Cornering the medical tourism market

If there is a trend towards medical tourism, Todd Mirzai, a Honolulu-based plastic surgeon with a clinic on his native Maui, is looking to capitalize.

On June 16, Mirzai and Bao Phan, a plastic surgeon in Dallas, will host the grand opening and blessing of the Mirzai Phan Plastic Surgery and MediSpa on Akahi Street in Lihu‘e. Though Mirzai will travel between his three clinics, Phan will be based on-island, becoming Kaua‘i’s first permanent, board-certified plastic surgeon.

“Our basic practice model is along the lines of what’s popular on the Mainland,” Mirzai said. “Medical spas, medical facials, intense pulse light therapy for sun damage, acne, rosacea (a skin condition characterized by flushing in the face), hyper-pigmentation, spots from sun exposure and hereditary problems.”

Mirzai’s business philosophy is based on two trends, as he sees them. One, non-surgical procedures are gaining popularity. Two, medical vacations could make up a significant portion of island tourism.

According to statistics provided by Michelle Lara in Mirzai’s Honolulu office, 2005 saw 15.6 million plastic surgery procedures, more than half of which were “minimally invasive,” or non-surgical.

“That’s the fastest growing area of our field right now,” he said. “Baby boomers are very active patients; they’re resistant to downtime and a lot of them are still active in their careers.”

In 2005, the number of reconstructive plastic surgeries fell by 3 percent from 2004, while non-surgical procedures rose by 13 percent.

With the increase in minimally invasive procedures, Mirzai and Phan see an opportunity for Mainlanders to come to Hawai‘i for a vacation, take a half-day out for some medical restoration and return home looking no worse for the wear.

“People will be able to go home looking refreshed and rejuvenated without taking away much time from their vacation,” Mirzai said. “They recover out of the eyes of their neighbors.”

Mirzai said he has had limited discussions with various state agencies, and though nothing is actually in the works, contacts with private business interests might prove more lucrative.

“We’re looking at coordinating services with a resort where someone comes for a vacation and undergoes surgical or non-surgical rejuvenations,” he said.

Mirzai and Phan are also looking at attracting clients from Asian countries, as well as Kaua‘i residents and long-term vacationers.

“I think it will be exciting for Kaua‘i,” Mirzai said. “There’s a lot of growth in the population there.”

While the opportunity and interest for a plastic surgery market on Kaua‘i has never really presented itself, Mirzai said recent increases in island population and plastic surgery popularity are the reasons he opened the clinic.

“Cosmetic surgery has become mainstream in the last five to 10 years,” he said. “The time is right for Kaua‘i to have that option.”

Mirzai spent time studying and practicing in both New York and Southern California, often with a first crack at new procedures.

“I have a good feel for what the trends are in other parts of the country,” he said. “We’re going to bring Kaua‘i up to speed in terms of what’s available in Newport Beach and New York City.”

Mirzai and Phan anticipate the clinic being open Monday through Wednesday and one day on the weekend, and they hope to see eight to 10 patients a day for hour-long consultations. Mirzai will fly in once a week for patient care, and they will perform surgery out of Wilcox Hospital’s new operating room suite.

The less invasive treatments will be handled in house, and the doctors have made every effort to transform their former plantation home space in Lihu‘e into a warm, inviting environment.

“We want to create an environment with less of a medical, cold, sterile feeling,” Mirzai said. “We used a lot of natural wood and soothing colors for the interior.

They modeled the reception area after a living room with soft natural lighting.

“Some of these treatments may be very intimidating, so we’re trying to relax the mood,” he said. “It has more of a spa feel.”

Both physicians will be available during the two-hour grand opening celebration, starting at 4 p.m. on June 16, and plan on giving a short talk on minimally invasive plastic surgery procedures.

• Ford Gunter, associate editor, may be reached at, or 245-3681 (ext. 224).


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