Outer beauty, inner strength: Dr. Leif Nordberg helps patients fight the march of time

Leif Nordberg, M.D., always knew he wanted to be a surgeon. He was picturing a career in heart surgery, but during his medical education he had the opportunity to observe something completely different. Witnessing the breast reconstruction of a patient who had survived breast cancer, he felt pulled in a new direction.

“Seeing the artistry of it, I just knew that was what I wanted to do,” he said. “It was a really unique way to help someone through some very difficult circumstances.”

As a board-certified plastic surgeon, he finds his work just as rewarding as he thought he would. When he’s not helping patients rebuild what cancer took away, he’s helping them erase the effects of time itself. He offers dozens of surgical procedures to help lift a sagging face, tighten a jiggly midsection, even remove excess skin after a dramatic weight loss.

“We’re seeing more people who want to have a combination of services at the same time,” he said. “Especially something that’s commonly referred to as a ‘mommy makeover.’”

This is when two or more procedures are performed in the same day to combat the lingering effects of pregnancy and motherhood. Reshaping the midsection, and lifting or augmenting the breasts, can help a woman reset her body back to its more youthful appearance.

“Having these things done in one surgery makes it easier for the patient,” he said. “It’s one anesthetic, one recovery period. People have limited time off to recover and they want to make the most of it.”

Eva Pi of Fayetteville is one of Nordberg’s more recent mommy makeovers. At 40, she was unhappy with the body motherhood had given her and was ready for a change. Nordberg performed a tummy tuck, lifted her breasts with the removal of some old implants, and finished with some liposuction on an area of her back that made her self-conscious.

A few months after surgery, she’s thrilled with the results.

“I love it,” she said. “I can wear a bra without it hurting my shoulders. I look good in a bathing suit. I wish I had done it earlier.”

For Nordberg, making things better for his patients is why he chose this particular field.

“The whole point of plastic surgery is to manipulate change, so people have a better life and are more confident,” he said.

Dr. Nordberg says advanced technology and improved techniques have transformed what surgeons can do to help patients physically and emotionally. Patients should make sure the surgeon they consult has proper certifications, he said.

It’s important to be honest with patients about any possible risks from plastic surgery, Nordberg said. He also advises patients when weight loss or improved heart health are better alternatives than surgery.

“The most important thing is to do no harm,” he said. “I’ve done more for people by saying ‘no’ to surgery.”

Social media and attention drawn by celebrities have helped people be more comfortable talking about the possibilities, he said.

For those who are ready for a change, but not ready to go under the knife, Nordberg’s office also offers nonsurgical interventions, such as Botox and fillers.

“Botox has been very popular with patients who have wrinkles,” he said. “But we’re also seeing younger patients now, who get Botox in order to prevent wrinkles.”

Nordberg said the key to a happy result is knowing exactly what you’re getting into.

Over his career, Nordberg has seen plastic surgery become more acceptable and affordable for more people.

Financing options and competition in the field have made a variety of procedures affordable to everyday Americans.

“The days when only the rich wife or the rich banker gets plastic surgery are over,” he said.