Marie E. Pletsch, M.D. is the director of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Medical Center of Monterey Bay and Genesis, Inc., a Medspa in the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay area. She has been in private practice specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery since 1969.
Dr. Pletsch received her M.D. Degree from the University of Toronto in 1962. She completed her medical internship in 1963 at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, followed by a three-year residency in general surgery at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and St. Marys Hospital in San Francisco. Following this she completed a residency in plastic surgery at St. Francis Hospital, San Francisco. This included a rotation through Letterman Army Hospital, Contra Costa County Hospital, San Quentin Prison Hospital, U.S. Public Health Hospital and Southern Pacific Hospital.
Dr. Pletsch, on her early aspirations, her background, and her medical training: “My original plan was to be a medical missionary – to go to Africa and work in health care helping people. Then I learned that I could meet this need by being a physician and helping people right where I lived. I didn’t have to go to Africa! I was at Cook County Hospital at that time and noted there were more than enough people here that needed surgeons, that needed help.”
“I knew I wanted to be a surgeon, right from the start of medical school. I had excellent training all the way through and was fortunate to be able to do my internship at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. It was there that I realized how much I liked to do the hands-on work of suturing lacerations and treating wounds. It was an extraordinarily busy hospital and one rotation was a 12-hour shift in the surgical dispensary. At the end of a long shift, I’d look out and see that there were still many patients who needed to be seen. I just stayed late, time after time, sewing people up and working in surgery for as long as I could stand on my feet. It was during that year that I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jack Sheen, a gifted plastic surgery resident who became a renowned pioneer and expert in the area of nasal surgery, as well as other aspects of both plastic and reconstructive surgery. He took an interest in me and taught me many pearls in wound repair. His guidance and support contributed greatly to my growing desire to be a plastic surgeon.”
“When I arrived in Santa Cruz in 1969, there were no other plastic surgeons in the area. This gave me an invaluable opportunity to perform every type of plastic surgery – hand surgery and trauma injuries that required reconstructive surgeries, in addition to the full range of elective cosmetic surgery procedures. As a result, I gained an extraordinary amount of experience at the beginning of my career, which has enabled me to develop expertise in many areas.
Areas of Specialization
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Dr. Pletsch performs the full range of Cosmetic Plastic Surgery procedures for the face and body and is a respected expert in reconstructive surgeries. She has been in the active practice of aesthetic sugery for more than 40 years. “At the present time, approximately 60% of my patients seek elective plastic surgery and 40% require reconstructive surgeries. I perform surgeries of the face, including eyes, chin, cheeks, and nose, as well as both face and brow lifts. I also do the major body procedures, including liposuction, tummy tucks, breast surgeries, buttock lifts, and body contouring for those who have undergone significant weight loss and want to get rid of excess skin and return to a more normal shape.
Dr. Pletsch, on the Initial Consultation: “It all starts with the initial consultation. It’s really important for me to find out what’s bothering the patient. It doesn’t matter what they’re scheduled for when they book that first appointment to see me. What I want to know is what really concerns them about their appearance. I find that often another doctor has already told the patient what they need or what they should have done to improve their appearance. But I’m not interested in what someone else thinks. I’m only interested in what troubles my patients personally…what they want and what they feel they need.”
“Often, I find that my patients aren’t entirely sure what they want. They know they want to look better but they aren’t really certain what will enable them to attain that goal. The human face and body are complex. It takes a good deal of thought and interaction to determine how to proceed. During consultations, I make eye contact, pay attention, and focus on listening. Then I ask questions and together my patient and I determine what will be best for her or him. Safety and realistic expectations are always critical considerations, of course. But the patient’s hopes and desires have to be heard and responded to. That’s the way I do it. The patient’s needs come first.”
Facelift and Brow Lift: It’s a challenge and a pleasure to perform facelifts, with or without eyelid surgery - working with each individual’s unique bone structure, skin, and aging process. I have done facelifts on patients as young as 35 and have done them for patients into their early 70’s, if they are healthy and appropriate candidates for this type of surgery. A good facelift can take 10-15 years away from the aging process, which pleases my patients.
Breast Enhancement, Reduction & Reconstruction
Dr. Pletsch is considered an expert in the range of plastic and reconstructive surgeries of the breasts. A cancer survivor herself, she underwent double mastectomies and breast reconstruction many years ago and retains a deep commitment to performing the full range of breast-related surgeries.
Dr. Pletsch: “I am a cancer survivor and I experienced breast reconstruction, so I find performing breast reconstruction surgery extremely rewarding.
In 1988, I underwent bilateral breast reconstruction surgery and, as a result, I feel a special bond with my breast reconstruction patients. I feel that revealing this information helps my patients feel that someone understands their problem and what they’re going through. I’m attuned to these patients, and I understand what they want and what they need as they move through the process. I find that my breast surgery patients are almost always highly satisfied and happy with their results, and this is particularly so with patients who have undergone breast reconstruction surgery.”
“Breast augmentation is commonly sought by women in their 30’s, but a growing number of women in their late teens and 20’s are opting for them. They don’t want to go through life feeling uncomfortable with their breasts. They want to look their best, and they want to do it sooner rather than later so they have many years to feel good about the way they look. I support that reasoning. In recent years, there’s also been a significant increase in older women – right up into their 60’s – seeking breast augmentation or breast reconstruction surgery. Women are healthier nowadays and they are living longer. They want to feel comfortable in their bodies and, assuming they are healthy, they are typically good candidates for breast enhancement.
