to make changes. And I’ve been a member of our academy for many, many years and sort of came up in the ranks and it’s fun to give back.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Good for you. I mean, that’s putting a lot on your plate. Is there a lot of travel involved or nowadays is it more Zoom? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: It’s all Zoom it Recently our marketing firm.
Actually, had me do all these Zoom meetings with magazine editors and they used to take the president to New York City and go in a car and go from one desk to another. And it was fun, but it was not very productive because, you know, how many offices can you go to in a morning, you know? And I could have six.
Meetings in the morning on Zoom. So, it was fun. I, I really enjoyed doing, they call them desk sides and working with all of the magazine editors and it really is fun to get the word about being facial plastic surgeons and to trust your face to a facial plastic surgeon to get that word and that message out is, it’s fun.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Oh, that’s fantastic. So, let’s just talk about your practice. And I noticed when I was doing some research when I met you a long time ago at the meetings and then I was in your office, you had two surgeons, and now I see you have three surgeons. So, what’s the makeup of your practice in today’s world? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: I joined my fellowship director.
Most everyone has heard of Ira Papel, of course. And Ira was my fellowship director. I was his first fellow. I finished in 1994, and the deal was Ira said, I will train you and then I want you to join my practice. So, when I joined Ira, we had a very small operating room with one nurse who did everything, and we had three secretaries.
Now we have 25 employees. A big operating room, a minor procedure room, about 10 nurses, and we hired a body plastic surgeon who was one of the Hopkins residents who rotated with us. And so, he was a good match for our practice. But we don’t when, when people. Have a body plastic surgeon join their practice.
Sometimes they limit them and say, you can only do tummy tucks and breasts and all the face stuff you need to give to me. But Ira, and I thought that really isn’t fair to him because if he does a body work on someone and they want him to do their facelift, It’s not fair for him to say, well, sorry, but I can’t do it.
So, he does everything and it’s a really good match. So, the three of us get along great. He’s, he’s buying into the practice now and it’s, it’s, it’s been good. You know, you have to choose a partner that like a marriage. And the two guys I’m partners with are really, really good. Marriage.
Business marriage people.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Right. Well, you’re all, you also are very mild mannered and reasonable, so, I bet that helps a lot. But you also probably share the same values. Are you still doing reconstructive and research and cosmetic? Like what’s your, where are you spending your time? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Mostly cosmetic. We all do mostly cosmetic.
We do some reconstruction with cancer. Skin cancer reconstruction. And the research bit sort of comes and goes. It depends. If there’s a project that is that we’re asked to participate in, we’ll do that. We have a great coordinator. You know, it’s so, important to have somebody who just takes over.
Like you always say, you know, someone who you don’t have to think about. Well, we have someone who does that and so, she just runs everything and we fill in the blanks. And so, I love doing clinical trials. I mean, if I could stop doing all my regular work and just do clinical trials, I probably would because it’s fun.
But you know that that mix of things really makes every day just different and exciting.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Nice. And then where are you at with the surgical versus non-surgical? Is it a priority in your office? Do you have that? Like patients for life mentality where they go up and down the ladder, they start the surgery, work their way down to non, go to non-work, their way up to surgical.
What, how did you feel about that? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Well, let me backtrack a little bit on that. When I joined Ira, IRA is a rhinoplasty guy and when I joined him, I actually said, are you sure you want another facial plastics person in your practice? Because we’re going to be competitors. Basically. We’re going to be fighting over the same patient.
And he said, no, no, that’s what I want. So, I, I thought, you know, I will never be the rhinoplasty person in the practice. Am I okay with that? And so, the answer was yes, I was okay with that. So, then the next question I asked myself is, how am I going to. Distinguish myself, separate myself from Ira, like why would someone come to me?
So, I finished in 1994, and that’s just when Restylane and Botox started coming out and I thought, I can master this. I can be the injectable person. And so, I wrote a textbook on it. We did courses on it. So, that became my niche and. That way Ira. Ira does injectables and I do rhinoplasties, but he’s known for rhinoplasty and I’m known for injectables.
And my injectable patients are patients for life. You know, they love you, they trust you, they appreciate your artistic eye, and when they’re ready for something, I’m the person they ask. Is it time for this? Is it time for this? Fillers aren’t going to do it for you anymore. You need this. So, it, it’s absolutely a gateway and I think that the general plastic surgeons years ago made an error in judgment on saying, We are the surgeons.
