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December 2009
Maximum Results
By Susanne Deitzel

     When we think about a professional with a gift or a talent—the person we typically associate with it is usually someone who does things differently. Sometimes this means more boldly or more colorfully, and always at a higher level of expertise.

     Dr. Joseph Hunstad, founder of The Hunstad Center for Cosmetic Plastic Surgery, fits both of these distinctions. Hunstad has risen to the pinnacle of his profession since he began practicing in Charlotte 22 years ago, and has done so with unabashed confidence and élan. His reputation is synonymous with medical and academic rigor, as well as unparalleled technical skill.

     With the superfluity of celebrity procedures and pop culture television shows, one could presume that cosmetic surgeries are fairly straightforward and “standard.” But one conversation with Joseph Hunstad shifts that paradigm pretty quickly.

     Hunstad feels he was “destined” for his work. While he originally thought he would specialize in burn repair surgery, when he attended a cosmetic surgery in medical school, the delicacy and detail sparked his intellectual curiosity. And when Hunstad’s curiosity gets sparked, plan on a wildfire!

     Today, the surgeon is ranked among the prestigious Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Doctors, America’s Top Physicians, Strathmore’s Who’s Who, Kiplinger’s Who’s Who and Charlotte Magazine’s Top Doctors. He has spoken in 22 countries, recently published a text book on Abdominoplasty, designed an eponymous series of surgical instruments, and developed a procedure that also bears his name. Filming of his innovative procedures has been captured on DVDs and used at teaching hospitals around the globe.

     Hunstad obtained his M.D. at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and received a coveted fellowship in Reconstructive Microsurgery at Baylor University in Houston. He has served as an assistant consulting professor for plastic surgery at Duke University Medical Center as well as an assistant clinical professor for plastic surgery at UNC Chapel Hill.

     Hunstad’s curriculum vitae overflows with accreditations and membership in numerous professional boards and medical societies including the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, International Consortium of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, International Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Southeastern Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, North Carolina Society of Plastic Surgeons, North Carolina Medical Society, Mecklenburg County Medical Society; he lectures internationally and publishes regularly in academic journals.

     But Hunstad is more than intelligent, successful and industrious. He is passionate about what he does.


Old-school principles

     If you could imagine Virgin Airlines’ Richard Branson as a highly respected surgeon, you would have a start to appreciating Joseph Hunstad.

     Hunstad attributes his extraordinary acumen and reputation partially on the fact that he’s pretty fearless. “I am about maximum results. This means refusing to settle and figuring out new ways to do things that will benefit our patients in terms of results, safety and service,” he says purposefully.

     He adds, “I am hypercritical of myself and have high expectations of what we deliver for our clients. As a result, we get a lot of referrals from other plastic surgeons—an extraordinarily high compliment in a very competitive arena.”

     Hunstad maintains that the best cosmetic surgery goes unnoticed, and if he encounters a potential client whose standards are what he calls misdirected or unrealistic, he will gracefully bow out of the patient relationship. He says patients are also carefully interviewed, and if an aesthetic request overshadows reasonability, he will also decline the relationship.

     “I spend a lot of time listening to my patients. When you come here, you get my undivided attention. I get to know you and your family and what is important to you. We determine not only what solution is most appropriate, but what you need to be comfortable and confident in your decision,” explains Hunstad.

     Hunstad, warm and caring in his client relationships, is decidedly old-school when it comes to patient interaction.

     “I have a deep respect for my patients. I call them Mr. or Mrs. Smith. If they fly in to Charlotte-Douglas, it is not unusual for me to send our limousine. I wear an impeccable suit to meet them and my staff will attend to their every request. This not only demonstrates respect but gives them the confidence they deserve in our process.”

     This brings front and center the defining characteristics of Hunstad and the center he operates—constant improvement, rigorous medical practice and fastidiousness for top-tier client care.

     Since 1995, Hunstad has practiced in his own fully accredited, state-of-the-art surgical center in northeast Charlotte. A stickler for precision, he went to extraordinary lengths to guarantee the health and care of his patients, from the office design, to the suite of services, hand-selected surgical staff, and meticulously-credentialed anesthesiologists.

     This fall, he took another bold leap, opening a brand new, 9,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in North Lake Business Park. It occupies the top floor of a three-story building that looks more mountain lodge than medical park. Expansive windows, elegant accents and stone veneer are surrounded by a wooded setting and walking trails. Hunstad says the new location is carefully designed to offer a premium experience for both surgical and spa clients, and separate entrances are provided for increased convenience and privacy.

     In addition to cosmetic surgery, Hunstad’s new center provides many non-invasive offerings like Botox, Juvederm and Restylane, and an expanded medi-spa. The new medi-spa space has expanded from two to five private treatment rooms and offers a suite of services including skin health consultations, laser treatments, oxygen treatments, facials, microdermabrasion, peels, waxing and makeup consultations. The medi-spa also attends to post-operative treatments to provide increased comfort and accelerated healing cycles.

     But despite the luxurious atmosphere, painstaking detail to client services, and boutique experience of the new physical space, the clear distinction with Joseph Hunstad is surgical excellence.


