The Doctor Is In L.A.

Our writer gets examined by webcam. And you thought HMOs had depersonalized medicine.

Illustration by Tavis Coburn
Illustration by Tavis Coburn

I have a thing about my nostrils. They're large, flarable, and stretch from ear to ear when I smile. So when my editor asked if I wanted to have them checked out by Dr. Edward Domanskis, a California plastic surgeon, I couldn't resist.

A trip west wasn't in the offing: Domanskis shops his expertise online (www.plasticsurgery-video.com). All you need is a webcam, videoconferencing software, and $100, and he'll tell you what to snip and clip. It begs the question: Can you get reliable medical advice with a $79 webcam and 56K modem?

A week later, I'm sitting at my PC as Domanskis scrutinizes. To aid his diagnosis, I poke my forehead, pinch my cheeks, squish my nostrils, and pucker my lips. After 30 minutes, his verdict: I should suction the fat from my chin and cheeks, remove excess skin from my eyelids, and deflate the bags under my eyes.

So how reliable is the advice? I make an in-the-flesh visit to Dr. Gary Bromley on Manhattan's Upper East Side for a second opinion. I furtively bring up the alterations Domanskis had recommended, but Bromley doesn't bite. My face is fine, he says.

Two appointments, two opinions, one very subjective science. Did my low-res connection taint Domanskis' diagnosis? There's no way to tell. But since I firmly believe patients and doctors shouldn't be separated by 25 miles, much less 2,500, I've decided to live with my generously proportioned nostrils. For now, at least.