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day in the life

Plastic Surgeon by Day, Family Man by Night

Dr. Neil Tanna is making people’s lives better by performing aesthetic and reconstructive surgeries by day, and just being a dad at night.

Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Look and feel your best.

Dr. Neil Tanna is a double board certified plastic surgeon at Northwell Health specializing in breast reconstruction and aesthetic surgery of the face and breast. His days are full, but Dr. Tanna—who also serves as associate professor and associate program director of plastic surgery at Northwell—has learned to balance his challenging professional career with a rich and rewarding personal life.


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

When he wakes up in the morning, Dr. Tanna takes care of normal dad/husband stuff. “I usually wake up around 4:45am and hit the gym before anyone in my house is awake.” During his drive to the hospital, Dr. Tanna makes use of the quiet time to plan his day. He typically gets to the office or hospital by 7am.


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Today is packed with patients and surgeries, so Dr. Tanna takes a moment to review the notes in the parking lot even before he enters the hospital. He has office hours on Mondays and Thursdays and surgeries on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

“I think it’s so important to make sure I see my patients first thing in the morning when I get to the hospital,” Dr. Tanna explains. His first stop is to check on a breast cancer patient who had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery the previous day. “Face to face time with my patients is beneficial and reassuring to both of us.”


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

“Not all cases are black and white. Sometimes it takes some time to piece together what is going on,” he says. Above, Dr. Tanna studies a patient’s test results and plans for next steps. “Sometimes things don’t always happen as expected. So I need to plan and prepare for anything and everything—and then work on the fly. Safe surgery is all about having a plan and a backup plan.” 


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Dr. Tanna regularly participates in educational conferences, attended by residents, faculty and other doctors at the hospital. Like many of the other Northwell Health surgeons, Dr. Tanna is committed to training medical students and resident physicians.  These teaching moments also keep surgeons abreast of the latest science and innovations. “I believe it’s our responsibility to be a part of the education of tomorrow’s doctors,” he says. “These conferences are a perfect way to do that.”


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Dr. Tanna counsels a young patient and her mother before the girl’s surgery. They discuss what will take place during the procedure and her recovery instructions. He also leaves time for them to ask any questions they might have. “I want to put their minds at ease and make sure they fully understand the procedure. It’s important to me that my patients feel supported and have a positive attitude. I want them to be as comfortable as possible.”


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Dr. Tanna then changes into his surgical scrubs and prepares for surgery-his first of many for the day. While he's washing his hands, he prepares mentally, too, reflecting on  what he needs to do and prepping for "go time." "What I love most about plastic surgery is our ability to transform someone's life-to improve inner confidence and make someone look as good as they feel. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see the patient's first response when they first see how they look after surgery. It is an incredible and empowering experience for the patient and rewarding for me," he says.


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

“Surgery, innovation, and science are at amazing crossroads in that we now use the latest technology to get the best outcomes,” he says. “Plastic surgery is a constantly changing field.  In choosing this profession, I knew I would be a student for life.  I’m always reading medical journals, staying ahead on the latest techniques.” 


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

“My successes are dependent on teamwork. We all work together, as every team member has a vital and indispensible role. I’m only one element of a larger team,” Dr. Tanna explains. After nearly three hours of surgery, Dr. Tanna and his physician assistant, Katie Beam, close the incision.


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Katie and Dr. Tanna return to the office to see patients. But first they meet to discuss the cases for the day. “Often, we see 30 to 35 patients in a day,” he says. “Cases range from cosmetic and reconstructive surgery to aesthetic procedures done in the office.”


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Dr. Tanna offers direction to a patient who recently had facial reconstructive surgery, counseling the patient on how to care for the incision site until they see each other again in a few weeks. Dr. Tanna’s first and foremost priority is the patient and their experience. “I’ll spend as much time with patients as they need or I’ll see them as many times as they need to feel comfortable,” he says.


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Dr. Tanna performs Botox on a patient in his office. He believes that doing aesthetic procedures is just as important as reconstructive ones. “The two are synergistic and keeps me sharp,” he explains. “Reconstructive surgery is all about trying to restore form and function, making the affected area look as normal as possible. And that’s where aesthetic surgery is helpful—having a keen eye for aesthetics makes you a better reconstructive surgeon.”


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

The office staff takes a break from their hectic day to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. “We’re a tight knit group and everyone gets along. It’s a really fun place to work. And we always like to come together whenever someone is having a big life moment or milestone.” He adds, “We have so many people in the office, every week is another celebration!”


Photo credit: Lee Weissman/The Well

Taking before and after photos of patients is an important step in Dr. Tanna’s process. “For both reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries, it helps us in planning, shows us where we’ve come from and helps us learn how we can do things better next time,” he explains. “I continuously strive to be better and the only way to do that is to look at where we were and study the results. People think it’s just about showing results to other patients, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s a method of self-critique and shows me how I can do better.”


Photo credit: Napier Lopez

Dr. Tanna heads home after a long day. “My kids go to sleep by 7, so I try to be home in time to read to them and put them to bed,” he says.  After his children are asleep, he spends quiet time with his wife.


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Published June 12th, 2018

Look and feel your best.