Other people should do the injectables. And I think that was a mistake that if you don’t do injectables and you don’t get good with that, you’re missing a nice chunk of patients who love you, who want then to move forward with bigger things
Catherine Maley, MBA: Oh, there’s such a balance there. I’ve seen it every which way where the surgeon says, no, I’m just going to let it go.
I just, I’m, I just want to be in the OR. But then you hire nurse injectors, so, I’m sure you have, you, you have several nurses there. Do you have them doing the injectables at all the, the surgeons are doing? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: No, and that’s how we distinguish ourselves in the community. Mm-hmm. That the doctors do the injections.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Nice. All right. And are you going to stick to it? Like have you noticed it’s taken you away from the surgical or not? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Not a bit. Okay. Not a bit. But I’m busy. I mean, I see 35 patients a day and some of those are injectables and some of those are people who want to talk about surgery. And you know, I can’t tell you how often I’m injecting someone and they start asking me questions about surgery and it becomes a cosmetic consult while I’m injecting them.
So, You, I can’t imagine not doing injectables or passing it off to someone else when I have their ear. I can’t expect a nurse who is doing the injections to say, you know, this really isn’t going to work for you. You, it’s, you’re at the point now where you need a facelift. They’re not going to say that.
They’re going to say, you know, I think you need six syringes rather you’re four. Yeah.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah. So, what are all these staff doing? You’ve got 24 staff and a lot of nurses, what are they all doing? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Okay, I have well, secretaries obviously I have a skincare and laser division as well as the surgical side. So, we’ve got three estheticians.
We’ve got three laser nurses. So, we’ve got that side of the business running with skincare, with selling products. The, the Allergan company does a review of metrics to comparison benchmarking. And our aesthetician is off the charts in selling products, so, they, they really have it down and skincare is such an important mesh with cosmetic surgery.
You’ve got to, to change the skin quality to get the best results. So, we’ve got estheticians, we’ve got laser nurses, we’ve got or two ORs going all the time. So, we need nurses for recovery, nurses for the, or. Two rooms going. So, that’s a lot of staff.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah, that is a lot of staff. Any staff tips? I don’t know if you had the dip, like others, you know, the post covid.
Did you have HR issues or any tips on managing staff pre Covid or PA post covid? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Well, yeah, the, the staff really sort of laid the law down with us and said, you know, we could go to Wendy’s. And make X amount of dollars an hour and you’re only paying us this, so, what can we do? You know, we had to give everybody, everybody got a raise to get them up to this competitive with Wendy’s and Burger King thing, you know?
So, so, yeah, they sort of held us hostage with that. But they all stayed through covid. They all stayed. They knew we were getting the PPP loans to save them, to keep them with, with income coming in to save their jobs. We didn’t lose anybody.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Nice. Nice. So, just out of curiosity, does Wendy still pay like that or can you now like what? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
You can’t take money away from his, can’t take away him a raise.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Yeah. So, what are you going to do? I mean, the cost of living’s terrible, you know? So, what are you going to do? Yeah. We are so, busy you know, all the practices around the world that do cosmetic surgery are, you know, going crazy. Yeah. So, you know, it wasn’t a hardship for us to give them a raise and probably they, you know, it was the right thing to do.
Catherine Maley, MBA: One thing I have learned or I keep hearing the staff will not work at overdrive for very long. They need fun. They need acknowledgement. They need recognition. But they can’t live in a pressure cooker every day. Do you, do you feel that or do they, is that the feedback you get or how do you keep it at least calm, you know, in, in the middle of a storm when you’re so, busy? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Well, we fired the one that was the pressure cooker actually. Good for you. Now there’s, and that was the mistake, you know, higher, higher, slow fire. Fast. Well, we fired slow, which is a bit of a problem. But there’s always a disruptor. There’s always something that everybody’s upset about. And it was that one person, and we needed, we knew it, but.
This person was very productive. And you know, sometimes they hold you hostage because they’re such good workers. It’s like, oh, we don’t want to let them go because they’re so, good, but they’re driving the rest of the staff away. So, after a few people leave, then you realize that this is just not going to work.