Demand for excellence

     One distinction from other cosmetic surgeons is that Dr. Joseph Hunstad does not do free consultations. People who come to see him often arrive on planes or in private cars, and they know who he is. Among the procedures for which Dr. Hunstad is renowned is expert body contouring and facelifts.

     “If you are looking for a natural-looking facelift, have had considerable weight loss and want to look good in a swim suit again, or are looking for abdominoplasty or breast contouring, I’m your guy.” Fifteen percent of Hunstad’s clients are males who see him for high definition body contouring.

     His peers often refer these specialties to him, as well as difficult cases and revision surgeries. His technical precision minimizes complications that he says are endemic in all surgeries and includes a level of expertise that Hunstad calls ‘bloodless surgery.’

     He explains, “Blood is a precious commodity and it isn’t necessary to lose it. Plus, when you reduce this factor, you accelerate healing. Patients get walking sooner and this restores the body’s natural ability to heal.”

      Hunstad is known for his surgical innovation as well as his skill. His techniques in tumescent liposculpture surgery and circumferential abdominoplasty have been made into instructional videos by The Lipoplasty Society of North America and The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and he frequently performs live surgeries at teaching hospitals.

     He’s developed a set of medical instruments called The Hunstad Line, and in the past two years he has pioneered procedures called the bra-line back lift and purse-string gluteoplasty. He says they are great advances, but of course, he is not resting on his laurels.

     “There is a lot of mediocre cosmetic surgery out there, and most of it is a function of two things. One is that many people are conservative and settle for repeating what they know rather than continuing to learn and thinking of better ways to do things. The other is that many doctors got into the practice for financial reward as opposed to passion, and it shows. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that money isn’t nice to have, but it isn’t what motivated me into this line of work,” says Hunstad.

     What motivates Joseph Hunstad is passion. He’s the kind of guy that cares more about what it feels like to drive a Ferrari than what it means to be seen in one. He confesses he has a personality that can go from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye, digs Bob Seger, and has been known to take a notebook to the deer stand with him to capture inspiration as it strikes.

     He’s also a study in contrasts.

     Not surprisingly, he loves art. Surprisingly, he prefers Impressionists. He is outspoken in his assertions, but gentle with his patients. He is aesthetically driven and scientifically erudite. He speaks boldly with sweeping gestures, but is a master of detail. He is a classic perfectionist surrounded by people who wish to correct their imperfections.

     Hunstad is his work.


The future takes shape

     Now in his 22nd year of practice, Joseph Hunstad has risen to national and international esteem, and with the opening of his new facility is looking toward the future. The best year for his practice was 2007, and 2009 has held steady with last year’s business. He attributes this to national and peer recognition in a market where many in his field are closing their doors.

     Hunstad is also paying his expertise and philosophy forward. For the past eight years he has offered a fellowship program for which he currently has a two-and-a-half-year waiting list of students. Says Hunstad, “Colleagues from all over the world—Columbia, Iceland, Sweden, Italy, Brazil—send their associates to study with us.”

     In August of this year, Hunstad invited Dr. William Kortesis, an accomplished plastic surgeon who specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, to become the second surgeon in the practice, a pretty big compliment. He says that it was one of the best decisions he has ever made.

     “Bill is one hundred percent committed to the highest levels of technical proficiency and patient care. He is thoughtful, adored by staff, and a great person,” says Hunstad.

     Kortesis, North Carolina native, graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, received his medical degree from Wake Forest University and completed his residency at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. He turned down four jobs to work with Hunstad. Most recently Kortesis completed a humanitarian effort to help pediatric burn victims in Bolivia, performing over 5,000 surgical cases. Says Hunstad, “We needed a superstar—and that’s what Bill is.”

     Kortesis maintains that it is a privilege to be a plastic surgeon: “The theme of our practice is changing people’s lives. It’s about much more than aesthetics; it is about building a relationship to enhance the overall persona of each and every patient; in essence, to make a difference in their life.”

     Hunstad says that although he will continue to add physicians in the future, “It’s not easy finding surgeons of Bill’s caliber professionally and personally—but that is the standard we have set for ourselves.”

     In addition to practicing surgery, publishing, speaking and teaching, Hunstad is viscerally involved with the business of The Hunstad Center. He makes the decisions for the practice—impulsively, intuitively, and on-the-money.

     He operates without a practice manager and attributes his success to a competent, committed and loyal staff. Hunstad says he learned early on that relationships with support staff are critical, particularly in surgery, because of the delicate nature of the work.

     “I have had people who have been with me for 14 years. I am very liberal in granting authority and empowering my staff. Employee longevity is an absolute indicator of practice health.”

     Joseph Hunstad moves just as instinctively though conversation as he appears to in his decision-making or surgical finesse. He moves through words and situations with an undeniable confidence that tends to move things forward and shape things into something distinctive and individual.

     This is how Joseph Hunstad attends to his patients. This is also how he continues to shape what will most definitely be a very attractive future for The Hunstad Center.

Susanne Deitzel is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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