Health provider or plastic-surgery pusher?

A reader writes in…

I went to the OBGYN for a check up, and while I was cooling my feet for two hours waiting for the doctor, I found myself staring at multiple shiny pamphlets advertising laser surgery, microdermabrasion, and botox. In an OBGYN office.
Then I found out that this Laser Surgery place shares all its rooms with the OBGYN. I feel like the two practices are completely antithetical. One should create a nonjudgemental, private, safe and caring environment. The other preys on negative self-image and unbalanced expectations for women’s appearance. I felt outraged that they felt it was a good partnership.
Has anyone else found supposedly caring places for women sabotaged?

Yuck. Hopefully this is not a widespread trend.

Join the Conversation

  • Alice

    If you don’t like it, go to a specialist who isn’t in such a partnership or themselves a pusher of cosmetic surgery. Except… you probably won’t be able to find one, no matter how far you’re willing to drive. The present economic reality of specialist practice has made cosmetic and elective procedures absolutely necessary for their continued operation.
    So next time you get see such advertisements, or have cosmetic surgery recommend by a doctor or other worker, I understand the annoyance, but please try to be annoyed at our litigation culture and state interventions into medical practice, and not the doctor themself. The situation is beyond their control, and without aggressive marketing of cosmetic procedures or partnerships such as this, their purely medical services would probably not even be available to you at all.

  • Unnecesarean

    Gratuitous ad for midwifery in 3.. 2.. 1…
    Midwives do well woman check-ups… they can do STD screenings, Paps, HPV and routine blood tests. It’s doubtful that a midwife would share an office with someone like that.

  • dora

    I was dissapointed to be in the office of Dr. Christine Corbin in Hillsboro, OR where there were baby books, mom magazines and oh yeah, hair removal and skin rejuvination pamphlets.
    I usually feel uncomfortable enough at the
    OBGYN, reminders of how I “imperfect” I am were unnecessary.
    Thanks for bringing up this issue!

  • dora

    I was dissapointed to be in the office of Dr. Christine Corbin in Hillsboro, OR where there were baby books, mom magazines and oh yeah, hair removal and skin rejuvination pamphlets.
    I usually feel uncomfortable enough at the
    OBGYN, reminders of how I “imperfect” I am were unnecessary.
    Thanks for bringing up this issue!

  • allegra

    Hmm. I’ve never heard of it, but it doesn’t surprise me a bit.
    It seems dermatologists today are more concerned with providing cosmetic “treatment” than actual frickin’ health treatment. I went to a small dermatology clinic last winter two or three times a week for UV treatment for psoriasis (it’s not severe, but I’ve had it my whole life) – which is, like, a health issue, an immunodeficiency disorder. I’m probably going to have crippled hands from psoriatic arthritis by age 40. Part of the reason I chose this clinic was that I called about three others and they all had absurd three-month-long waiting periods. For realz?, I thought. Let me guess who’s in “line”: People coming in to get treated for stupid not-serious shit like acne, or for cosmetic treatment. But people who actually have health problems are supposed to sit and wait while the doctors carry out their super-important goal of selling “beauty” (or insecurity) to women.
    My whole derm office was just littered with this cosmetic shit – which is absolutely fine for people who need it (burn and accident victims). But the industry is still definitely 90% bullshit about convincing women they’re too fat or wrinkley or full of hideous stretch marks. It was annoying to me, too.

  • Attagrrrl

    I have actually walked out of dermatologists’ offices and told them it was because I was getting a very non-medical, Clinique-counter kind of vibe.

  • JKayOh

    Yep, it’s a trend people. Many OBGYNs do BOTOX, Rystalene, etc. treatments on the side for extra money. My OBGYN births babies and gets rid of crow’s feet all in one office. I thought it was probably rare and asked him about it. Apparently, OBGYNs (among other medical specialists) get themselves qualified to do the treatments because it’s very lucrative and doesn’t take much time per appointment, so they can see their GYN patients as normal and perform these other relatively quick (yet expensive) procedures.
    I’m not really sure how I feel about it. He’s still a great GYN. My jury’s out …

  • anteup

    My orthopedist, otolaryngologist and OBGYN all have similar pamphlets in their offices.

  • thenderson

    Getting treatment for acne is not stupid. It may not be as serious a problem as psoriasis but it is a problem for millions of people and they deserve treatment for it.

