A ^Retired Plastic Surgeon's Notebook

Seattle Plastic Surgeon – Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Bio – A little bit about me and where I’ve been and where I’m going.

I retired in June of 2021 after 30 glorious years in private practice as a plastic surgeon. At one time I had a comprehensive and really fabulous patient-centered website. I’ve taken that down but have left my prodigious blog which I intend to update from time to time. Expect some plastic surgery related posts but also some posts about my post-retirement life.

Where I’ve been:

I made my decision to become a plastic surgeon during my surgery rotation as a third-year medical student at the University of Washington. This was 1981. I assisted on a nasal reconstruction done on a young Seattle woman who had been born with a nasal deformity. I witnessed her physical transformation as her plastic surgeon carved a bone graft harvested from her hip and inserted it into the bridge of her nose. I witnessed her emotional transformation as she recovered from her surgery and discovered the beauty in her own face. I was hooked.

The journey to become a fully trained plastic surgeon was long and arduous. I first did a full 5 year residency in General Surgery at the University of Utah. This was followed by a year employed as a clinical instructor at the Intermountain Burn Center at the University of Utah. I then pursued 2 years of specialty training in Plastic, Reconstructive and Hand Surgery at the University of Cincinnati. I finished my training at the ripe old age of 35 and entered private practice in Seattle.

My first 10 years of practice leaned heavily towards reconstructive and hand surgery. I took a boat load of emergency room call and even had a visiting clinic in Ketchikan, Alaska where specialty care was delivered by visiting doctors such as myself. Those years found me treating everything from an infant with a large birthmark to an elderly patient with Alzheimer’s and a bed sore the size of a dinner plate. It was a very busy time and sometimes very challenging. Oh, I was also learning to run a small business! And starting a family!

The second 10 years found me doing more cosmetic surgery which was more limited in scope but every bit as challenging as reconstructive surgery. During this time, I became increasingly disenchanted with and impoverished by the Insurance Industrial Complex and eventually dropped all my insurance contracts. I found the only way to play ball with them was to take my ball and go home. My last 10 years found me delighted and a little surprised that my practice thrived as a private pay entity. This meant that most of my cases were cosmetic, but I still did some reconstructive cases for patients who had no insurance, gigantic deductibles or who had given up on trying to get a procedure covered by their plan. Those years of practice were my most enjoyable and satisfying.

Then…………….COVID 19 hit us hard in March of 2020 and we were forced to shut down for 8 weeks. This gave me a preview of retirement and much to my surprise, I found this hiatus to be calming and energizing. I was 64. My contract with my practice associate required I give a one year notice for my retirement. I returned to work in May and by June had decided I had done my time. I gave my notice and here I am!

My timing was good. I had been socking away for retirement even as a surgery resident so the financial piece was in place. I felt I was at the top of my game and really, that’s when it’s best to stop. I had seen several colleagues hang on too long and I didn’t want that to be me. Seattle had no lack of plastic surgeons so me stepping away would help a younger surgeon to build a practice.

Do I miss it? The honest answer is not very much. I do miss the vibe of the operating room but interestingly I don’t miss the actual physical work of surgery. I was happy to see the callus on my right thumb (from 30+ years of holding a needle driver) melt away. And I don’t miss the calls. I don’t miss having to hide my phone under my mat during yoga class lest I miss a call. I don’t miss those middle of the night calls that rarely required me getting dressed and driving into the hospital but almost always messed with my sleep. I am deeply grateful for the wonderful career I had but am very happy to be on the other side.

Present and future:

I still am an outspoken advocate for plastic surgery and plastic surgeons. There are many misconceptions about both. My many years of practice gave me such an appreciation for the human condition and how one or two physical differences can affect a person’s sense of self-worth. It was such a privilege to help so many patients achieve their personal best. I am disturbed by a lot of today’s social media chicanery that passes for marketing and admit that I just can’t wrap my head around the Brazilian Butt Lift, ginormous lips, and some of the unquestioned gender surgery being done. “Okay Boomer” might apply but maybe my unease will be vindicated someday.

I do my best to stay up on new techniques and procedures through reading and attending meetings. This satisfies my own curiosity and allows me to offer somewhat educated advice to those who seek it from me. It also allows me to keep up with colleagues and my continued medical education. And I have recently landed a consulting position for the Washington Medical Commission to provide guidance on plastic surgeons who have come to their attention through patient complaints.

As I enter my late 60’s, I am very interested in maintaining my health, fitness, and marbles so I can continue to enjoy a very active and engaged life. I’ve discovered the absolute joy of mid-week skiing and long, unhurried walks with the dog. I have become a bit of a tennis nut which I think uses every muscle in my body and most of the neurons in my brain. And I’ve stepped up my anti-Alzheimer strategy of learning guitar as an adult. Oh, I’ve also added ukulele and upright bass to my repertoire. And a little singing. Still mostly in the shower.

So life is good. Thanks for caring. And thanks for reading!


Follow me on Instagram. I have three accounts:  @lisalynnsowder | @sowdermd | @breastimplantsanity