I just shook hands with a face transplant patient and did not know it

January 21, 2015- By Steven E. Greer, MD

I was in the process of being given a personal tour of the new facilities of the NYU Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery when the doctor interrupted and introduced me to a patient. The adult male was walking normally and in street clothes, but obviously had undergone some serious neck surgery. I assumed that he was a radical neck dissection patient because his left neck was small and his left jaw was abnormal. Otherwise, his ears, eyes, nose, and face were normal. His speech was slurred.

Later on, the doctor giving me the tour informed me that the man had received a total face transplant. I was stunned, because the first cases that were reported in the press had suboptimal aesthetic outcomes, to say the least. This patient could easily function in society without being shunned, and if he wore a turtleneck, his appearance would be quite within the norms of society.

Eduardo Rodriguez, MD is the new Chairman of Plastic Surgery at NYU, and the one leading up the face transplant team at NYU. The patient I met was operated on in Maryland when Dr. Rodriguez was there.

From the NYU website, “Dr. Rodriguez was born and raised in Miami, Florida and is the son of Cuban immigrants. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology from the University of Florida in 1988 followed by a DDS degree from New York University in 1992. He completed his residency in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at Montefiore Medical Center / Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1997 and received his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia in 1999. In 2003, he graduated from the combined plastic surgery program at Johns Hopkins Hospital / University of Maryland Medical Center. He subsequently completed an International Reconstructive Microsurgery Fellowship at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan in 2004. He is dually boarded by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and American Board of Plastic Surgery.”

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