by Corky Alexander
The generalized concept of a physician specializing in cosmetic surgery—or “plastic surgery” as it once was known—is that of a Hollywood wheeler-dealer driving a Maserati from country club to cocktail party to posh offices in Beverly Hills where he confers with his wealthy clientele (usually conceived to be a fabulously rich older woman seeking lost youth). He’ll take a tuck here, a snip there, use liposuction to eliminate the cellulite, reduce or enlarge the bustline of an heiress, then meet with his brokers and bankers to clip coupons.
Generalizations, as usual, are largely bogus. It’s probably true that many cosmetic surgeons make huge piles of money from their hard-learned craft, but the concept that only the idle rich find need for such artistic surgery is equally bogus.
Imagine, if you will, a relatively young cosmetic surgeon who can work wonders replacing skin for burn victims, improving the physical appearance for folks injured in accidents, repairing unsightly blemishes and birth marks—all in addition to the more enjoyable work of making pretty people even prettier.
We’re writing today of Dr. Andrew Wong, London-born, Hong Kong-reared, Japan-educated surgeon whose specialty is plastic, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Yes, a “plastic surgeon,” but one with a difference.
He spends all the time he can spare in overseas locations where the need for people with his skills is most dire. He has worked long, tireless hours, days and weeks in helping to wipe out polio in Africa, providing cataract surgery in India, training medical technicians in the Philippine jungles, performing burn surgery in Mongolia.
Dr. Andy, as he is always called by patients and friends alike, has been quoted as saying: “Improving a person’s quality of life is what I do. I enjoy boosting a person’s self confidence by cosmetic surgery, whether it be a simple wrinkle-removing collagen injection or a complicated reconstruction.
“It is the same when I go overseas. However, the magnitude of the feeling is quite different. Working in poverty-stricken or war-torn countries such as those in Africa or Bosnia is quite eye-opening. It is shocking. When I make these trips, I know I’m helping people in real need.
“Over the years, I have viewed my medical practice in Tokyo as a means of supporting my humanitarian endeavors. I am a Rotarian who, with other concerned individuals worldwide, working to wipe out polio by the year 2000.”
Fluent in English, Chinese, Japanese and German, Dr. Andy has, in his brief life (he will turn 45 this year), made his a globe-trotting adventure in his attempt to help the helpless in out-of-the-way locales where the need for medical attention is most desperately needed. Whether he is treating refugees from Somalia, giving oral polio vaccine to Ethiopian children, attending patients in an Addis Ababa hospital, bringing donated clothing to kids in Ulan Bator, delivering books to youngsters in Mindanao, Dr. Andy follows his own star of altruism.
Born in London in 1953 to a Hong Kong banker and his wife, Andy and his family moved to Hong Kong when he was 9, attending schools there through high school. At age 19, he fulfilled his long-term plan of emigrating to Japan where his dream was to study medicine. He ended up in Nagoya in 1971 when he immediately began full-immersion study of the Japanese language. He took his “”SAT” exams in Japanese and in ’74 entered National Gifu University, having passed all his tests in what had quickly become fluent Japanese.
“Since I didn’t come from a wealthy family, I had to work my way through school,” Andy recalls “My best job was teaching English in a Berlitz school in Nagoya. My worst? Well, it had to be when I was a waiter in a Chinese restaurant…though I later became an apprentice assistant cook. It’s funny, but that early training stayed with me. I still love to cook.”
He graduated from the Gifu school in 1981, studying on a Rotary Foundation scholarship for three years, 1975-78, then on to gradute school on a Mombusho scholarship for four more, 1981-85. For a while he specialized as an oncologist working with youngsters at a children’s orothopedic clinic. Andy interned for a while at Nagoya University learning micro-surgery He achieved his Ph.D. in orthopedic surgery in 1986, then specializing in cosmetic medicine and reconstructive surgery, completing his work in 1988.
He opened his first clinic in Ichinomiya in Aichi-ken before moving to Tokyo’s Roppongi district in 1989.
These days, his offices are located behind the IBM Building at 3-4-7 Roppongi. Next December, he will celebrate the 10 anniversary of the establishment of his clinic. His telephone number is 5563-0721.
As for his continuing high medical standards in his practice, Dr. Andy says, “I want my patients to feel perfectly relaxed and safe, so I use only very experienced attending physicians when I perform surgery. Most of them are renowned specialists in their fields. For this reason, I have never had a complication in any of my procedures.
“I believe that my training and work overseas with the most needy of people benefits my Tokyo patients because I am exposed to so many different techniques used throughout the world. We use field dressings, older more traditional procedures and new developments—thus, I feel I can bring the best procedures available anywhere to my patients here at home.”
His procedures cover the gamut of cosmetic surgical practices with facial contouring, body sculpting and rejuvenation work.
If any Weekender readers might be interested in contributing to Dr. Andy’s humanitarian endeavors, he would like to talk to you about his upcoming trips and some ways for you to help alleviate suffering in the Third World. He would also like to expound on the Rotary Club’s activities and good works which he supports as avidly today as the Rotarians supported him in his youth.