  • Bluecat

    Meh, I worked in medical management. All sorts of practices are branching out and taking on unorthodox partners these days (ours brought in an acupuncturist, for example). Alice is absolutely right, it’s not that they want to make you uncomfortable but malpractice premiums are killing them and many of those practices are partnering up with high money earners to ensure their long-term survival.

  • Clare

    That puts it in perspective. It’s depressing, but on the other hand, I’d rather OBGYNs not go out of business or raise prices obscenely high.

  • MiddleageLiberal

    You must be easily outraged if advertising for a medical service many people want outrages you. You didn’t say some salesperson was sitting near you and pressuring a cosmetic surgery sale.
    If you don’t want cosmetic surgery don’t have it.

  • allegra

    Of course people should be treated for acne. But I would argue that it’s also a definite case of selling sickness. Acne marketing is designed to make what is often (but not always) a temporary problem or inconvenience seem like a serious one.
    I would say cosmetic reasons often drive a person to go to a derm for acne in the first place, not that it’s causing him/her a genuine health problem or is painful. It’s because they “look ugly” and feel embarrassed and unattractive, and companies that sell treatments encourage these feelings. I do not think medicalizing normal adolescent annoyances or encouraging people to see *specialists* for them is really the way to be going here.
    In any case, I don’t care who was on the wait lists ahead of me. Derms should not have three-month-long wait lists; this is an obvious problem with our health-care system.

  • apb3000

    My (female) gyno had me in the stirrups, took a look and said “you know, we offer electrolysis.” Seriously. I felt like I was in on ‘Seinfeld.’

  • justsarahbarah

    One reason I love my nurse practicioner….

  • kendraj

    “Has anyone else found supposedly caring places for women sabotaged?”
    What about the disgusting ‘snorgtees’ ads that can be found prominently on this very website? I saw one the other day (sorry I forget what it said but it was totally sexist) and it made me feel less positive about feministing as a truly feminist community.

  • Ayla

    That’s so totally inappropriate. WTF. I think I probably would have pissed on her. What an ass.

  • Jane Minty

    Part of dermatology is cosmetic based – take it or leave it. I had a suspicious mole biopsied a while back, and before the tortuous wait for the results (my mom passed away from squamous cell carcinoma, so this was especially horrible), I was at least able to talk to my doc about laser dermabrasion as a nice distraction.
    I’ve religiously worn the highest spf since this was first recommended by dermatologists (and avoid the sun/tanning as much as possible), and despite my near lack of lines I still have a case of melasma that appeared after a particular bc pill prescription (which makes the obgyn/laser partnership even more amusing). I just don’t think anyone is really qualified to tell me whether a treatment for my melasma is “justified,” except for what my doc and I have determined to be necessary.
    Certain cosmetic conditions can have negative psychological effects on a patient over time. This especially goes for adolescents and acne…it can be a traumatizing experience for kids.
    Perhaps you can speak to your health care provider about assistance in finding one who only treats certain conditions. Otherwise, keep in mind that dermatologists study all aspects of the skin, and part of the skin’s function just happens to be cosmetic by design. If you did decide to have a serious cosmetic procedure at some point, wouldn’t you rather be treated by a medical doctor than an aesthetician with a few laser workshops under the belt (with no disrespect to aestheticians, of course)?
    I also have a case of dyshidrotic eczema on my left hand that manifests itself as surface bubbles, and this can hurt like hell at times. Is this only a health issue when it hurts, or would you classify it as a cosmetic issue if I’m concerned about the unsightly red bubbles?

  • Terabithia

    A lot of people here seem easily outraged by advertising something that lots of people need…
    I can see how its a little weird having different things like that together, but it makes economic sense and it isn’t offensive unless they are actually saying things like “oh, by the way, you look like you could use some botox.”

  • Marjolein

    I actually commented specifically to reply to you.
    Your comment about acne really riled me up, I’m sure you didn’t mean it negatively.
    “medicalizing normal adolescent annoyances”
    I’m 27 years old and I have had acne since I was 13 years old. With the help of a dermatologist I’m finally no longer afraid to go outside and look people in the eye, even though it’s far from gone. The wouldn’t even treat me until I was 22 years old, before then they shrugged me off and told me I’d “grow over it”. It’s no adolescent annoyance, it’s a skin disease that goes way beyond adolescence.
    Please do not underestimate the effects acne can have on a person. Both physically (yes it can hurt, a lot, abcesses in my loins that hurt when I walk or sit down, scar tissue on my face that hurts when I smile) and most of all mentally. It IS a health problem, not just cosmetic.
    I am only now learning how to build social relationships and regaining my confidence and faith in myself.
    Look, I’m sorry you had to be on a waiting list at some providers, I did too, after waiting years to be treated and taken serious in the first place. It sucks, and yes your disease has more physical effects, but that doesn’t make mine a minor annoyance.
    Sorry about the rant, I’m sure you didn’t mean your message the way it came across for me, but I just needed to get this out.