They’ve got to go. And so, once you get rid of that person, then everybody’s happy. And the, the doctors set the tone. Hmm. You know, and we, they know, our staff knows that they’re appreciated. They know that they’re valued. And we treat them with respect. And so, I don’t think there’s anybody in our office who doesn’t want to come to work in the morning.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Very nice. Talking about that. I’ve even been with practices where it was the office manager who was the drama queen and just 80% of the staff left before the surgeon did something about it. And it’s just so, easy for me on the outside to say, get rid of her. But on the inside, you have so, many uncertainties about it.
Fear about it losing somebody who’s productive, but doesn’t it always happen the minute they’re gone? You hear the feedback, oh my God, why didn’t we do this sooner? Oh, I should have done this. You know, I mean, this has been fantastic. It just, I don’t know what the right answer is, except when your gut is telling you that something’s not right.
I would say just address it sooner rather than later, you know? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: You know, we all tend to have employees that we think are not replaceable. Right. But they are, and that is part of the issue that we think, how can we let this person go? They do everything well, they’re replaceable.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah. I would say though, one of the biggest errors is not getting that employee’s intellectual property down on paper. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
You know, if they know everything and they set themselves up for that, by the way, they need to be irreplaceable in their own minds because it gives them safety. We’ve all had that employee, God knows I’ve had it too. And that person becomes so, ESHA can’t even be sick for a day. And you’re like, oh my God, what would I do?
I fall apart. And, and then you don’t, you know, when it happens because then it’s going to, it’s going to blindside you. So, I have learned, get all this. Get all this on paper, get it in videos, get SOPs, standard operating procedures get checklists do not let them walk out the door being the only person in the practice who knows what’s going on. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Absolutely true. And when we let this person go, part of what we had her doing is sort of teaching other people how to do what she did which was not rocket science, you know, but we sort of, Moved her around and had her show people things. And I think she saw the writing on the wall. But to have your staff be able to multitask is so, important.
Never have one person who does one thing and they’re the only ones who know how to do it, because they do hold you hostage. And they’re done that.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah. Give me like running a practice as long as you have, first of all, the surgeons themselves. Any tips on how, how three surgeons can work together harmoniously? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Well, they all listen to me, which is good.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Are you kind of like the deciding factor if it’s pretty much, pretty much there? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: My two partners are very calm, easygoing. They don’t get riled up about anything. I’m the more emotional one. I sort of take charge of things and I tell them, look, it needs to be boom, boom, boom.
And they say, okay. So, the, it’s not a power struggle. We all. Feel comfortable enough to disagree with each other if we need to. But it’s just a very respectful, nice group and so, many times you hear of people joining another physician and it just doesn’t work out. And I think it’s too much of everybody trying to be the boss trying to Dominate one or the other not agreeing about things.
And then what do you do if there’s two of you, you know, you’re at an impasse. But my two partners are just easygoing. Easy to get along with guys. And I. Just works. I’m very fortunate.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah. I don’t hear this very often, so, please enjoy that. You know? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Yeah, I do it.
Catherine Maley, MBA: It’s not always that way. I do think it’s true when you have two alphas in the office that just.
Can’t work one. It just, one has to be the alpha and one has to be the go along or stay out of each other’s way. Like you do the marketing, I’ll do the admin, like something like that. Like tight boundaries perhaps. But I’m just glad it’s working for you. That’s fantastic. Now, are there any plans to. Grow anymore or there’s been so, much talk about exiting, like how do you exit these practices? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
It seems to be changing very quickly. There’s a lot of talk about private equity coming in and taking over. Any thoughts about that? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: I don’t know of one person who has sold to private equity who said, this is the best thing I ever did. Oh, no. It’s terrible selling out to private equity because you’ve made your baby, you know, and now you’re going to give your baby away, but you still have to be parenting for a while and you’re watching somebody else take care of your baby.
And it’s horrible. Because it all suddenly becomes about the money and it’s not about, your staff does not benefit from it. The only person that benefits is the physician who got their millions of dollars for their practice, and we’re not going to do it. We, our exit strategy’s going to be different.
Ira’s older than me. Ira’s going to eventually, in a few years start phasing out. We hired on Emile Brown, our body guy as part of the, the next generation. He’ll eventually take over the practice after I leave. We’re looking now at somebody to replace Ira, somebody who has rhinoplasty knowledge, who can sort of.
