Dr. Adam Rubinstein: “People are resilient”

People are resilient. We may be generally impatient and want to see the end yesterday, but we can persevere. It is a matter of time for all of us to make it past this worldwide challenge. Treatments will improve, a vaccine will come, and new diagnoses will decline. I have great faith that people will […]

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People are resilient. We may be generally impatient and want to see the end yesterday, but we can persevere. It is a matter of time for all of us to make it past this worldwide challenge. Treatments will improve, a vaccine will come, and new diagnoses will decline. I have great faith that people will make it through COVID and be better prepared for future challenges should there be new infectious threats. We simply need to respect the situation and remain steadfast in preventing spread.

As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam J Rubinstein, MD, FACS.

Dr. Rubinstein is a Miami based and award-winning, board-certified plastic surgeon well regarded for his outstanding work and cutting edge non-invasive and surgical plastic surgery procedures for women and men. Dr. Rubinstein is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery and uses his skills to help patients from around the world. He served as the Chief of Plastic Surgery and the Chief of the Department of Surgery for Jackson North Medical Center, a 382-bed acute care hospital in the Jackson Healthcare System. He is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at NOVA Southeastern University, clinical faculty for the Department of Plastic Surgery at Florida International University (FIU) School of Medicine, and clinical faculty for the Cleveland Clinic Plastic Surgery Residency Program in Florida. He currently serves on the editorial staff of the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Journal published by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Rubinstein is most well-known as an outspoken patient advocate and is not afraid to speak out about botched plastic surgery, unsafe conditions, and questionable clinics related to patient deaths, even if it means other doctors or practices threaten to or sue him for it. The work has made enemies within the industry. Strax Rejuvenation Center has sued Rubinstein for accusations he’s leveled. Beverly Hills Dr. Simon Ourian also sent Rubinstein a cease-and-desist letter after the Florida doctor publicized his lack of certifications. Rubinstein has also attacked Dr. Christopher Balgobin, known on Instagram as Dr. BBL amid the popularity of Brazilian butt lifts, the procedure that led to many patient deaths.

Beyond his fight against deregulation around plastic surgery and his mission to educate the public about plastic surgery safety, Dr. Rubinstein is also passionate about his non-profit work and most recently spearheaded an effort to address the COVID19 pandemic. His “Project Take A Breather” initiative launched in March 2020 connected hospitals with plastic surgeons able to loan out their spare ventilators to ensure that ventilators not being used during the pandemic were donated to those in need.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I was born in New York City and grew up there. My parents are both teachers as is my sister. Even from a young age, with both parents as teachers, I’ve always had high regard for public service. To this day I greatly value the service of teachers, police, firefighters, and other civil servants including the military.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Not any book in particular.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I don’t have a particular favorite quote. But I do live by the ethic of doing the greater good. I try to always look at life’s situations and make my decisions on the path that leads to the greater good.

OK, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

When the Covid crisis led to a shutdown of my practice I did not want to sit by idly waiting for things to get better and open up again. I had many friends and colleagues in NYC that were under siege by the virus. People were dying at an alarming rate and ventilators were running short. As I sat home and could not use my in-office surgery center, it occurred to me that my ventilator was not doing any good for me, but it could possibly help keep someone alive. In my mind, there was no question as to the right thing to do. If someone could be kept alive with my ventilator I would make it available immediately. I thought, I’m not the only doctor sitting at home with an empty operating room. I knew my colleagues around the country would likely feel the same and would be willing to share their resources as well. I decided to start my project “Take a Breather”. The goal was to collate a list of machines around the country that could be mobilized as needed to help save lives. I started calling my friends around the country asking if they would be willing to have their machines listed and made available. The response was typically a resounding YES. I soon had a list of a couple dozen machines around the United States that could be put to use if needed. In the process of making phone calls to doctors all over the country I became aware of similar efforts by a few doctors and other organizations. I reached out to these organizations including The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, The Aesthetic Society, the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare, the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities, and others. An ad hoc task force was formed and along with Dr. Andrew Frankel I helped coordinate the tremendous work that was being done. We organized conference calls to pool our resources and create one master list of ventilators, PPE and other supplies that could be made available in areas of urgent need. Working together with those terrific organizations and people, “Take a Breather” became a much larger and more efficient project. A lot of credit goes to the ASPS who, with the help of Oracle, designed a website to help organize and centralize all of our collective efforts.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

I don’t think of myself as a hero, or the work we did as heroic. To me, it was simply the right thing to do. But I would define a hero as someone who places the needs of others who find themselves under some threat above their own and rises to face the challenges those people are unable to face.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

Good people rise to the occasion when life challenges them. I don’t think anyone chooses to be heroic at that moment. Heroes are born of people doing the right thing, even when that might be difficult, scary of demand sacrifice.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

Choosing to become active and try to help when lives were at stake wasn’t a heroic action to me. It was actually the least I could do to help in a very difficult time. After hearing about the difficulties in New York City and around the country with Covid running wild, I couldn’t, under good conscience, let my resources just sit unused.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

There are so many real heroes today. My first thought goes to the military members that willingly place their own lives on the line for the protection of others. Those brave men and women make a choice every day to strap on their boots and walk into harm’s way in the name of their service to our country. That is truly heroic. And in these days of the pandemic, all the healthcare workers who choose to care for COVID infected patients placing their own health at risk are equally heroic.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

We all want the pandemic to end. Every one of us longs for “normal” again, if ever that will look as it did one year ago. But the desire to see the end of the pandemic should not cloud judgment and cause anyone to disregard simple protective measures like wearing a mask or keeping safe distances when possible. It is frightening to see an increasing number of people trying to will the end of the pandemic by taking the stance that things are getting better so we can all get back to normal. There will come a time when that is truly the case. Posturing with false confidence when cases are skyrocketing is simply no going to bring the end of the pandemic any sooner.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain why?

People are resilient. We may be generally impatient and want to see the end yesterday, but we can persevere. It is a matter of time for all of us to make it past this worldwide challenge. Treatments will improve, a vaccine will come, and new diagnoses will decline. I have great faith that people will make it through COVID and be better prepared for future challenges should there be new infectious threats. We simply need to respect the situation and remain steadfast in preventing spread.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

I’m inspired every day by the creativity of everyone dealing with the challenges the virus presents. There have been so many innovations and creative solutions to help get everyone through the pandemic. What is disappointing is the choice of some people to ignore or deny the seriousness of this problem. Denial is a sure path to worsening the spread.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

Not really. I’m still an optimist.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

I hope that people will more readily accept the very real threat of another pandemic being possible. Had we responded in unison with better prevention we could have prevented significant numbers of deaths.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

We are all, every one of us, living on this planet on borrowed time. We rent, we do not own. And all of us have a struggle of some kind that we must face. Live your life helping make everyone’s life better. Small things make big differences. If we can all get back to good ideals, helping others, treating everyone in the manner you would like to be treated, respecting everyone even when they disagree with you, life would be better for everyone. Try to be a positive force for the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am a strong believer in paying it forward. At one point or another in our lives, we all get help from someone. We should all do our best to help others in need. Pay the good karma forward and watch it amplify.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I honestly can’t think of any one person. I’m happy to have a dialog with anyone. I think we all have an incredible story to share. I’m enjoying sharing with all of my patients every day.

How can our readers follow you online?

Website: www.dr-rubinstein.com

I have two Instagram profiles: @ drrubinstein and @plasticsurgerytruths

Facebook: @MiamiPlasticSurgeon

Snapchat: @drrubinstein

TikTok: @drrubinstein

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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