Former plastic surgeon to the stars brings his scalpel and skill to Arnold

October 21, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff writer

Cosmetic surgeon John LeRoy is used to hanging around the rich and famous.

He trained under the New York physicians who rejuvenated the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Liz Smith and Katharine Hepburn.

Two years ago, he was one of a handful of young doctors in the country who received a fellowship to work at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, where he helped operate on Saudi Arabian royalty, extremely wealthy socialites and famous actresses.

Now he's operating on county residents at the Chesapeake Medical Center in Arnold.

Pictures of the New York plastic surgeons Dr. LeRoy worked with line his office walls: Thomas Rees, the "granddaddy of plastic surgery"; Sherrell Aston, who had Miss Hepburn as a patient; Michael Hogan, who has seen Mrs. Onassis; and Daniel Baker, surgeon to several top-ranking celebrities.

The rich and famous were like everyone else, Dr. LeRoy says -- they had the average person's health complaints, such as kidney trouble; they had the usual anxieties about the length of surgery.

One famous politician insisted on Saturday surgery to keep her face-lift "incredibly quiet."

For the physicians, working on world-known names could be intimidating -- until the initial shock wore off, Dr. LeRoy says.

"Occasionally, I would stop in the middle of a procedure and say 'Holy cow!' about who I was working on, but it quickly becomes routine. It has to be routine or you couldn't do your job," Dr. LeRoy says.

Most of the wealthy people at the clinic were easy patients, he found. "You'd stare at first, but then they're just like any other person. Once you start talking with them, you forget who they are."

Taking medical histories or removing stitches from members of royal families was a little harder. "Some of the royalty from other countries were difficult," he says. "We're not used to bowing and scraping. It's just a cultural difference."

The Manhattan clinic offered cut-rate prices for patients willing to be operated on by medical residents or fellows such as Dr. LeRoy, who worked under the supervision of the big-name doctors.

Private patients might pay $20,000 for a face-lift from one of the famous surgeons, but at the clinic, they could get the job for about $3,500, Dr. LeRoy explains.

Here in Anne Arundel County, Dr. LeRoy still has interesting cases, he says, such as an 84-year-old man who just had a face-lift.

"He plays 18 holes of golf a day and has a 72-year-old girlfriend. He just didn't want to look 84," Mr. LeRoy says.

Dr. LeRoy, 38, moved to Maryland two years ago with his wife, Nanci Smith LeRoy. He earned his medical degree and completed residencies in general and plastic surgery at the Medical College of Georgia before heading for Manhattan.

Rubbing shoulders with royalty brought him one other benefit: A paper he wrote based on research from the clinic was recently accepted for the March 1994 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

In the study, he examined 6,116 cases of patients who had face-lifts at the Manhattan clinic and tracked them for resulting infections. The research found that 11 patients, or .18 percent, had major infections after their surgery.

"Everyone thought infections were rare, but it had never been quantified. This confirmed the general opinion," Dr. LeRoy says.

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