Fit into Ira’s practice model and sort of take that going. So, our way of keeping the practice going is to have a succession plan. Mm-hmm. If I were in practice by myself, I, and getting older, I think that probably selling out to private equity is. Maybe a good thing. You get your golden handshake and then you leave.
But it’s just, it’s a really tough thing on your employees who, you know, we love our employees and, and employees aren’t happy once the practices get sold. Mm-hmm. So, it’s people can do it either way, but I like the way that we’ve chosen, I’m not going to make millions and millions like I could sell out my practice, but I feel better about it.
Catherine Maley, MBA: The one thing that I find interesting with the private equity is they’ll consolidate some of the tasks that you don’t want to do, like. HR benefits contractual agreements you know, they can pull the resources and get you a better rate on, you know, the, the cost of goods. That part I find interesting.
It’s the part when the people get involved and who could, who controls the shop. You know, like all of a sudden now the staff who does the staff work for the, the surgeon or the private equity group or that part? It’s a little fuzzy, but it’s really exploding. Like, it, it’s all, it’s all I’m hearing about right now, so, I don’t have an, an opinion on it yet.
I don’t know enough about it. All I know is the more people, the more cooks in the kitchen, the more complicated it gets. And I don’t know, can you know, can you lose complete control over it? Or can you still have piece of, because one of the things about surgeons, you’re, you’re in private practice for a reason, otherwise you’d be in the, in the university still, you know?
Yeah. So, then to take that away and say, okay, I’m just going to work for you now, I think that’s more difficult said than done. If you’ve been running your own show. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: I don’t know. I’m telling you, Catherine, find, find the people that are happy. They sold out. Okay. They’re going to be hard to find. I predict that.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. That’s really interesting. Okay. I’m taking a poll. I’m taking a silent poll out, an informal poll of is this a good idea or not? Because I feel like some of this makes sense, but then what’s the other side of it, you know, that I don’t, I don’t know yet. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: I don’t have an opinion yet, so, so, I have a, several dermatology friends have sold out.
Okay. Yes. One of them said that all of a sudden there was a new practitioner in her office working with her. Never met her, didn’t know anything about her. I don’t know if she liked her or not, but all of a sudden, they hired somebody and now she’s working side by side with this new person because she has to work in her office a couple years before she’s out.
Yes, yes. Another staff member in another practice said to a patient, oh, Dr. So-and-so, she’s not the boss anymore. Oh, we don’t work for her. We work for so-and-so company. And you could tell that they were really bitter about it. Hmm. So, patient, patient care goes down and, you know, we pride ourselves with patient satisfaction and the things we do to coddle our patients.
Mm-hmm. That’s not coddling. Mm-hmm. So, I don’t know. I think it’s a bad idea.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Right. I do know another, a Mos surgeon and he, but he was pretty burnt out. He was running a big operation and he was more than willing to let the res go. So, in his case, he’s like, yeah, I’m still on board, but I’m just, I just do my surgery and leave.
I’m not involved anymore. And, but I think he was at that point. As you do when you get older, you’re like, I don’t know how much fight I have left in me. You know? So, I think it just has, you have to really watch the variables of this, and you have to know yourself. Are you going to be okay working for someone else? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Are you going to be, okay? When your staff looks at you like I. What’d you do? What happened here? You know? Right. That’s the part I worry about the staff saying, I don’t work for you anymore. Like what? Right. What the heck? Like that, ah, that’s not a good culture at all.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: But you, you lose autonomy, like you said.
We go into this to have our own practice, to have autonomy. Right. So, your most surgeon may lose his most tech and they’ll say, sorry, we’re going to hire so-and-so to do your tech. Well, they’re not any good. They’re not doing a good job. I’m not happy with them. Well, sorry, that’s what you get. You know, and then, you know, it’s like working at an academic center.
You have no, you’re stay over what you do. Full circle. Yeah.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah. All right. Let’s talk about the more fun stuff, and that’s the marketing. I want to congratulate you on the incredible outside signage. You happen to get approved on your building. You cannot try by your place without seeing that. How did you ma Nowhere else can somebody have big signage like that on the outside of their building.
