Top Docs Q&A: G Gregory Gallico III

Gallico has found a way to combine his love for art with surgery.

This post is part of our Top Docs Q&A series where we ask a physician who was selected as one of our Top Docs questions about their field, life as a doctor, and practicing in the Greater Boston area. 

Name: G Gregory Gallico III

Hospital Affiliation: Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

Title: Plastic Surgeon at The Boston Center, Associate Professor Harvard Medical School

SpecialtyPlastic Surgery

Why did you choose to specialize in plastic surgery?

I was always very interested in art from the time I was young, so when I got into medical school I found that surgery was just as much fun as art and sculpting. Obviously, plastic surgery is the artistic end of surgery, so it all fits together. It makes a nice combination of my interest in art and my interest in surgery.

What do you like most about the field?

It’s very creative. Every time we do some type of surgery, each one is a little bit different. I have to think about how I’m going to do the surgery, like I would a piece of art. I also have to think how that surgery is different than what I’ve done before, and in what ways can I optimize the results.

In the time you’ve been practicing, how have you seen the field change?

I think there’s been a steady improvement in techniques. There are new methods available with implant materials and the actual ways of performing the surgery. And in endoscopic techniques and the like, there has been a tremendous evolution over the last 30 years in all of those fields. The methods during surgery will continue to evolve as people will continue to innovate.

What are the latest advancements in the field?

I used to do a lot of computer digitalization, and that has gradually improved as computer graphics have improved. By using the computer for images, we can help the patient see what might be possible, what several possibilities are, and it gives them a chance to pick and choose what they will like for an outcome from the surgery. The evolution of computer projections are a good thing. They help people understand what’s possible in the surgery.

What is your hope for the future of plastic surgery?

Well, it’s hard to project what will exactly happen in the future. I think there will be more techniques of 3-D visualization that will help people understand how things might change. I think 3-D is a big possibility along those lines. And I think people will be able to better look and find out in advance what the result will be, and then they can better understand what will be done. By the same token, I don’t think it will end up being a totally mechanized activity. I think that plastic surgery will always remain, as part, a sculpture. It all depends on the surgeon doing the surgery and their artistic sense.

You’re a pioneer in the use of computer stimulation for nose surgery. How did that come about?

I’ve been doing it for 25 plus years, and gradually the computer stimulation evolved to helped me and my patients see how much plastic surgery they want to do. They can see and tell me if they want to do a little bit, a medium amount, or a large amount. They can also see how much change there will be and what they will look like after the changes. It’s a good tool for the patient, and myself, to understand what the patient wants to achieve with plastic surgery.

How does computer stimulation work?

We sit down together with the patients photograph, and then put it on the screen and change them. Right there, almost as if I was painting of drawing. I can use a tablet to change the image on the screen and they can say, “Oh, I like that” or, “I don’t like that” or, “Can you do this?” This way, we can find out in advance what they want to do.

Why did you decide to get multiple art degrees while getting your medical degree?

Art is fun. As I say, I started with my family when I was a kid and I continued on in school. When I was at Yale, I spent a lot of time over at the Yale School of Art just drawing and painting, and when I was in medical school over at Harvard, I spent a lot of time over at the Mass College of Art. I still do a lot of drawing and painting on the side and as I say, plastic surgery is a fairly artistic part of surgery. It all fits together.

You’ve been featured in Self, Allure, and Glamour magazines for your surgical techniques, which they call “state-of-the-art.” What is it about your technique that is so different?

A lot of doctors do open rhinoplasty where they cut on the outside of the nose and that, of course, leaves a scar on the outside of the nose. I do all surgery from the inside of the nose and there are no scars on the outside and there’s no evidence that the patient had the surgery. That’s an important part of surgical techniques. The important thing in plastic surgery is achieving the surgical result without a lot of evidence on the outside that anything has been done.