June 10, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

As an increasing number of obese Americans choose the option of radical surgery to get rid of excess pounds, many find themselves left with sagging skin. Israeli surgeon, Dr. Lior Heller, is there to reshape their bodies.

Houston has a problem. According to the American Obesity Society, the city has among the highest rates of obesity in the United States. Fat camps help kids shed the pounds, crash courses on dieting abound, but more and more people are turning to easier and effective alternatives, such as gastric bypass surgery.

With a huge concentration of surgeons in the Houston area performing these kinds of medical interventions to combat obesity, there are an increasing number of people walking around with pounds and pounds of excess flab.

Many Houston-area residents looking to remove the hanging flaps of skin under their arms, bellies and butts turn to one of the best in the city: Dr. Lior Heller, a plastic surgeon from Israel, and today an associate professor in the plastic surgery division of the Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

His specialty is body contouring – reconstructive surgery after cancer operations and aesthetic surgery. “Body contouring is a hot topic here,” says Dr. Heller, speaking with ISRAEL21c by phone. Considered one of the best in the US in the field, he says: “In the past people lost weight just by dieting and sport, but more recently operations such as gastric bypass are working really well. People are losing significant weight and are left with sagging skin.”

The operations he provides are “changing their quality of life,” says Dr. Heller, who intends to return to Israel in the near future.

Unlike plastic surgery for socialites looking to get a prettier nose or larger boobs, Dr. Heller’s work in body contouring is drastically changing people’s lives. Consider also his work on women who have undergone mastectomies after breast cancer. Such operations are essential to help women feel feminine and whole.

Published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the leading journal among plastic surgeons, his work also appears in the Annals of Plastic Surgery and the American Journal of Surgeons. He’s no shy surgeon — Dr. Heller’s been featured on TV networks such as Fox and ABC.

Dr. Heller, who moved to the US in 1999, is a graduate of the Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem, and is board certified in plastic surgery by the Israeli Society of Plastic Surgery.

His extensive training in the United States includes a fellowship with Dr. Oscar Ramirez in Baltimore, Maryland, a two-year reconstructive plastic surgery fellowship at Duke University, and a one-year fellowship at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He has also served for three years as a clinical instructor in the department of Plastic Surgery at M.D. Anderson.

But moving to America from Israel wasn’t a walk in the park: “I had to adjust from the Israeli mentality to a hierarchical system – a very organized system in the United States,” he says. While in Israel it is common, and maybe even expected, for a junior doctor to argue with and challenge his superiors, in the US this is not done, he says.

Why America? He moved to the US to get much needed experience with patients. “Body contouring is a relatively new field,” he says. A combination of reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, “the result is judged only by the patient,” says Dr. Heller.

Not all women are going to look like Pamela Anderson after their surgery. Patients need to have reasonable expectations, and a gentle ear to listen to them, says Dr. Heller. “But when it succeeds it is a big satisfaction.”


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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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