MARQUETTE -Plastic surgeons sometimes get a bad rap, portrayed on cable and reality shows as part of a Hollywood culture obsessed with beauty.
But, as Dr. Michael Harl will tell you, there's much more to the specialty area of surgery than just aesthetic procedures. Harl has been on the medical staff of Marquette General Health System and Surgical Associates of Marquette since August 2007, and also sees patients in Escanaba twice a month. He's a plastic surgeon, but his practice isn't just Botox and tummy tucks. A major part of his practice is reconstructive surgeries, which include correcting traumatic injuries to the face and hand, or reconstructive work after burns, he said.
In a tough economy, purely cosmetic procedures are showing a decline in volume, nationally, Harl said, because they are not covered by insurance companies. But that's not yet the case locally, he said.
"The U.P. to some degree up here seems to be slow to respond to the recession, and conversely in times of economic expansion, it's slow to respond too. So overall it's pretty stable," Harl said.
Harl said he also specializes in reconstruction after breast cancer, and works with a breast cancer support group that meets at MGH.
A large part of his plastic surgery training was done at Emory University in Atlanta, which is known for its advances in breast reconstruction techniques, Harl said.
"There's been a lot of philosophical changes in the field as well; now, a lot of times, we'll do the reconstruction right after a mastectomy, which often allows more of the original skin to be available," Harl explained.
His approach to his practice is to incorporate his skills at both general and cosmetic surgery for each patient, he said.
"I think sometimes the better the cosmetic surgeon, the better the general surgeon ... It makes it easier to get a good result," he said. "The thing about plastic surgeons is that people tend to pigeonhole you as either a cosmetic surgeon or a traumatic, reconstructive surgeon, but to be the best, you need to have both." Harl added the cosmetic skills can help reconstructive surgeries be done with best aesthetic result as well.
Board certified in plastic surgery and general surgery, Harl completed a burn fellowship at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and a surgical intensive care fellowship at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. He completed his plastic surgery residency at Emory University in Atlanta, and his surgical residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
He said another trait that marks his practice is face-to-face treatment.
"When a patient comes to me for Botox, for example, there's not going to be a nurse giving the injection. It's always one-on-one time with the doctor," Harl said.