Dr. Pletsch on breast implants: “I do a lot of breast implant replacement surgeries. They many times involve removing saline implants. I use silicone implants for the simple reason that they are the best choice for most women. They feel like real breast tissue and yield a natural and appealing appearance. In recent years, they also have an extremely low rupture rate – 1% over a 10-year period, in comparison to saline implants, 10% of which rupture over a 10-year period. I have been involved in a number of important breast implant research studies, and am confident that silicone implants are the safer and best choice for most patients despite the controversy over silicone which continues. I’ve done a lot of expert witness work to support the use of silicone implants and many of these cases have been successfully challenged. I can say with certainty that once my patients are given the best available information on both types of implants, most of them want silicone.”
“This is a wonderful surgery. The patients are so excited because the results are dramatic. They’ve usually suffered years of self-consciousness, pain, and discomfort so they are very happy patients afterwards.”
“A patient of mine underwent reduction mammoplasty (breast reduction) and her situation was terrible beforehand. She was short in stature and her breasts were simply huge; she could hardly walk from the weight of them, which caused her body to droop forward and downward. She suffered excruciating back pain too, a result of carrying all that excess tissue. She was 79 years old and just couldn’t take it anymore. After the consultation, a thorough examination, and medical check to ensure that she was healthy, there was no reason why she couldn’t go ahead and have the surgery and so I performed it and it went beautifully. Afterward, her family sent flowers and my patient said, “You are an angel sent from God.” I’ll never forget it. She told me, “You have no idea what you did for me. You restored my youth.” The truth is I was able to give her a body that was lighter and well proportioned…and she had never had that in her youth, or at any other time during her life. This is why my work is so profoundly meaningful to me. I’m fortunate to be able to do what I do.”
Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck) and Mini abdominoplasty (mini tummy tuck)
“The truth is that few of my patients are candidates for the mini tummy tuck. It’s good for those who have only a small amount of excess skin and intact muscles supporting that skin. However, most women who have had children have lost skin elasticity and muscle tone. For them, a full abdominoplasty is the way to go and this will give them the appearance that they desire.”
Post-bariatric and post-weight loss Body Contouring
Dr. Pletsch has extensive experience at performing Post Bariatric Body Reconstruction surgery for individuals who have undergone significant weight loss and require body contouring. “I do a lot of post weight loss plastic surgeries, performing body lifts and contouring to give my patients back bodies that look both normal and aesthetically pleasing in their clothing.”
Non-surgical Treatments and Procedures
Dr. Pletsch’s Medspa is an important adjunct to her practice, staffed with highly trained, certified, and licensed Registered Nurses and an Aesthetician with experience in both medical and aesthetic fields. They provide advanced skin care treatments, laser treatments, dermal fillers (including Juvederm, Restylane, and Perlane), pharmaceutical-grade skin care products, and microdermabrasion. Laser hair reduction, lip augmentation/enhancement, and light treatments that rejuvenate skin are also offered. The Medspa features ReFirme Skin Tightening, FotoFacial Skin Rejuvenation, Matrix IR Wrinkle Reduction, Triniti Total Facial Renewal, Matrix RF sublative skin rejuvenation and BOTOX Cosmetic, as well as VelaShape technology.
Dr. Pletsch, on her Medspa clinic: “Patients who choose facial surgical or non-surgical procedures invariably need skin care treatment, as well, and my staff and I take this part of their treatment seriously. Before a procedure, the correct skin care products and regimen prepares the skin, which facilitates the effectiveness of the procedure and the overall appearance of the face. After a procedure, the skin needs to be carefully tended and the right skin care regimen contributes to the overall results. My patients find this aspect of their care to be both relaxing and rewarding. I want them to have – and to maintain - the best outcome, and the right skin care is an important contributing factor in their overall treatment plan. Our nurse and aesthetician work with me to develop the optimal skin care plan for each patient’s individual needs.”
Dr. Pletsch is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the California Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the California Medical Association, the Santa Cruz County Medical Society, and the Monterey County Medical Society.
Hospital and Surgery Center Affiliations
Dr. Pletsch is affiliated with Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, Dominican Santa Cruz Hospital, Santa Cruz Surgery Center, Watsonville Community Hospital, and the Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center – Santa Cruz. Most cosmetic and outpatient procedures are performed at Santa Cruz Surgery Center or the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
Practice Philosophy and Board Certification
“My philosophy of patient care centers on my belief that it’s important to offer patients the best medicine and surgery and the most attentive care, utilizing up-to-date, thoroughly tested techniques. Proper training and credentialing is important, and includes certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Continuing education and the integration of the most advanced skin care services, laser surgical and non-surgical procedures, and computer imaging are examples of my dedication to giving my patients options that reflect best care standards in my specialty of plastic and reconstructive surgery. The goal of maintaining this standard includes making certain that my staff is highly trained and credentialed for the services they perform.“
The importance of patient education
“There are many doctors who are not plastic surgeons who are performing the full range of cosmetic surgery procedures. Individuals seeking these procedures need to be careful about what they read on the Internet, where there is a good deal of misinformation and misrepresentation. For instance, some women want very large breast implants and are told that they can have them; however, if implants are too large patients often end up with complications and unsatisfactory results. Implants need to be carefully selected to suit the woman’s chest size, bone structure, and the amount of tissue in the chest area. “
Dr. Pletsch: On a Personal Note “The work I do is tremendously rewarding…being able to restore people and bring them back from physical damage caused by illnesses or injuries or traumatic accidents…or being there to help them change what they don’t like when they look in the mirror. I get to know my patients. I perform their surgeries. And I get to see their happiness and their satisfaction afterwards. It’s immensely gratifying. I work long hours and don’t have a lot of free time, but when I get some there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend time with my grown children. If I’m alone, I love to just sit quietly and read.”
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