Yan Ho Lee, MD, is a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who is board-certified in otolaryngology. She chose this field to help adults and children with deformities and other problems affecting their face feel better about themselves. “The face is integral in how others perceive you and in how you perceive yourself,” says Dr. Lee.
Dr. Lee performs both cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries, including rhinoplasties, face lifts, neck lifts and eyelid surgeries, skin cancer removals and MOHS reconstruction, and nonsurgical treatment of wrinkles and aging face and neck. She also performs complex reconstructions for patients who have had broken bones or skin cancer. “If someone was born with a deviated nose, breaks a bone in their face, or wakes up and half their face isn't moving, it can affect their self-confidence. I want to help these patients feel better about themselves,” she says.
An assistant professor of surgery (otolaryngology) at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Lee says her field is evolving with such new tools as 3D printing, which makes it possible to create a mold of a patient’s anatomy. So, if a patient breaks a bone in one side of his or her face, the doctor can make a mirror image of the bony structure on the other side, and use it to mold implants or plates.
Some of Dr. Lee’s surgeries, like a closure of a small wound, take as little as a half hour. More extensive surgeries can range from three hours to up to 12 hours—and some patients will need multiple surgeries over a period of months. “A patient may have had a disfiguring tumor or broken bones and soft tissue injury from a terrible accident. In those cases, we have to use our skills and all of the radiographic studies to help us reconstruct their normal anatomy,” Dr. Lee says.
Dr. Lee had one patient whose nose had flattened completely when it hit a surface in a car crash. “The nose is made up not only of bone, but also of cartilage, and when the cartilage gets crushed or damaged, it can be difficult to reconstruct the nose,” Dr. Lee says. She performed a lengthy surgery to first adjust the bones, then another repair, months later, borrowing cartilage from her patient’s ear to create a better shape. “It is amazing to see her now,” Dr. Lee says. “She was very brave, and she recovered well, and now she's doing great.”