It’s really hard to take a month off from your regular life and disappear to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone. Hard but also exhilarating and extremely liberating! I found this out when I decided to take a month long academic sabbatical to Seoul, South Korea, one of the world’s leading centers in cosmetic surgery, just four weeks after launching Pacific Oculofacial Plastic Surgery. This was something I’ve wanted to do to further my skill set for years but always seemed to have an excuse to put off, but the launch of my practice was just the impetus I needed, because I wanted to learn the latest cutting-edge techniques in skin care & surgery and bring it back to my patients in Seattle!
But did I mention it’s hard to be in a totally foreign place???
After more than 10 hours on a plane, I landed at Incheon airport after dark and was faced with the task of navigating myself to the AirBnB via one of numerous charter buses. Although I briefly entertained the thought of sleeping in the airport and figuring it out the next day, I managed the task with the help of a lot of gesticulating and friendly airport staff.
The very next morning, I woke up well before dawn because I was so excited (or perhaps it was the jetlag) to start my observership at the famous BK Hospital for cosmetic surgery in the Gangnam district of Seoul!
Fast forward a week and I’ve learned so much! Asian eyelid and facial surgery is an art form in and of itself. Realizing the critical role of skin care in the Korean beauty regimen, I connected with two cosmetic dermatologists and visited their practices. I was so flattered when, upon meeting me, the famous Dr. Kim Hyun Jo pulled out his copy of my research paper on the vascular complications of dermal filler injection, and asked for my autograph!
I also visited oculoplastic surgeons at Kim’s Eye Hospital and Samsung Medical Center, where I reunited with internationally renowned oculoplastic surgeon (and stellar teacher) Dr. Kim Yoon Duck. My enthusiasm for oculofacial plastic surgery and cross-cultural learning was so infectious that I also started two academic collaborations, which I’ll be continuing in the months ahead. Dr. Do Eon Rok, plastic surgeon at BK Hospital and I are currently writing a textbook chapter entitled Asian Blepharoplasty for the soon-to-be published textbook Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery: Tricks of the Trade. While at BK Hospital, I met Dr. Liang Wei Chung, plastic surgeon in Taipei, Taiwan, who was also visiting hospitals in Seoul. He and I realized we have shared research interests in advanced topics of Asian eyelid surgery and have started clinical research projects. More exciting news on that to come!
And just in case you thought my trip was all work and no play… I didn’t pass up the opportunity to see the sights, shop, and eat some very tasty cuisine on my first trip to Korea.
All in all, a very successful trip professionally, personally, and gastronomically. I can’t wait to share my knowledge with my Seattle patients and I’m already planning my next sabbatical.