Dr. Otto Weiglein
Meet Dr. Otto Weiglein, a plastic surgeon practicing in Burlington – near London and Hamilton, Ontario. In this biographical interview, Dr. Weiglein talks about his history as a physician, his upbringing in Edmonton and the utter joy he takes in his surgical craft.
Dr. Weiglein specializes in cosmetic plastic surgery, and he’s outspoken in his dedication to making sure you will look your best. Request a consultation or call Dr. Weiglein at (905) 634-5573 to schedule your appointment, and you will receive the straight scoop from Weiglein himself about the procedure you’re interested in.
Q: Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. My family had emigrated from Munich, Germany before I started school, so all of primary and secondary education took place in Canada. I completed an undergraduate bachelor of science degree at the University of Alberta in 1972 and then went to medical school at the University of Calgary.
Q: What made you decide on medical school?
I had always wanted to be a doctor because it seemed to me that they did important and useful things. So I was fortunate to have a defined goal from an early age. I also unknowingly did all the “pre-med” things such as winning a couple of science fairs, collecting bugs and rocks and so on.
Q: What made you decide to become a plastic surgeon?
I didn’t really consciously decide to become a plastic surgeon because in my early days in medical school, none of us had any idea about where we would end up. I was fortunate to find a gifted mentor who was a plastic surgeon. His name is Dr. Dale Birdsell.
Q: How did that happen?
Within weeks of entering medical school, we were expected to participate in a “project” of some kind and I was not sure what to do, as they were usually family practice projects and I was not interested in family practice. So I happened to be in the hospital cafeteria when I overheard a surgeon – at least I thought he was a surgeon because he was wearing scrubs – say that he was looking for a medical student to help with a project. So I immediately volunteered because I figured it must be something surgical. It turned out that he was a plastic surgeon.
Q: What was the project about?
It involved wound healing in rabbits. It also got me out of classes and into the operating room every Monday morning. This was the formative experience in my medical school career but also a major embarrassment for a while.
Q: Why was that?
I had the habit of fainting, and worse, in the operating room at about 20 minutes into the first case. It got to the point where they would position a nurse behind me to catch me on the way down. This went on for about 6 weeks. Sometimes I was the first one in the recovery room.
Q: How did that go over with your mentor?
He was incredibly supportive, as were the OR nurses. It was the students who had no emotional connection with the procedure who they worried about, as it showed a lack of empathy.
Q: You went to medical school in Calgary but completed your plastic surgery residency training at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. Why was that?
Calgary did not have a plastic surgery training program at that time, so Dr. Birdsell recommended the London program. I did a rotating internship there as well as my fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery. I finished in 1980, at the age of 29.
Q: You also did some postgraduate training.
Yes. I was awarded a 2-year McLaughlin Fellowship to gain expertise in reconstructive microsurgery at the Microsurgery Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. I also spent some academic time in Tokyo, Japan, on the way to Australia. It was another formative period of my medical career.
Q: With all that advanced training, how did you end up in a private practice setting?
While overseas, I came to realize that I was temperamentally much better suited to dealing with patients rather than with university bureaucrats. So I left the academic tenure track. It was a choice I have never regretted.
Q: You opened the region’s first freestanding cosmetic surgery centre in 1999. How did that come about?
I started a general plastic and reconstructive surgery practice with privileges in both the Burlington and Oakville hospitals in 1982. After 15 years and a lot of work, I opened Cosmedica because I believed that the cosmetic surgery client wasn’t being appropriately treated in a general hospital setting.
Q: Why is that?
Our hospitals are an important part of the community, but the hospital model is illness-based while the cosmetic-surgical model is wellness-based. At Cosmedica we are able to provide a positive, non-judgmental and specialized setting tailored to the unique needs of the cosmetic surgery client. Cosmetic surgery is all that we do here, so we have to provide a high-level service.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love fooling around in the garden, and I’m a bit of a current events / political science buff. I’m not old enough to play golf, so that is not something that I do.
I’m proud to say that I married Del, my wife, in 1984. She is a University of Toronto Faculty of Law graduate. We have a daughter who is in her final year of medical school in Ireland.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
The work that I do as a cosmetic plastic surgeon is very fulfilling and satisfying on many levels, so I don’t think about not doing it. There are also may opportunities to provide new, enhanced and non-invasive alternatives to surgery that we will be developing.
Q: You seem to love your work.
Monday is the best day of the week.
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