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His focus is on changing looks and lives

 

Vito Quatela M.D. loves building things and has proven highly successful at it in differing spheres.
 
He has built a continually expanding center for plastic surgery; a foundation that gives deformed children the gift of a better life; and a solid family life here to maintain the connection to his parents, who also built their home and business here.
 
"I love building anything," he says.
 
Quatela Center for Plastic Surgery is in the Lindsay House, a restored mansion on East Avenue that opened in 1992. There are 50 full-time, nine part-time and 24 per diem employees on staff.
 
He sold his surgery center at Linden Oaks to Unity Health System, reducing his staff from 180 at the time of the sale in April.
 
"The timing was right," Quatela says. "Every hospital wanted its own surgery center. Had I not sold that one, they would have built their own.
 
"I left the University (of Rochester) in 1999 primarily because it’s great to do more complex procedures but not great for privacy. (The Quatela Center) affords confidentiality."
 
Business has been growing steadily for Quatela, 58, since he began his practice in 1986. He performed 1,200 procedures in the last year, a vast increase from the 10 he did in his first year. But back then that was a great business, he says.
 
"I started out at the university doing 10 rhinoplasties citywide in my first year. I quickly became one of the highest-paid plastic surgeons here," Quatela says. "I was well-supported at the university. When other doctors came to town and they were good, it helped us all. My practice grew, and by ’99 I surpassed more than 150 rhinoplasty procedures."

Practice evolves
As his practice has grown, it also has evolved. What started as 50 percent reconstructive surgery and 50 percent cosmetic surgery has become 80 percent cosmetic and 20 percent reconstructive surgery, Quatela says.
 
"People want to look as good as they feel," he says. "They see it as a part of their life game plan. They get physically fit and they want to look it."
 
Quatela is seeing an increase in male patients, especially for Botox treatments, which are used to improve the appearance of wrinkles. Men now account for 50 percent of rhinoplasty procedures, commonly known as nose jobs, but women still account for 80 percent of the face-lift procedures.
 
While plastic surgery is more widely accepted today than when he started, Quatela says, fewer than 1 percent of his patients demand too many procedures.
 
"People want to look natural. Once you cross that line it’s hard to recover," he says.
 
Technology is making more choices that are non-invasive and faster, too.
 
"What we’re able to offer now has increased, and we can make quite a difference with lasers. This technology can focus sound waves to tighten skin in an hour and a half," Quatela says.
 
He is proud that many procedures can be done under one roof at Lindsay House. Two partners work on three floors of the practice. The Quatela Center for Plastic Surgery includes a hair restoration facility and a medical spa.

Helping children
For all the success Quatela has had in building the Lindsay House, he feels his greatest accomplishment is his volunteer work for the Help Us Give Smiles Foundation Inc. He founded the charity organization, HUGS Foundation Inc., in 2002.
 
The foundation funds missions of medical teams to travel to Ecuador, Guatemala and Vietnam to perform surgeries on children suffering from cleft lips or microtia, which refers to a significantly malformed, poorly developed external ear.
 
The first year he traveled to Ecuador as part of a group. The next year he served as the team leader. That is how impressed he was by the work that was being done.
 
"Two weeks before the mission, the funding was pulled. So I underwrote it-for 24 people-airfare, hotels, supplies," Quatela recalls. "Then we appealed to patients. They are so generous. They funded the trip four or five more times for 30 people. We did 96 cases in one week: burns, cleft lips, ear reconstruction, open chest cases, all on little kids."
 
This will be the 10th anniversary of the mission in Ecuador, where the team has helped 622 children.
 
"It’s my dream to do 50 missions," Quatela says. "This is the first year I’m going to appoint someone else to be team leader."
 
The team recently began missions to Hanoi, and Quatela is planning a site visit to Peru as well.
 
"We try to find pockets where the problem is most prevalent," Quatela says.
 
Microtia is six times more prevalent in Ecuador than it is in most countries, and Quatela agrees with a theory that blames an American company for the cause.
 
"I believe it is caused by the water table being contaminated," Quatela says. "The movie ‘Crude’ was at Sundance, and it highlights the case against Chevron."
 
The 2009 documentary follows the progress of a $27 billion legal case brought against the Chevron Corp. following the drilling of the Lago Agrio oil field.
 
More than 30,000 Ecuadorians living in the rain forests are the plaintiffs in the class-action suit, which claims their homeland has been polluted by the oil industry. The lawsuit has yet to be resolved.

Family effort
For Quatela, the missions are a family affair. His 18-year-old daughter, Olivia, has traveled to Ecuador on at least four missions. She is a freshman at UR in the neurosciences and pre-med program.
 