  • Terabithia

    Wow, that that IS offensive. I wonder if she was just desperate to push her business and make money, or if she was just rude– like if she didn’t do those kinds of things herself, would she still have said “you know, I can recommend someone who does electrolysis” ?

  • Lisa P

    Health is wealth! That’s why having a healthy body is important than having a healthy pocket. But of course we still need enough money because it is our tool for us to buy nutritious food.
    We cannot deny that every single one of us, or someone we know, is facing some health challenges. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a story about how unhealthy most Americans have become. Obesity and diabetes are some of the major health issues we see. Both are, no doubt, on the rise among both adults and children. Some people have just taken for granted their health because they are busy in their everyday work. On the other hand, there are some people that whenever they are sick they refused to seek for medication because of having a short budget. But when are we going to cure our self? If we would just set aside our health problem we are putting our self into risk. In addition to that, it can also leave a major strain on your budget. If you are unable to cover those unexpected doctor bills, payday installment loans can get you the immediate cash you need to accommodate you on your journey to recovery. Click to read more on Credit Repair.

  • Aimee

    I know all the bloggers here try to make sure there’s no offensive advertising and they remove offensive ads when they realize they are here. Next time you see one, you should email one of the bloggers about it.

  • K.Rae

    Exactly. It’s much easier to say “no” to these elective procedures than to search for a new OB/Gyn when your old one closes her doors because she can’t stay solvent.

  • lesliesage

    Man, if you’ve ever removed your hair with a razor, I suggest you shut up about someone who wants to do it with a laser.

  • Pencils

    It seems dermatologists today are more concerned with providing cosmetic “treatment” than actual frickin’ health treatment.
    Yeah, it’s true. I called my dermatologist a couple of weeks ago because I had a rather scary rash on my lower legs. I told the receptionist that it was disturbing me, that I had blisters. She could only give me an appointment the next week. She didn’t suggest that I might want to try somewhere else, just to come in the next week. I then called my internist, got an appointment that day and found out I had cellulitis. If I had waited a week, I would have been in the hospital.
    BTW, my internist also has the ads for laser scar & hair removal in her exam rooms. It doesn’t bother me, no one has ever mentioned them to me there, I guess they hope people will ask about it.

  • Pencils

    I should have mentioned that my dermatologist is all about the Botox and the laser procedures. I’ve been going there a long time and it’s changed from a regular doctor’s office to one that really seems to concentrate on cosmetic procedures. That’s where the money is. I just hope that if I ever have a funny-looking mole they can see me immediately, or else I’ll just go to my internist again.

  • Mina

    “Please do not underestimate the effects acne can have on a person. Both physically (yes it can hurt, a lot, abcesses in my loins that hurt when I walk or sit down, scar tissue on my face that hurts when I smile) and most of all mentally. It IS a health problem, not just cosmetic.”
    A problem physically, mentally, and economically, right?
    As long as employers and clients and customers judge people by our physical appearance, as long as some of us need to not be shunned by other people (whether an interviewer in an office or a barterer at a bazaar) because we don’t have enough real estate to live off the land instead, physical appearance won’t always be “just cosmetic.”

  • Mina

    “Man, if you’ve ever removed your hair with a razor, I suggest you shut up about someone who wants to do it with a laser.”
    Especially if that some has stubble growing back on her face within hours of using the razor…

  • Mina

    “My (female) gyno had me in the stirrups, took a look and said ‘you know, we offer electrolysis.’ Seriously. I felt like I was in on ‘Seinfeld.'”
    What a jerk!

  • catnmus

    I accompanied my mother to her doctor’s appointment once. This was a woman that specialized in geriatric care. And I was beyond annoyed to see the pamphlets for cosmetic surgery in the waiting room. Talk about preying on a vulnerable population! My only solace was that the town where my mother lives is really not very wealthy (it’s in the rust belt and pretty much all the factories have been closed down) and the people there don’t tend to waste money on this kind of crap. But man, it made me mad!

  • Biff

    Message above is spam.

