OWENSBORO Filling a void is nothing new to a plastic surgeon. “Plastic surgeons always consider themselves the surgeon’s surgeon,” says Janae Maher, MD. “Whatever hole the surgeon makes to get rid of a cancer, it’s my job to find a way to fix it and improve function and appearance.”
But as a new addition to Owensboro Health, Maher is filling a gap of a different sort – an overall lack of plastic surgery providers at the Owensboro hospital. In the past, plastic surgery patients at the hospital have faced trips to the nearest provider. Maher’s presence fills that void, whether patients are seeking reconstructive procedures or cosmetic.
Particularly dear to her heart are breast cancer survivors seeking breast reconstruction. “Right now, breast cancer patients who want to undergo reconstruction have to travel two hours away for some of those procedures,” Maher says. “Whether they choose to do implant-based reconstruction or use their own tissue (autologous), a plastic surgeon focused solely on their reconstruction has just not been available here. Those patients already have a lot going on in their life, and I hate for them to make choices because they don’t want to have to drive two hours away for those types of consultations, procedures and follow ups.”
A Kansas native, Maher attended the University of Kansas School of Medicine and completed her residency in plastic surgery at Texas A&M earlier this year. She was drawn to Owensboro by the proximity of family, the size and culture of the area, and the opportunity to provide life-changing services. It was the ability to make a difference that drew her to plastic surgery while she was still in high school. “I was flipping through a magazine and it opened right to an article about mission trips doing cleft lip and cleft palate repair,” Maher says. “Reading how the surgeons were able to change the lives of those kids, I just knew I wanted to have that kind of impact on my patients’ lives.”
As a hospital employee with the Owensboro Health Medical Group, Maher will be able to offer hospital-based reconstructive procedures such as breast reconstruction. In addition, Owensboro Health is opening a cosmetic and reconstructive surgery clinic in the nearby Breckenridge Medical Office Building, which also holds an outpatient surgical center.
Maher says the presence in both the clinic and the hospital will provide her and the group the capacity to offer a wide range of procedures and expert advice in a convenient location. “When people think of plastic surgeons, they think of cosmetics initially,” Maher says. “But the field of plastic surgery is very broad and we have a unique opportunity by partnering with Owensboro Health’s medical group to offer not only cosmetic surgery –both surgical and nonsurgical procedures to reshape normal body structures to improve appearance and self-esteem – but also the reconstruction part of plastic surgery. That can be congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors, and disease – we will be able to offer assistance with those patients as well.”
Initially, only implant-based breast reconstruction will be offered in Owensboro. It will take some time to make autologous tissue reconstruction a local option, but it is high on Maher’s priority list. Until then, she says, being able to examine the patients and inform them about their options will be a valuable first step in their treatment, regardless of whether they choose to have implant-based reconstruction in Owensboro or go elsewhere for autologous tissue reconstruction. “I would love to be the first person to evaluate them and talk to those patients about that option,” Maher says of the autologous procedure. “They will now have someone close to home to talk to them about their breast reconstruction options.”
That same sort of patient connectivity is what Maher hopes to bring to the cosmetic and reconstructive clinic as well. “I think it’s beneficial to have a woman doing cosmetics,” Maher says. “Ninety-one percent of the people coming for plastic surgery are women. I think the vast majority feel comfortable talking about these types of issues with another woman who understands what they are going through, what they are looking for and what they are trying to achieve.”
RIGHT NOW, BREAST CANCER PATIENTS WHO WANT TO UNDERGO RECONSTRUCTION HAVE TO TRAVEL TWO HOURS AWAY FOR SOME OF THOSE PROCEDURES.– DR. JANAE MAHER