Chase, his 17-year old son, a senior at Allendale Columbia School, also has traveled on the missions, helping to log patients and take photographs. He recently finished a 20-college tour in his quest to enter a bio-medical engineering program next fall.
 
Quatela and his wife, Laura, also have a 12-year-old daughter, Francesca.
 
"I’m very proud of the records we keep on every kid. Chase is a great photographer," Quatela says. "Our philosophy is once you commit to an area, you must go back. The team returns year after year to revisit patients for follow-ups. They require part two, part three. This is the most complicated surgery you can imagine."
 
Having part of his family join him on his mission work makes him happy, and being able to raise his family here in Rochester with his own parents, where he grew up, is what Quatela calls his best success story.
 
"I wanted to be here with my kids, have Italian Christmases," he says.
 
He comes from a family of business owners. His parents, Charles and Elisa Quatela, owned Ridge Rattan Furniture and have passed it on to his brother Michael. His sister, Mary Jo, owns Ambience Home Decorating in Pittsford.
 
"My mom was the businessperson. Her sister was the shrewd businessperson in Italy," he says. "I didn’t know how much I was learning as I grew up. We all were."
 
Quatela lives in Webster with his three children and wife, president of Eastman Kodak Co.
 
"My wife loves Rochester. This is a great place to raise a family," Quatela says.

Growing business
And Rochester has been good for his business.
 
"We’ve never had a downturn year. It’s always grown, even in 2009. I don’t feel Rochester is a small place. We attract a lot of business; 35 percent of my practice is from out of town. Two weeks ago I had a patient from Barcelona."
 
Quatela declined to disclose the firm’s revenues.
 
Business partner William Koenig M.D. has been working with Quatela for nine years.
 
"Our practices here at the Lindsay House complement each other," Koenig says. "We have some of the same patients."
 
Koenig says he has seen a steady 10 percent growth in his business since he joined the Lindsay House in 2003. He credits much of that to the way Quatela has modeled the practice.
 
"He is always a big thinker. He doesn’t do anything small. He tries to maximize exposure," Koenig says. "His quality of care is excellent. He always surprises me by how far he wants to take things. He is always planning for the future."
 
One of Quatela’s closest mission colleagues describes other attributes he admires about his longtime friend.
 
"Vito is a great guy, one of the best surgeons I’ve been around. He couples that with unbelievable heart, and he’s very humble, approachable," says Mack Cheney M.D., director of the Facial and Cosmetic Surgery Center at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and professor of otology and laryngology at the Harvard Medical School.
 
"He is a team player, which is essential on these mission trips."
 
Cheney and Quatela met while they were training at Tulane University in New Orleans in 1985. Cheney says they became instant good friends, and today they are like family. They have been on many HUGS missions together, and Cheney has traveled to Rochester to visit the Quatelas several times.
 
"I’m like ‘Uncle Mack.’ They’re a great group-quintessential Italian-lots of cooking, laughing, very close with his parents," Cheney says.
 
Quatela has paid a visit to Cheney’s hometown, too, to pick out a family pet.
 
"I brought him to Mississippi. He wanted a dog. My mother breeds water dogs. It was fun to watch him interact with people in the South because of the way we talk," Cheney says, laughing. "He said, ‘Wow, you must need a visa to get in down here.’ He really enjoyed seeing the different culture."
 
Quatela’s hobbies include fly fishing and astronomy, especially since he can share them with his children. He also loves teaching and lecturing and traveling to Europe and South America.
 
As full as his schedule is, Quatela says people think he does not have time to practice medicine.
 
"I wear a lot of hats: CEO, medical director, head of Quatela Center for Plastic Surgery, co-director of Q Cosmetic Veins and Medical Spa. I’m on the Unity Linden Oaks Surgery Center Board. But surgery is my biggest passion," Quatela says.
 
"You reach different levels of efficiency and creativity and you learn to monitor outcomes so you can manage each role. My best creative spirit lies ahead. I don’t plan to retire anytime soon."

Lori Gable is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

Vito Quatela M.D.
Position: CEO, Quatela Center for Plastic Surgery
Age: 58
Education: B.A., biology, University of Rochester, 1975; M.D., Northwestern University, Chicago, 1979
Family: Wife Laura; daughters Olivia, 18, and Francesca, 12; son Chase, 17
Residence: Webster
Activities: Missions to Ecuador, Guatemala and Vietnam to perform surgeries on children; fly fishing, astronomy, teaching, lecturing, travel
Quote: "There are no shortcuts to quality."

10/12/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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