So how did you, I know, how did you manage that? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Well, I love to negotiate. Okay. I took a course and learned negotiating and I love it. And I buy all the cars in the family because I love negotiating. So, when we, when we Went into our building, which was 20 years ago, they did not allow any signage on the building.
Yep. So, we had a 10-year lease. So, the urologist moved in above us about maybe seven years into our lease and put a big sign up. Chesapeake Urology. It’s like, wait a minute. Now it looks like we’re working in the Chesapeake Urology building, and I did not like that. So, when our lease renewal came up at 10 years, I said, you know, we want to sign up too.
And they said, well, Chesapeake has the whole floor. I said, well, we are taking over this other suite next door for our skincare and laser side. Said, that’s basically the whole floor. And they said, all right. So, we used the build out money that they gave us to buy the sign, so, it cost us nothing. Yes. So, then when Dr.
Brown joined us, we need a bigger sign because there’s three names now, not two. So, now we’re much bigger than Chesapeake Urology. So, it’s, it’s wonderful.
Catherine Maley, MBA: And you, and you got your names on there too. Names on the building. Yeah. You are like celebrities. Your local celebrities at this point. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Yeah, yeah. People say you can’t drive by without seeing our names, so, that’s good.
And aren’t you on like a major thoroughfare? Yeah, pretty. It’s in a big shopping area, so, there’s a lot of traffic going around. A lot of traffic.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that’s fantastic. Let’s talk about the patients for a second. Do you, what difference do you see now in patients, cosmetic patients that you didn’t see before, and how are you handling that? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Like their, their tastes and demeanor or how they, how they work with you. Talk about negotiating. Having the negotiation skills is probably brilliant in today’s world.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Well, it is, it does help. I tell you, Catherine, it’s really, I’ve had this conversation already twice today. Oh. People are angry.
People are angry. They’re unhappy. They, you know, in nine 11. When nine 11 happened, we all bonded together. Everyone was nice to each other. Everyone was help you do anything you can to help someone else. Covid pushed us all away from each other, like, don’t stand next to me. You could infect me. And we were away from each other for so, long.
People have forgotten how to be nice to each other. So, there’s this, this undercurrent of anger and unhappiness. With an overlay of social media telling everyone they have to be perfect. So, throw all that into the person that’s sitting in our exam chair. You’ve got someone who wants a perfect result who’s already angry.
And it’s, it’s really, I find the patients today very difficult to deal with. I have a rhino I saw a rhinoplasty patient like took they’re splint off. Oh. And they said, when do I get my revision? Oh my God. So, so, I’m entitled to a revision and I’m ready for it. It’s just, it’s mind boggling. I’ve had all these one-star reviews recently.
Either I’ve become suddenly a horrible doctor. I got one that the patient wrote that 17 years ago they had surgery with me and the staff was rude to them and they were unhappy with their results. I had to write now getting, I had to write back. I had to write back. I really don’t understand why it’s taken you 17 years.
To write a comment like this, I wish you had at least come talk to me so, we could figure out what the problem is. Good for you. But 17 years, they’re going to start writing one-star reviews. That’s insane. I, I don’t know, I, I don’t get it. But it’s a very interesting question that you ask because people are very different right now.
They’re hard to please and it’s just a different mindset.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Well, some surgeons now are even videotaping the consultation. They’re videotaping the all of the consent forms like it’s gotten. That feels so, defensive. Like that can’t be building a great relationship if you’re videotaping people. But I don’t know what the answer is.
You know? Do you protect yourself or do you just hope to God these people are reasonable? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: You know, it’s all, you have to protect yourself. I’m not videotaping consents. You have to trust your gut. You know, so, many times if, if the staff doesn’t like a patient and I don’t like a patient, it’s probably better not to operate.
You know, we always say you never regret not operating on someone. Right. And that is so, true. It’s, it’s a tough world right now, and social media has not helped.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Are you actually active on social media? And if so, like, are you spending any of your time there, your personal time there? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: I had patients tell me, you’ve got to get on Instagram.
So, I got on Instagram and I realized that it was such a waste of my time that I just, I’ll post some things periodically just to let people know what’s going on. But it doesn’t really bring me patience. So, you know, I think if I were a young person starting my practice, I think you have to be in social media.
