Let’s begin with getting a little background on your education.
I came to medicine late in my college career. It was late in my senior year of college, and I was required to do volunteer work in order to graduate. Having attended college on an athletic scholarship, I lacked a clear direction in terms of a future career. I opted to complete my volunteer hours in a local emergency room. It was there I became fascinated with medicine. I was a philosophy and humanities major, therefore lacking a science foundation. As a result I spent the next two years after graduation pursuing post-bachelor science courses. I did far better in these classes and enjoyed them thoroughly, leading me to medical school. Throughout medical school, I was certain I wanted to pursue surgery, but it wasn’t until my third year of general surgery residency that I chose plastic surgery. I completed both a general surgery residency and a plastic surgery fellowship leading to board certification in both specialties.
Upon entering the medical field, has your focus always been in plastic surgery?
Initially in general surgery I was fascinated with trauma and cardiothoracic surgery. However as I went through training I began to greatly appreciate the broad range of surgical expertise necessary to practice plastic and reconstructive surgery. It is one of the last fields of surgery that allows you to operate on the whole body and on patients of all ages. We perform surgery on children needing reconstruction of cleft lips and palates, burn patients, trauma patients and cancer patients needing reconstruction on all areas of the body, as well as conducting hand surgery, facial reconstruction and cosmetic surgery of the face and body. It is truly a fascinating specialty.
What made you decide to open up your own practice?
Upon completion of training at the Medical University of South Carolina, I was fortunate enough to obtain a faculty position. I spent five years as a full-time academic faculty member. I greatly enjoyed and appreciated working with medical students and residents during this time. In May 2013, I completed an MBA degree at the Darla Moore School of Business and began private practice in July of that year. While [it was] intimidating initially, I have to say there’s nothing quite like working for yourself. I have thoroughly enjoyed building Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery into the diversified and expanding practice it is today. I have been so fortunate to have great staff and colleagues who have worked tirelessly to ensure our success. I am greatly appreciative of their effort, talent and dedication.
Which would you say are the contributing factors in why Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery has maintained such a strong reputation as one of the leaders in your industry?
I believe our continued success is directly related to our focus on the overall satisfaction of our patients. We pride ourselves on going above and beyond whenever possible to ensure our patients and their families are satisfied, happy and safe in whatever aspect of cosmetic plastic surgery they choose to pursue. While this is a plastic surgery practice, ultimately we are delivering a service and a product to a consumer. In order to be successful in any business your consumer has to have the best possible experience and that’s what we try to deliver at Sweetgrass. I tell patients I absolutely cannot guarantee you the perfect outcome — no doctor can, or should — but I do guarantee we will do whatever possible to ensure you are satisfied and happy in the end.
What is the most challenging aspect you face as a plastic surgeon?
I believe today one of the most challenging aspects of plastic surgery is dealing with patient expectations, which are often misaligned or unachievable based on the influence of social media and the internet. Unfortunately, today Google searches and social posts from nonqualified medical people often influence patients. Perhaps worse yet, they not only influence patients but often misguide them, leading to unnecessary or unwarranted anxiety and concern. The days of only practicing medicine and not managing your social media and online reputation are over. A day doesn’t go by that a patient or their family member doesn’t say to me, “I looked this up online and Google said . . .” Each time I hear that I’m still amazed that they don’t find it unusual that that is their reference for medical knowledge.
On the flip side, what is the most rewarding?
By far the most rewarding and enjoyable part of practicing plastic surgery is seeing the dramatic emotional impact a cosmetic plastic surgery procedure can have on a patient when done for the right reason, under the right circumstances, with the right patient expectations. Patients can be transformed from being unsure of themselves and self-conscious to being vibrant, confident people who just enjoy life more as a result of no longer having that self-doubt.
You authored a book that is featured on page 36 of this issue of Oblique Magazine. What prompted your decision to write a book?
I recently completed my first book, “Finding Beauty.” It was a year-long process, at times very tedious but one I thoroughly enjoyed. The focus of the book is to help potential patients understand the meaning of true beauty and how cosmetic plastic surgery can often help someone achieve that beauty. Each chapter is based on a patient interaction that I had at some point over the past 10 years of my career. The book covers everything from preoperative assessment to the postoperative care. I think the book is extremely useful for not only patients but also family members of patients undergoing plastic surgery. It gives them insight into the process and hopefully prepares them for what to expect. My main motivating factor for writing the book was the fact I felt so many patients were experiencing the same difficulties both prior to as well as after surgical procedures. I felt if there was a way to better prepare patients and their families for the process, the outcomes would be better and the patients would ultimately be happier. I believe “Finding Beauty” achieves this goal.
What is on the horizon for Dr. Dennis Schimpf and Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery?
Right now our immediate goals at Sweetgrass are to continue expanding into new markets in the Greater Charleston area. In December 2017, we opened a full-time office at Freshfields on Kiawah Island; we are currently in negotiations with a local medical weight-loss center, which we hope to integrate into our practice in early 2018; and we have plans to open an office in the West Ashley area by May 2018. In the meantime, we will continue to grow our current Summerville and Daniel Island locations. In addition to offering cosmetic plastic surgery, we have brought on physicians specializing in integrative medicine, allowing us to offer medical weight-loss management and hormone therapy. We are also one of the first cosmetic plastic surgery offices in the country to have a counselor on staff for our patients’ ongoing needs to ensure their process through weight loss and surgery is the best possible experience. We truly try to offer our patients the best total all-around experience, hopefully meeting all of their needs that we can.