Reconstructing Lives

Dr. Mukerji is Aberdeen’s only plastic surgeon

JEFF BAHR  |  jbahr@aberdeennews.com  |  April 1, 2012
 

It’s not true that only wealthy socialites have cosmetic surgery.

In fact, the clientele of Aberdeen’s lone plastic surgeon includes a number of farm wives.

Dr. Sanjay Mukerji said plastic and cosmetic surgery patients are often not people who are super wealthy. They are just people who “desire a change and wish to feel better about themselves, and that can be anyone.”

He works on people who are upper, middle class and lower-middle class, he said.

Mukerji, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, has a lot of skin to work with. From any direction, he is the only plastic surgeon in 160 to 175 miles, he said. The closest surgeons in his field live in Sioux Falls and Fargo and Bismarck, N.D., he said.

Mukerji, who moved to the Hub City in 2001, believes he’s the first plastic surgeon to be based in Aberdeen. Another used to make outreach visits to Aberdeen. Mukerji makes outreach visits to Watertown, Huron, Mobridge and Fargo.

A native of India, Mukerji decided to become a doctor at a young age. In medical school, surgery caught his attention. Later, his focus narrowed further.

In his native country, people used to chew a lot of tobacco, he said. Cancer surgery left some of those people missing portions of their face or mouth.

To put those heads and necks back together, reconstructive surgery is required. Some of that surgery is extremely intricate because it requires taking tissues from elsewhere on the body, moving it up to the face and “actually joining the blood vessels together to keep the tissues alive under a microscope. So it’s very detailed, very exacting kind of surgery,” he said.

The tissues have to match the area they’re being moved into. No matter what body part he is replacing, the surgeon has to have a vision of what he wants to create, “and it’s not like you can take a spare part off a shelf. You’ve got to take something from the body, and you’ve got to mold it into the proper shape.”

Mukerji, who went to medical school in Delhi, has lived in the U.S. since 1989. After a year of research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, he did a fellowship in plastic surgery at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He finished there in 2000.

“I worked there as an assistant professor for a year before coming here to Aberdeen,” he said.

In South Dakota, his work is evenly divided between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Women make up about 90 percent of his cosmetic business and about 75 percent of the reconstructive patients, he said.

In the cosmetic field, Mukerji does breast augmentations, tummy tucks and work on faces and eyes.

At least once or twice a week, he does “mommy makeovers,” which usually include a breast lift and tummy tuck, for women who’ve recently had a child. Sometimes, liposuction is included. He also does lesser procedures such as Botox and collagen injections and skin care treatments, which take five minutes.

Reconstruction work includes breast reduction. It also includes surgery on patients who’ve suffered from breast or skin cancer, motor vehicle accident victims and people who’ve had eye injuries. He also sees a lot of people whose faces have been injured by dog bites.

If Mukerji worked in a larger city, he’d probably develop a niche. In South Dakota, he likes the diversity of cases he handles. He likes that every case is different.

“There’s almost nothing that’s routine,” he said.

Mukerji, 49, feels the quality of service he offers is just as good as that found in Sioux Falls or Fargo.

“Whether you’re in a small town or a big city doesn’t make you better or worse. It’s who you are and how you work that makes a difference.”

One nice thing about plastic surgery is that a lay person can judge the quality of the work, Mukerji said. If a plastic surgeon is “not doing a good job, everybody knows about it.”

During a consultation, Mukerji tells his patients “what they should get out of the surgery because you don’t want to take a patient to the operating room with unrealistic expectations,” he said. It’s better if they’re well-educated and well-informed. “Because they’re far more likely to be satisfied with the outcome if they know what to expect.”

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At least once or twice a week, he does “mommy makeovers,” which usually include a breast lift and tummy tuck, for women who’ve recently had a child. Sometimes, liposuction is included. He also does lesser procedures such as Botox and collagen injections and skin care treatments, which take five minutes.

Reconstruction work includes breast reduction. It also includes surgery on patients who’ve suffered from breast or skin cancer, motor vehicle accident victims and people who’ve had eye injuries. He also sees a lot of people whose faces have been injured by dog bites.

If Mukerji worked in a larger city, he’d probably develop a niche. In South Dakota, he likes the diversity of cases he handles. He likes that every case is different.

“There’s almost nothing that’s routine,” he said.