But I think somebody who’s, you know, I’ve sort of peaked in my practice. I don’t think I need social media at this point.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I’m with you. I, I know I’m older, so, it’s not that I don’t care. It, it’s that I don’t care enough to spend my time doing it. So, I have my staff work around, work around me to get it done.
And I would say that for some surgeons, they have embraced it. Wholeheartedly. And it does attract patients because they have the right attitude. Like they, they want to do it, they enjoy it, they, they like it. Right. And, but I would say if your heart’s not into it, there has to be a better way for you to spend your time than I don’t even go on there. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
I can’t, I’m not allowed to go on there. I’m one of those A c D or O c d or whatever the heck they’re called. Oh, is that right? Oh my God. 30 minutes. I’m gone for 30 minutes. I, I, I don’t even know what happened around me, and I just think this is not a good use of my time. It’s not good for my mental health.
So, I stay away from it, but I, I see how it can help. Rhinoplasty though, I would just say generally speaking, they’re the toughest patients already. Gosh, to add social media to that as well. I don’t know. I do, you do a lot of revision rhino, because a lot of surgeons don’t even do the revision Rhino anymore, and then some do it, but they charge a whole lot for it, but it’s a lot more risk there. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: So, what are your thoughts about that? Well, you know, you tell a rhinoplasty patient, I tell them there’s no such thing as a perfect, perfect rhinoplasty. Do they hear you? When you say that? I was just going to say, it goes in one ear and out the other, and then postop. You say, remember I told you there’s no such thing as a perfect rhinoplasty.
I had mines done. I can tell you six things wrong with it, but it’s better. They don’t want to hear that. So, y you know sometimes a little bit of filler. In a rhinoplasty, patient can just make a good rhinoplasty, a great rhinoplasty. So, I do offer that to people sometimes. I do revision rhinoplasties on patients who’ve had rhinoplasty elsewhere.
I do revision rhinoplasty on my own patients when they’re not happy. What are you going to do? You know, most of the time we try to do it under local. So, that it’s not a huge financial loss. Mm-hmm. But some people need anesthesia, so, at least most of the time you can get them to pay the anesthesia. But, you know, sometimes they’re so, angry that’s the last thing you need to do, so, you eat that cost.
So, you know, sometimes you lose money doing rhinoplasty surgery. Mm-hmm. So, it’s, it’s a tough surgery and a tough practice to have. I can’t say I have to revise eyelids or facelifts or, you know fat OS very often, but boy, rhinoplasty, I mean, there’s a standard revision rate that people just, they want perfection and they want it more now than they used to.
Catherine Maley, MBA: For sure. I had a rhino and I was super happy with mine, but as I’ve gotten older, the darn the scar under my nose started showing more. And I thought, this never ends this aging process. It just, it’s, my face is just constantly shifting. But then so, then I goes to my laser people and I say, can you just laser this darn thing? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
And psychologically I feel a lot better. I think that’s what a lot of times the patient, they just want you to do something. Exactly. Yeah, that’s my little tip there.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: And that’s the nice thing about fillers. Mm-hmm. Cause they say I just, every time I look in the mirror, I just see this, well, we’ll put a little filler there now you don’t see it.
“Oh yeah. It’s better.”
Catherine Maley, MBA: So, so, what’s your theory about patient retention? Are you into the “one and done” or patient for life? What’s your feeling on that? Patient for life? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Patient for life, absolutely. It’s a silly thing to one and done because they love you. And they trust you and so, they’re going to keep coming back.
And I mean, that was the beauty of Botox is that they had to keep coming back. You know? So, that’s why you have to have, in my mind, you have to have a filler practice. To have people coming back and as they age, they need more filler and then they’re going to need surgery. And if you want to have an aging face practice, that’s the way to do it.
And then they are happy and their friends come in, you know, all my new patients give me names of two or three people that I’ve operated on who say, oh, I really like how so-and-so looks. That’s why I’m here. So, that’s how you grow your practice.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I call that the long tail patient. The aging face is just a beautiful patient retention strategy because she has other friends just like her who need your services, they care a lot more about your credibility and your credentials and your reputation than some of these younger folks do.