  • allegra

    OK. Eesh. I didn’t mean to turn this into some kind of acne-bashing festival. As I already said, yes, of course, sometimes it is a serious problem. My point is, there are lots of people, including women, who DO go for cosmetic issues that are NOT normally serious problems. Certainly, people have psychological issues from how they look and they need support and should not be belittled for it. But women also have psychological issues from small breasts, weight, their noses, things that plastic surgery can supposedly “fix” – and the answer is not to simply “get it fixed” through plastic surgery or cosmetic treatment and ignore the way social messages / media / advertising contribute to one’s psychological problems with one’s appearance.
    And I agree dermatology will always be tied up with cosmetic concerns. I just don’t agree, as above commenters wrote, that it should be necessary for derms to market cosmetic treatment like wrinkle removal just to stay afloat. It is possible to have a health system _not_ dependent on advertising and commercialization and at the whim of “free-market” concerns. Why should I be “grateful” that women are wasting their money on this shit to support a system where even _basic_ health care is not a right, but a commodity? Where doctors will not tell women that wrinkles are a normal, universal part of aging, but will rather gladly provide expensive procedures to “treat” them? But I digress.

  • allegra

    But, yes, I apologize. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called it “stupid.”
    I guess I was thinking of a past experience of mine with a friend who’s really quite beautiful and has nice skin on her face – at least, comparatively nicer than mine – who was SO obsessed with her very mild acne that her doctor referred her to a dermatologist, and she’s been treating her face with these harsh chemicals ever since. Still, people like my friend do get derm appointments and do get prescription treatments. I’m rather surprised that you were so often turned away for yours. Anyway, I just wish I could have convinced her she didn’t need it – I truly think she doesn’t need it. And it pisses me off that our culture has so beaten down women’s self-esteems and so magnified their flaws that they can’t even see how beautiful they are when everyone surrounding them reassures them of it.

  • UhOhitzSaro

    my OBGYN performs all of those services, and lipsuction. imagine my dismay when i laid back and looked up at the ceiling during my last pelvic exam and saw a flyer on the CEILING saying “have you thought about liposuction?”
    nothing like advertising when i’m most vulnerable.

  • captain_shev

    Hate to say it, but this is the inevitable effect of the privatisation of healthcare. They need to partner with business in order to stay afloat, whether that be insurance (giving you more treatment than maybe you actually need, or hiking up the prices in order to pay their own malpractice insuance), selling you treatments by m,aking you feel worthles, teaming up with cosmetic procedures, or denying decent care for those who just can’t afford to eat or live.
    It’s kinda telling that, for all the NHS’s faults (and they are legion), the only adverts I see are for their quit-smoking campaigns, weight-watching groups etc, and other state sponsired efforts to keep the population healthy enough to not need the doctors.

  • Faye

    I’m actually shocked by this! I’m Canadian, and I have never been to a doctor’s office that advertised any sort of cosmetic procedure other than my dermatologist’s office. Our family physicians DO have a $250,000/year salary cap though, so I guess branching out wouldn’t really make sense for them.

  • Bostaurus

    I was referred to an ear, nose and throat dr. by my primary physician after a CT scan revealed I needed sinus surgery. One of the first things the ENT dr. said to me is “we can fix up your nose to look better.” I was really offended. I just got done telling this dr. I’d been having severe chronic headaches for months and wanted to feel better. And the first thing he had to offer was a cosmetic “nose job” – as if that was more important than my health, or as if there’s even anything wrong with the way I look! I didn’t want or need cosmetic surgery, and I didn’t ask for it. I went back to my primary care and told her I wanted a different referral – there was no way I wanted that guy doing my operation. I ended up with a much better dr. who never once mentioned cosmetic surgery and who did a great job on the operation (and I woke up looking exactly the same as before!).


    That add is always up when I visit the site. I haven’t seen anything offensive in their commercials on this website, but I do think of that website as being a bit sketchy.

  • happiestsadist

    I’m also in Canada, and I can’t imagine anything like this either. All of the doctors I’ve visited just have parenting magazines and a copy or two in In Style from 2003 in their waiting rooms.

