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3550 NW Cary Parkway, #100
Cary, NC 27513
Telephone: (919) 297-0097

Our Minds Care How We Look

Midway through her college years at NC State University, Emily Blemker had her first significant outbreak of acne—which proved to be a life-changing event in several ways.

Dr. Gregg

“I was distressed, like so many others, with the impact of acne on how I looked and felt about myself, and I set out to find help,” she says. “Finally the acne subsided. Then I had to cope with the difficult problem of acne scarring and I left no option untested in trying to overcome this aftermath problem.

“In fact, I got so interested in the whole topic of skin care and skin health that, after graduating from State, I’ve gone on to become a certified aesthetician. But I only found meaningful help with the facial scarring issue when I went to see Dr. Cynthia Gregg.”

Dr. Gregg, one of the area’s most accomplished facial plastic surgeons, was an Assistant Professor of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Duke University Medical Center before opening her private practice in Cary in 1999.

“Acne scarring affects so many people, and most of them feel exactly as Emily did about their appearance,” notes Dr. Gregg. “We do have good options for these patients, and at the same time I emphasize that once you have a scar, it’s permanent. There’s simply no way to remove scars completely. The goal is to improve the appearance of the scar either by disguising it, relocating it, or minimizing its prominence. And that’s exactly what we were able to do for Emily, with laser skin resurfacing as our primary enhancement tool.”

Facial Procedures

Relying on her extensive training, the latest technology, and years of experience, Dr. Gregg performs the full range of facial plastic surgery procedures, including forehead and brow-lift surgery, facial scar treatment, otoplasty (to correct protruding ears), rhinoplasty nasal surgery, blepharoplasty eyelid surgery, rhytidectomy facelift surgery, and mid-face lift.

She and her staff, which includes a surgical nurse, a nurse injector, and an aesthetician, also offer a full range of skin care procedures and products, including treatment of sun damage and photo-aging, Botox cosmetic injec-tions, laser hair removal, and use of natural cosmetic dermal fillers such as Restylane, Juvéderm, and Sculptra.

Mind-Body Connection

The simple truth is that most people care enormously about their physical appearance, notes Dr. Gregg. “And the mindset of the patient can determine whether the patient is, in fact, a good candidate for surgery.

“When a patient comes to us expressing a lot of anxiety,” the doctor notes, “they are more likely to have surgical complications, a higher level of discomfort during recovery, and generally poorer overall outcomes. And thus, surgery simply isn’t an option for someone with high anxiety.

“Education is an important factor for us,” she notes. “The more I can help a patient understand what we’re doing, what our outcome goals are, and generally what to expect, the better outcome we’ll achieve. The body responds positively to the mind being prepared. Words are powerful and they have real, psychological impacts. I can’t, of course, completely control how patients respond, but I can do my best to influence their mindset with strong education and screening. And there are times—in the patient’s best interest—that I simply have to say ‘No.’ ”

Benefits of Otoplasty

Just as the mind can influence the body, so can the physical body influence the mind. And this is an area where Dr. Gregg’s work can have a huge impact on the patient’s quality of life.

“There can be a real disconnect between how someone feels on the inside, and what the world is seeing from the outside, and thus how the world responds to that person,” she explains. “A good example of this is the patient in need of an otoplasty—a procedure to correct misshapen ears, or ears that stick out from the head, in an obtrusive way. (see photos, below) These patients are usually middle school or high school aged kids who are getting picked on at school. Pscyhological testing has shown that the experience of teasing for physical differences during adolescence has negative ramifications, so this surgical procedure can be of major benefit for the psychological and emotional health of these young patients.”

The otoplasty procedure is often a life-changing event, especially for youngsters.

Less dramatic changes can have major impact, as well, Dr. Gregg notes, describing the outcome for a patient who had recently had a brow and eye-lift procedure. “I asked her what kind of comments she had been getting, after surgery. She replied that people tended to comment more about behavior than appearance, saying ‘You seem more approachable,’ ‘you seem happier,’ or just generally responding to her differently. These kinds of subtle changes can do wonders for self-esteem and self-confidence, and really change both how a person approaches the world and how the world approaches them.”

Patient Selection

Dr. Gregg also remains constantly aware of the mind’s ability to influence what one sees that may differ from what the rest of us perceive.

“When someone comes in and says, ‘I hate my nose, and it’s because of this bump,’ and I can look at their nose and see the bump, then that is something I can fix,” Dr. Gregg says. “However, there is another type of person who is overly self-critical. They see physical issues I do not see—a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. A person with this condition may have anorexia, for example, but they may see themselves as being severely overweight.

“Victims of domestic violence are often another example. I may see a very tiny facial scar, but the emotional ramifications for the survivor are profound. They look at that same tiny scar and see the result of a major assault. This can be a troublesome area. No matter what I do to try to fix the problem scar, it’s unlikely to succeed because the issue isn’t physical, it’s emotional. It is a classic mind-body issue, and often the best answer I can give them is ‘no.’ If a surgeon tells you no about a suggested procedure, it is for a good reason. Don’t take it lightly.”

Dr. Gregg is well known both for her expertise and her compassion. She provides pro bono surgeries for survivors of domestic violence, and regularly travels to distant lands—most recently, Bolivia—to provide cleft lip and cleft palate repairs.