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Suwanee plastic surgeon sees changes, challenges in industry

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Suwanee resident Jeff Zwiren has practiced plastic surgery in Gwinnett County since 1988. While he has two other doctors in his practice he mostly focuses on cosmetic surgery.

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Suwanee resident Jeff Zwiren has practiced plastic surgery in Gwinnett County since 1988. While he has two other doctors in his practice he mostly focuses on cosmetic surgery.

DULUTH -- Small business referrals can come from just about anywhere. For a Suwanee plastic surgeon, they even come from a member of a jury at a criminal trial.

Called to testify at a trial, Dr. Jeff Zwiren was asked about how he fixed a facial laceration for a man when he was an emergency room surgeon.

The man was as "drunk as he could be," Zwiren said, and the doctor added he didn't anesthetize the patient because he wouldn't hold still.

About a year after the surgery, six months after the trial, Zwiren said a woman walked in his office.

"I bet you don't know where I got your name from," she said. "I was on the jury of the trial. You did a really good job on him."

Zwiren, a 23-year resident of Suwanee, has practiced plastic surgery in Gwinnett County since 1988 and owns the only group plastic surgery practice in the county. Zwiren owns Prima Center for Plastic Surgery in Duluth. While Zwiren did mostly reconstructive surgeries for his first 20 years in the field, he's recently moved his focus to cosmetic, while two other doctors in his practice balance other needs.

Cosmetic surgery offers elective procedures that mostly save him trips to the emergency room.

"The challenge of these big, huge reconstructive operations where people are missing parts of their skull, facial fractures, lose their appeal after midnight," Zwiren said.

Most of his work now is procedures like face-lifts, eye lid lifts, breast augmentations, liposuctions and tummy tucks. In an era before air bags in cars, seat belts and safety glasses, Zwiren saw plenty of facial injuries.

"(Highway) 316 used to be like a killing field," he said. "There were accidents on there every day. Before air bags were not very common, you had a lot of facial fractures, mandible fractures, nasal fractures. Now it's almost rare to see them. There's a lot of personal satisfaction taking care of people who have bad injuries, and you help them through that part of it."

Zwiren graduated from Lakeside High School along with Dr. Philip Nakano, who joined the practice in the early 1990s. He then graduated from Oxford College at Emory University, the University of Georgia and the Emory University School of Medicine.

As he built the practice, Zwiren said it took trust from other doctors and patients to gain a referral base.

Medicine was familiar to him because his father was a pediatric surgeon for 35 years. But Zwiren didn't decide plastic surgery was his destination until about the third year into medical school.

With two kids on the back end of college, Zwiren and his wife Cindy have thought about long-term plans of international medical missions.

Until then, the baby boomer generation has provided a "mini-explosion" of interest in cosmetic surgery. Zwiren said that generation was the first to take care of themselves with diet and exercise. While 90 percent of his patients are women, Zwiren said there's been a recent uptick in men who want neck or eyelid work done.

"Most patients are not coming in to look like they're in their 20s," he said. "They want to look as good as they feel. People tell them, 'You look tired.' They want to look fresh."

A collector of advertisements of beauty treatments from the 1800s, Zwiren said people have always been, and likely will always be vain.

"The only thing you're sure of is there will be changes in what people want, and the techniques, and services that we'll provide for patients will change over the next 10 years," he said.