They’re just more financially. You know, secure. And they’re more reasonable it seems. Absolutely. So, they’re the ones who but they’re the ones who typically will return, refer, review on, approve your photos. How are you feeling about the before and after photos? I’m also doing it in personal study on this one.
How do you get patients to approve their before and after photos? Do you ask yourself; do you have the staff ask? Do you hope they just offer? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Okay, so, this is my routine. Okay. When we do consent for surgery, I ask them if I can show their pictures to other patients, yes or no. And if I can put them on the internet, yes or no, and we circle it and they initial it.
And so, now I have a record of it. Sometimes they’ll say, well, just my eyes, if you’re doing my lips, or you know, don’t show my whole face. Okay, fine. Then after six to eight weeks after surgery, we do their after pictures and I print them up and give them their after pictures. Nice. And I have, I give it to them on photographic paper in an envelope, and staple to the outside of the envelope is a letter from me thanking them for trusting me with their surgery.
And saying, by the way, if you’re happy, please write a review, because I’ll bet you read reviews about me before you came to me. And maybe 1% of people write reviews, but it does help because they’re happy. Now if the results aren’t that good, obviously I don’t ask them to write a review or if they’re mad or something.
But most of the time I ask someone for a review. Some of the time they write a review, but giving them their pictures. Is huge because I don’t just hand it to them. I say, now look here. See how you had this hoodie here. See how that’s better? See how your eyelids are more symmetric and your brow now is above your bone.
You look brighter. Let me hold your picture far away. See how your eyes look bigger? And I show them what they need to see because they don’t see what we see. For good point. So, it’s really important. Don’t just hand them the pictures, but actually explain their results to them. So, you know this a little bit that you see here, that’s probably going to get better.
We’ll take pictures again at three months and we’ll see. So, I give them their pictures, I ask them for reviews. And then if I think their pictures are really, really good and I do want to show them, I’ll ask them again. And sometimes they’ll, they’ll change their minds.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I think you’re doing the best you can is when you ask yourself personally, they’ll say you yes, you way more than they’ll say it to the staff.
So, I think you’re doing all the right things. I have always said give your patients their photos. They need their photos, they want them, they’re going to show them. Even somebody who is absolutely private, they will still show them to at least three of their favorite people, you know? Absolutely.
Yeah. And nobody remembers what they used to look like unless you show it to them. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: So, Let me tell you that has, just giving them their pictures has made unhappy patients happy. I agree. You know, I don’t really see a difference. Well, look at this. Wow, I looked like that. I had no idea. You know, they, because they think they’re going to look like someone else.
There’s this, this thought that if they have cosmetic surgery, it’s going to completely change their look. Right. And they say, well, no one noticed. Well, what did people say? Well, they say that they, my hair makes me look younger. Well, they noticed. They just don’t know what they noticed. And that’s a great result.
And then you show them and they get it. Hopefully.
Catherine Maley, MBA: So, true. So, what do you think in today’s world, what would you say is one of the biggest challenges of being in a cosmetic practice or running one? Or keeping it competitive. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: What would you say is the biggest challenge in today’s world? I think it, it’s dealing with these angry patients.
I think that there’s a lot of body dysmorphic. Mm-hmm. And we are terrible at, at figuring out who has it. We’ve done a study that showed that we all think we’re great at it and we’re terrible at it. I think there’s a lot more psychopathology. And, you know, we have to be really, really careful with treating our patients because they, they will sometimes threaten you with bad reviews.
Mm-hmm. You know, if you don’t give me my money back, I’m writing a bad review. And it’s, it happens. I’ve had it happen and I’m sure everybody listening has had it happen. It’s terrible. So, the patients today are very, very challenging. And I think that you have to go with your gut. If you have a bad feeling about a patient, try not to try not to operate on them or, or treat them.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Or if your staff has a bad feeling too, I would listen to them because they oftentimes treat you differently than the staff, and you just want to know as much intel as you can before you say yes to that patient. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Absolutely. My staff has, has a code at the computer where they put a lot of stars. Yeah. And wonder, that means they don’t like them.