  • Marjolein

    I’m sorry for responding so harshly! I was having a rough day and yeah, no excuse of course.
    Thanks for your response and I understand a lot better what you meant with your previous posts :)

  • lunamayi

    Here in my county in Florida there are weight loss clinics all over; they’re usually advertised as physician-run and I know of quite a few doctors who have left regular medical specialties to run these more lucrative establishments which do not usually accept insurance and are cash-only.
    I’m horrified to read about the many inappropriate suggestions for cosmetic procedures some of you have experienced (excellent thing to say Attagrrrl: “getting a very non-medical, Clinique-counter kind of vibe”). On the other hand, I’m currently pursuing a breast reduction for pain issues and I am having a very difficult time getting my primary phys to take me seriously and submit my paperwork to the insurance.
    I miss my Las Vegas midwife and now understand the many women who flew in to see her for their annuals and called in for prescription from as far as NYC. Sigh.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Let’s see now. Being “pro-choice” as to some surgical procedures is a good thing; as to others, a bad thing? Hmmmm.
    Get over it. Physicians are capitalists. Patients are consumers–free to purchase or to decline to purchase elective procedures. To paraphrase an old cliche, if you don’t like liposuction, don’t have it.

  • who ate my avocado

    I recently had a rheumatologist comment on my acne and try to convince me to take Accutane for it. She spent about half the freaking appointment on it, even after I made clear that I’ve tried everything I feel comfortable with to treat my acne. When I told her Accutne hadn’t helped my brother, she didn’t believe me, and had no idea that it causes depression. She also thought it was a “new” treatment, and since she didn’t remember its name, she actually left the room to ask somebody about it. I was shocked when the “new, innovative” treatment she’d been talking about turned out to be something that’s been around for years and is known for causing birth defects 90% of the time and also causes depression. I’m really sensitive about my appearance since I quite often have people, mostly men, comment negatively on my appearance (in addition to acne I also have thin hair that won’t grow past my shoulders, and no, I’ve been checked out to ensure that it’s not a vitamin deficiency; it’s simply the way I am).
    Seriously. We have to endure beauty fascism everywhere else we go. Can’t the doctor’s office at least be a safe place for women? It’s also really disturbing when you consider how many women have eating disorders — it’s already recommended that they not have to be around scales, but to then be in a gynecologist’s office that’s advertising fucking lipo? I mean, I guess in a twisted way it makes sense for the medical industry, because assuming that the doctor of an anorexic patient knows enough not to do lipo on her, being exposed to that shit will still increase the chances that she’ll need to see a doctor for a relapse or worsening sometime soon. :(

  • Elsewhere

    I’m a moderator on and after nearly four years of helping people out on that site, I can personally attest to the devastating effect that acne can have, and would beg anyone who thinks that it is “just a phase” to please visit our messageboards and see for yourself the emotional and psychological damage it can cause.
    That being said –
    I would be intensely uncomfertable if I waited in my gyno’s office and saw multiple adverts for plastic surgery.

  • Bostaurus

    To Devil’s Advocate: No one is talking about banning plastic surgery – no one has said anything “anti-choice” about cosmetic surgery – I’m guessing that all these commenters would agree that plastic surgery should be available for those who choose it. The point is that it is inappropriate to push plastic surgery on patients who are seeking health-related medical care, and haven’t expressed any interest in cosmetic treatments. For me it was a matter of trust: when the dr. tried to push cosmetic surgery on me when I came in looking for health care, I wondered whether he really had my best interests at heart and would do the right thing for my health, and honor my wishes not to have my appearance altered.

  • s.

    I went to an OB/GYN once (repeat once) where when I walked in there were breast augmentation pamphlets in the waiting room. I later found out the plastic surgeon was her husband.

  • gothchiq

    Actually, if acne is bad enough, it does hurt. :( I am 40 years old and have had serious acne since age 11. I’ve tried so many things! I can keep the acne down to a non-grotesque level with prescriptions, but not get rid of it. When I’m really broken out, my facial skin is painful and swollen. It really sux!
    That said, I see my general practitioner for medical treatments for this acne, because it takes for freaking ever to see a dermatologist.

  • gothchiq

    I hate my acne. I’m 40 years old and have been suffering with severe acne since age 11. The best that medical science has to offer me only reduces the acne. I cannot get rid of it. During bad breakouts all the skin of my face swells, reddens, and hurts. And itches, too. It’s freakin miserable. And I can’t use benzoyl peroxide, retin-A, or salicylic acid because they all chemical burn my skin and make the problems 100 times worse. I take doxycycline and use Differin gel thinned out with light moisturizer.
    I use the skin-friendliest cosmetics I can to hide some of this mess, and I’m still considered attractive, but…by heck, acne sucks!