By Diana Lyle
I would have liked to have met Dr. Kouros Azar while he was a child. I imagine he would have been his science teacher’s favorite pupil, always thinking ahead and considering how he could invent something that would be useful to mankind. That creative ability took him through to university where he incorporated bio-medical engineering in his studies. During this time he invented a pace maker for the diaphragm, a device that was taken a step further by other scientists at the university, and ultimately implanted in the late actor, Christopher Reeve.
With two very dexterous hands, keen hand and eye coordination, and precise attention to detail, Dr. Azar found his calling in Plastic Surgery. He says unhesitatingly, “When you follow your bliss, that’s when success follows.” He is board certified on the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and belongs to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. His father was a Heart Surgeon, so he grew up in an environment where suturing and tying knots were skills he was introduced to at an early stage. He combines his abilities to think scientifically and artistically, which balances and enhances the overall result of his work.
Dr. Azar speaks with quiet passion, “My primary motivation is to be an advocate for my patients, and to practice ethical medicine where safety and doing the right thing are priorities.” He continues, “Plastic Surgery in the broad sense is about the overall enhancement of health. I aim to optimize my patients’ overall quality of life, and that includes giving them facts on nutrition and lifestyle choices. The idea is to give people the knowledge and hence the power to age well. That’s the true definition of advocacy. The field in which I practice is so interesting. We’re studying Human Growth Hormones, and there are new ways in which to stimulate the regeneration of skin. Plastic Surgery is leading the field in tissue engineering, a science in which stem cell research is an integral part. With this research we are able to regenerate body tissues and organs.
This balanced doctor knows how to focus in surgery, and relax when he’s done with his work. His relaxation hobbies include playing the guitar, which he happens to do rather well, and rock climbing, skiing, kayaking and back-packing. Not only do these adventure-packed outings provide a stress release for him, but they quench his thirst for an understanding of people, places and histories.
In terms of understanding life and people, Dr. Azar says thoughtfully, “Through my work, and through doing these activities, I’ve learned when to run and when to walk. When I was younger, I only knew how to run. Youth has no frontal lobe! I’ve also learned to put life into perspective. I have such an appreciation for life and health. The more you learn about life, the more prepared you are to face its challenges; you know that somewhere along the journey you’re going to experience pain. When I began medical school, my father gave me this advice: He said, ‘by becoming a physician, you’re going to expose yourself to every pitfall in life.'” Dr Azar continues, “Physicians are trained to analyze every situation and to act in a measured way after calculating the risk factors. We have acute selective attention, and this is particularly important in surgery where deep levels of concentration produce exacting results. It’s important to remain calm and unemotional while getting on with what needs to be done. The emotion is released afterwards, so much so that there’s a deep emotional rush when a patient’s life is saved.”
Dr. Azar’s wide-ranging interests extend to people in the rest of the world, and his global aspirations are illustrated as he explains, “One day I would like to volunteer a few months of my time to go into the poorest areas of the world and help, for instance, with cleft palette surgeries. Another global plan I have is with Waterhealth International. They have a device that can be set up in a rural village which provides clean water for up to 2,000 people. All you have to do is have someone there locally to manage the continuation of the project.” Dr. Azar has many discussions on the topic with a fellow medical doctor who lives in Ethiopia, but who studied with him in America.
Right now, he is reading a book by Tom Zoellner entitled “Heartless Stone”. It’s about the diamond industry, and the tragedies that have been caused by conflict diamonds. Dr. Azar says, “The author of the book visited multiple countries and monitored how the diamonds were sought, and the marketing that was done to promote them. It was a real eye opener.” The film “Blood Diamonds” was a recent, graphic illustration of that.
While discussing interesting topics on world affairs, Dr. Azar always ties up his conclusions by steering back to the focus of his passions: being a physician. He says with conviction, “The doctors who are at peace with their profession are the ones who have a place in their heart for helping others at a fundamental, less selfish level.” Amongst Dr. Azar’s future aspirations is a desire to develop and pioneer a technology that will contribute significantly to the field of medicine. He is currently a juror on the MDEA Awards (Medical Designs Excellence Awards) where he and the panel vote on medical devices that have been invented. In their judging process, they look at the overall contribution and benefit to health care.
Dr Azar is the genuine prototype of the doctor with the excellent bedside manner. He listens intently and sincerely cares about his patients. He says with humility, “I am always aware of the enormous responsibility I hold.” He’s a leader and a role model on the advantages of making healthy life choices. This congenial physician will be around for a very long time – long enough to help not only this generation, but the next generation of Americans realize their goal of achieving optimum health and well-being. And naturally, Dr. Azar, the born scientist, will come out with new innovations and new technologies to help the advancement of the rest of his profession.