Catherine Maley, MBA: And it’s so, funny, I always say, don’t you have some kind of a code like a for angry, like a big a with a circle on it. And that tells we got a hot one here. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: A lot of stars. No one knows what stars mean. They think it’s good.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That’s really brilliant too. So, back to ps. As you, as the president, is there like one big like one big issue that you were trying to address during your presidency? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Is that too old?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: There, well, there’s always. A lot of issues. Our academy itself has an issue with transparency. Mm-hmm. So, I’m working really, really hard at increasing the transparency of what we do, because we do so, much, but people don’t know it. So, I’m doing videos, we’re doing more e-blasts. We have a Facebook group.
And still people don’t know what’s going on, you know, I mean, we’ve done everything but smoke signals, you know? But, so, trying to get people more in the loop. And then what is really kind of fun is advocacy. We’re writing, right now, we’re working with UnitedHealthcare. They’ve developed a policy that is really not in the best interest of the patient, so, we’re working with them to try to get the policy changed.
So those are some of the big things we’re working on.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That must be an act of God, huh? Changing policy. How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Can’t imagine. Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And, they’re very good at not communicating and making it impossible to communicate with them. It’s, it’s really how they hide behind everything. So, yeah.
So, it’s a little bit at a time, but we’re making some progress.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Good for you. So, I want to wrap it up now, and I like to wrap it up with this last question, which is tell us something we don’t know about you.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Well, that’s a very fun answer because you were not going to believe me. But the thing that you don’t know about me is that I am ticket number 664 for Virgin Galactic, and I will probably get my space stride in about 2026 or 2027.
Catherine Maley, MBA: No kidding. That is amazing. Really?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Yeah. I bought a ticket.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I did not see that coming Dr. Kontis. I know, I know. Is there rude to ask? How much is it? How does this relate to your goal on having booked a seat into space?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Oh, it’s a lot. A lot. It’s a lot. But you know you work hard your whole life and you think, you know, what am I going to get out of all this work other than just the satisfaction of taking care of patients and, you know, I have a nice car and I have a nice home and you know, what do you need in life?
But that’s a dream that I’ve always had and I thought, you know, I’m just going to do it. And I asked my husband if it was okay with him if I bought a ticket and he said there’s no way he’s going. But I did. And I’m really excited about it.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. You win for the most unusual answer. Oh, wow.
Good. My Lord.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Thank you.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Doesn’t that give you something to look forward to?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: Oh, it does. And part of the training is that we got to do this zero-gravity flight. Oh. Where we, you go on this airplane that does parabolic flight, so, it goes up and then when it comes down, you’re weightless. Oh. And so, you get to feel what it’s like to be weightless and they do that for you so, that when you finally go to space, You can unhook your seatbelt and be weightless, but it’s not the first time and you can actually enjoy looking at the earth from space and you know, you’ve already been weightless.
Catherine Maley, MBA: So, unbelievable, that was fun. Unbelievable. Okay. Wow. If anybody has any questions for you or would like to contact you, how would they do so?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: They can email me: [email protected].
Catherine Maley, MBA: About the AOL.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: I’m old.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Might want to Gmail.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: I know.
Catherine Maley, MBA: What’s your website? ACW or something?
Theda C. Kontis, MD: www.ACWPlasticSurgery.com. Mm-hmm.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. Dr. Kontis, it has been an absolute pleasure. I will never re forget this. Yeah, now I think I need a really big goal because I didn’t, I wasn’t thinking that big. Okay. And then thank you so, much for being here. I will see you at an upcoming meeting, hopefully, and enjoy your presidency.
Theda C. Kontis, MD: It’s always a pleasure, Catherine. Thank you.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Thanks so, much.
Everybody that’s going to wrap it up for us today, a Beauty and the Biz and this episode on how Dr. Kontis booked a seat into space.
If you’ve got any questions or feedback for Dr. Kontis, you can reach out to her website at, www.ACWPlasticSurgery.com.
A big thanks to Dr. Kontis for sharing her goal to have booked a seat into space.
And if you have any questions or feedback for me, you can go ahead and leave them at my website at www.CatherineMaley.com, or you can certainly DM me on Instagram @CatherineMaleyMBA.
If you’ve enjoyed this episode on Beauty and the Biz, please head over to Apple Podcasts and give me a review and subscribe to Beauty and the Biz so, you don’t miss any episodes. And of course, please share this with your staff and colleagues.
And we will talk to you again soon. Take care.
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-End transcript for “Booked a Seat into Space — with Theda C. Kontis, MD”.
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