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Plano People

Plano Star Courier November, 1996

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For Ron Friedman, currently the nation’s youngest plastic surgeon, performing reconstructive miracles is all in a day’s work.

The 30-year-old Plano physician, who specializes in surgery on the hands and upper extremities, knows he has found his calling in life. And as many of his patients and their families have attested, Friedman’s wholehearted commitment to their well being –before, during and after surgery –is a major factor in the recovery process.

As such, the doctor is always “in” and ready to answer any calls that come his way, including the one from Children’s Medical Center, which came after 11-year-old Michelle House was admitted with near-amputation of the arm. The little girl suffered the injury when she reached into a still-spinning washing machine.

Nine hours later, Friedman had completed the delicate surgical procedure, performed under a microscope, that would eventually restore full use of his young patient’s hand and arm.

Friedman’s ability to put the pieces back together, so to speak, is the main reason patients such as 3-year-old Lakin O’Dell –who suffered a severe dog bite to the face–are referred to him. Prior to Friedman’s surgical intervention, Lakin was unable to use many of the muscles in her face. Now, thanks to a successful operation, she can smile.

“I seem to attract difficult cases,” Friedman said, “and I have to admit I like getting called for difficult things. I don’t mind doing simple things, but when it’s a difficult case, that is the time when my skills can be put to good use.”

Still, Friedman admitted that while the end results might be something to shout about, the profession he chose at age 14–after watching a television program that featured a then-new method for reconstructing ears, perfected by Stanford University’s Dr. Burt Brent–probably isn’t for everyone.

“There is a lot more artistry and judgment involved, and that’s one of the reasons it appeals to me,” explained Friedman, whose work in wood and marble sculpting predates his interest in plastic surgery.

Surprisingly enough, many of the tools Friedman uses when sculpting are the same types of instruments he wields when performing surgery.

He developed a love for sculpting after taking a woodworking class in middle school. But despite his years of experience, Friedman is always careful when using the saws, lathes, hammers and chisels required to make the kind of statues that grace his living room mantle.

“I’m afraid of my power tools and machines,” the plastic surgeon said. “I have a very healthy respect for them. I’ve seen (the damage they can do) up close and personal.”

From the exotic wood Friedman brings back from his travels - rosewood from Nepal, ebony from Indonesia - the plastic surgeon uses a blend of math and science to fashion his artistic pieces - human forms, urns and bowls made from wood and marble. But forming pieces and placing the finished products in his home aren’t what matters to the physician/artist.

“For me, wood and marble sculpting is peaceful - a solitary activity,” he said. “I’m a creative person, and it’s almost a pure expression of creativity.

“It’s also a time to think,” he added. “A time to think about where I am at right now and where I’ll be.”

When Friedman, a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, moved to Plano and decided to open a practice here, he did so believing the challenges would be as great as they are in Dallas.

“Some of the Dallas surgeons told me there wouldn’t be as many challenges here in Plano, but there’s as much trauma here as anywhere else,” he said.

Friedman, formerly an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center, now teaches colleagues more about rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome at meetings of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. He also speaks to PTA groups about the dangers faced by both children and adults.

“There are all sorts of things lurking about,” he cautioned. “For example, exercise bikes are the leading cause of finger amputations.”

Friedman, who has twice been the recipient of the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center’s Academic Excellence Award, said one of his biggest personal goals has been to start a family. He expects to do just that five months from now when his wife, Jin, gives birth to the couple’s baby.

“I’d like to raise some kids,” he acknowledged. “We’re still debating the number of children we will have. I say two, and Jin says four. So we will probably have three.”

The couple met six years ago when she was an ICU nurse and he was chief of plastic surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. While working together in the recovery room, they soon discovered they had a lot in common - including a preference for challenging medical cases.

As they became acquainted, the pair found their interests and backgrounds outside of the medical profession were also coincided. The two high school valedictorians - he from California, she from East Texas - learned they shared a love of music. Now, whenever Friedman plays the piano or sits down to exercise his songwriting skills, his wife often accompanies him on the flute.

Following their marriage three years ago, the couple, who now work together in Friedman’s newly established Plano office, also took up ballroom dancing and skiing.

“We started on the bunny slopes together,” said Jin Friedman, laughing.

“We work very well together,” her husband added. “We complement each other. It’s much easier because when I tell her what happened during the day, she understands.”

She’s also aware her husband’s willingness to answer a call for help, whether it be to reattach an arm or reconstruct a face. But above all, she supports his plans to make a difference in the Plano medical community.

“I’m hoping to make others aware that more is correctable than what most people think and that now, instead of losing precious time transferring patients to another hospital, a lot of the operations are being done right here in Plano,” Ron Friedman said.

“I hope to make people more aware of what can be done. And I plan to live here for a long time.

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© 2018 Ronald M. Friedman, M.D., P.A.

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