Just as the economy crashed, Kara McGuire Kane Criswell, M.D., F.A.C.S., from Southpark, opened her plastic surgery practice with her husband, Bryan, in 2008. With just three other office staff at the opening and a lot of hard work, Kara and her husband have steadily grown over the years and they now have 15 people on their team who help run two offices! Keep reading to learn more about Criswell & Criswell.
Q. When did you and your husband decide to open Criswell & Criswell Plastic, Reconstructive, and Cosmetic Surgery?
A. I met my husband when we were in general surgery residency together, so we have been operating together for more than 14 years. We have always worked well together because of our similar work ethic, abilities, and attention to detail.
I don't even remember discussing whether or not we would open a practice together, it just was the natural thing to do. A lot of people think it is nuts to work with your spouse, and sometimes it is. We both have strong personalities, and we will occasionally go toe-to-toe about the business. However, I trust him completely as a physician and surgeon, as he does me. Plus, we have a lot of fun!
Q. What led you to become a reconstructive surgeon?
A. I love the problem-solving that is involved with reconstruction. Often, you are following another surgeon and are unsure of what kind of defect you will find when you get to the operating room. So you have to figure out what you need to do right then and there to restore form and function. But if you know the anatomy well, there isn't much that you can't fix.
Q. How do you incorporate art into being a surgeon?
A. For me, art involves observation, attention to detail, and using your hands to create something. Plastic surgery allows that same process.
Q. What is your favorite thing to draw?
A. Portraits. It would be way more interesting if I said insects or racecars, I know, but there it is.
Q. How many offices do you currently have and where are they located?
A. We have two offices in Charlotte, one in Southpark and one in Ballantyne.
Q. What types of procedures do you typically perform?
A. The fantastic thing about plastic surgery is that you operate on the whole body. You can be doing a facelift in the morning, and be reconstructing a knee in the afternoon. That being said, my practice is about 70% cosmetic and about 30% reconstruction.
Some patients are more comfortable with a female plastic surgeon, and as a result I do a lot of "mommy makeovers", facial rejuvenation, and breast reconstruction following cancer surgery.
Q. What has been the most rewarding patient or moment in your career?
A. I am both amazed and grateful that I cannot narrow it down to one single patient nor one single moment. That being said, however, I can say that I have been most rewarded personally by my breast reconstruction patients.
My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy when she was in her 50's, when breast reconstruction was not an option. I hated that my beautiful and confident grandmother spent so much time and effort camouflaging her missing breast and the extensive scarring from her surgery. That I am able to not only offer breast reconstruction, but options for breast reconstruction, is empowering to both me and my patients. They get to choose their reconstruction, take back their femininity, and move on from their diagnosis and treatment. I take pride in that.
Q. How are you able to juggle running two offices, performing surgery, plus being a wife and mom of 2 boys?
A. I make a lot of lists, have three calendars at different locations in the house, and yet will have "mommy-fails" on a regular basis. I have a lot of help keeping the wheels on.
My husband has the same job, so there is an understanding there that goes beyond just support. My office team is fantastic at both making my work productive and protecting times I am needed by my family. I have a wonderful nanny, who basically cares for all four of us-five, if you include the dog. My sons Jack and Wyatt are amazing little guys, who always seem to understand that when I have to work, I have to work. But when I am not at work, I am all theirs.
Q. Any tips for our other mompreneurs?
A. Be in the moment, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. When you are working, focus on just work. Give it all of your attention and energy. When you are with your family, do the same.
Take advice and accept help. Nobody can do it all.
I got a card about 14 years ago that had this quote on it:
"One can live magnificently in this world, if one knows how to work and how to love,
to work for the person one loves, and love one's work." Leo Tolstoy
I still have that card.
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