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    Consider the pros and cons of relocation


    Dr. Metzner
    Post-Hurricane Katrina, David M. Metzner, M.D., a plastic surgeon, decided to uproot his 30-year career in New Orleans and practice in Vermont. By contrast, Gustavo Colon, M.D., also a plastic surgeon just as established in Metairie, La., opted to remain there. While the impetus to move today might be more the economy than a natural disaster, both men weighed factors that any cosmetic surgeon should consider before moving to what may well be greener pastures.




    YOUR GOALS Dr. Metzner thought he had life planned. "My wife and I knew we didn't want to spend summers in the heat of New Orleans after retirement; so, we sought a vacation home for the summers only in Williamstown, Massachusetts," he says. Then, Hurricane Katrina struck, flooding their home and forcing the couple to flee to Massachusetts. They were faced with choices: to rebuild Dr. Metzner's practices in Louisiana, or start a new practice elsewhere to tide the couple over until retirement. Dr. Metzner says the most important factor in their decision to uproot their lives was that they did not want to risk another devastation in New Orleans; they loved Williamstown; and Dr. Metzner had an offer to work in a rural medispa in Vermont in part-time practice within an hour of his Williamstown home from which he could commute. "It was a good choice for me—for my wife and family," Dr. Metzner says.

    DON'T FORGET QOL Like many of his Louisiana-based colleagues, Dr. Colon practiced at Baylor University in Houston after Katrina hit. He liked working there and considered a part-time job offer to commute from New Orleans.

    "Then my wife said to me, who are you going to have coffee with in the morning? And she was right. I have coffee every morning here at morning call in New Orleans," Dr. Colon reflects. "[Being in New Orleans] was what I was used to. I'd lived here since 1965." Dr. Colon says he also factored that he was in the winter of his career and would not have to practice at the rigorous pace he had when he was younger. Though the situation has arguably become even more dire in New Orleans due to the economy, Dr. Colon still plans to stay. "I sit on the board at one of the hospitals and one of the things we've noticed is that more [doctors] are leaving. We've noticed that [they're] looking for jobs that pay a salary...working for academics, an institution, for government or someplace where they do not have to develop their own private practice."

    FIRST STEPS Moving is much easier for those who relocate to already-established practices or to such salaried jobs. Although the day spa at which Dr. Metzner worked eventually went out of business, it gave the plastic surgeon the opportunity to build a part-time private practice which he maintains today. "Transitioning into an existing practice makes it easier, especially if you're working from a distance [for a while]. For me to have tried to manage a construction project while still going back and forth to New Orleans [would have been more difficult]," he says.

    TEST DRIVE Dr. Metzner says the couple tested their option to stay in New Orleans before moving. "My wife had an executive position at Loyola University, so they wanted her to stay. Once things started opening up I started going back to New Orleans. First, I lived in a house that I rented from a friend and later in a hotel while we were figuring out what to do," Dr. Metzner says. All the while, he started working on making a possible transition to Vermont. "I spent two weeks a month in New Orleans and two weeks at home with my family [who had by then moved to Massachusetts]," he says. But with the travel, Dr. Metzner realized he no longer needed a busy practice and needed more the stability of family. He says that physicians who want to move should factor in the time—possibly several months—that it will take to become licensed in their destination state.

    GETTING REAL Of course, it's unrealistic for cosmetic surgeons who move their practices to think their patients will follow, says Dr. Metzner. Rather, when planning a move they should consider the major undertaking of starting anew. Researching destinations becomes paramount. Had Dr. Metzner wanted to open a thriving practice, clearly he would not have chosen rural Vermont.

    "All of Vermont is one area code. So, this is a part-time practice which I could justify at this time of my life and career," he says. Ultimately, because the decision to move a practice is so individual, Dr. Colon says he has only this advice: "...we have stages in life. Live each stage as it comes along."

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.

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