An Artist’s Touch

February 1st, 2015

bayviewoutsideDonna Rich, M.D. uses her aesthetic skills to improve patient’s lives

By Rod Evans

If things had gone as planned, Donna Rich, M.D. might be administering rabies vaccinations rather than helping people improve their quality of life.

After graduating from high school, Dr. Rich, a native Houstonian, attended Texas A&M University and planned on a career in veterinary medicine before her career path changed.

“I was going to be a veterinarian and that’s why I went to A&M initially,” Rich said. “But things were re-directed. I earned my master’s degree at the veterinary school, but when I graduated, I went to work at Baylor (Baylor College of Medicine’s Institute for Molecular Genetics). I worked with a lot of children that had genetic abnormalities, including chromosome deletion syndromes, and I found myself more interested in working with people in clinical aspects instead of research. So I applied to medical school and that’s how it all started.”

donnarichAfter graduating from A&M with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science and earning her Master’s in Molecular Genetics, Dr. Rich applied to medical school at the University of Texas, Medical Branch at Galveston. Following five years of general surgery residency and two years of plastic surgery residency, Dr. Rich opened her practice, Bayview Plastic Surgery, in Webster in 2000. Since then she has become one of the region’s most respected plastic surgeons and one of only a handful of female plastic surgeons practicing in the Houston area.

“Once I was exposed to plastic surgery during my residency, I knew instantly that this is what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “In plastic surgery, you are always treating something different. You never do the same procedure because each surgery is customized for each patient and that makes it exciting.”  “I think you need to have some sort of artistic background to be a plastic surgeon. Art is a big component of it and it’s not all about techniques. You need a good eye and approach it as an art form to get a good result,” she said.

While Dr. Rich enthusiastically launched her new career, building the practice required her to learn skills that most medical schools don’t teach.

“When you’re a resident, you never think of your practice as running a business, but it is definitely a business,” she said. “Most people don’t think of it like that, but the hardest thing to learn is that you have to run your practice like a business in order to be successful. You have to be a business person and a doctor at the same time and you have to learn it on your own because they don’t teach much of that in medical school or in residency.”

Dr. Rich says her career arc was made more difficult by her decision to open her own practice immediately after finishing her residency rather than joining the staff of an established practice as many newly minted doctors do before transitioning into running their own practice. But she says being a female surgeon in the male dominated world of plastic surgery proved to be a positive.

“Women make up only eight percent of the specialty and there aren’t many (female surgeons) in Houston either,” she says. “Plastic surgery is a highly competitive field and there are a lot of doctors to choose from, but being a female is one of my biggest selling points because 90 percent of our patients are female. Men are having more procedures done, but women still make up the overwhelming majority of plastic surgery patients.”

Breast augmentation and liposuction are the two most popular procedures she performs, and Dr. Rich says she has become renowned for her breast augmentation skills. But she says throughout the plastic surgery industry less invasive procedures that offer greatly reduced recovery times have become increasingly popular. The use of cosmetic fillers and injectables, such as Botox, has soared because patients want quick results with limited down time.

Bayview Plastic Surgery offers a full range of cosmetic procedures, including face lifts, chin lifts, breast augmentation, breast lifts and reductions, and breast implant revision, in which Dr.Rich corrects issues from past breast surgeries. The practice also performs a host of body sculpting procedures, such as liposuction, buttock lifts and “Mommy Make Overs” that include breast enhancement and tummy tuck and/or liposuction. Skin rejuvenation procedures include Botox, Juvederm and Intense Pulsed Light treatments that target skin conditions such as sun damage, birthmarks and other blemishes.

“Many patients opt for the less invasive procedures before they get ready to jump into a surgical procedure,” she said.

Because Bayview Plastic Surgery has its own surgical suite accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities, Dr. Rich says her patients are treated to a more personalized and relaxed atmosphere than they would most likely encounter in a large hospital setting.

“Our surgical center is private, safe and you can have all of your treatments there without having to go somewhere else,” she said. “Plus, our operating room, all-female staff has all worked together for years, so everything is relaxed, which makes it very soothing and helps people to not be as nervous about their procedure.”

Providing a calm, relaxed atmosphere for her patients has been a priority for Dr. Rich since she opened her practice. The 5,000-square foot facility located at 300 East Medical Center Blvd. that Bayview Plastic Surgery has occupied since 2007 features a home-like ambience and an all-female staff.

“Lots of women like the all-female staff because we can give a feminine perspective to everything we do,” Dr. Rich said. We offer compassionate care in a professional setting.

Dr. Rich, who lives in South Shore Harbour with her husband of 27 years and their three dogs, says Webster was the perfect place to open her practice and she has become entrenched in the community. When she’s not in the operating room, she spends much of her down time making jewelry, gardening and reading, but plastic surgery is always close to her heart.

Documenting the Ship Channel

November 1st, 2014

Author and Historian David Falloure and Jim Bailey

Producer Jim Bailey on set interviewing author and historian David Falloure at the Port of Houston.

New documentary tells the amazing story of the channel’s creation

By Rod Evans

The story of the creation of the Houston Ship Channel reads like something out of the fertile mind of a Hollywood screenwriter. A murky, unruly bayou is transformed into a 52-mile commercial channel and serves as the launching point of what would become one of the world’s largest cities and a hub of international commerce.

But the real story behind the development of the channel is no piece of fiction; it is a living testament to engineering ingenuity, political creativity and human determination, and while the story long ago found its way into the history books, a film history had been lacking—until now.

As part of the celebration recognizing the Houston Ship Channel’s centennial this year, the Texas Foundation for the Arts debuts its documentary titled “Houston Channel: Deep Water Centennial” on Nov. 10 on Houston’s PBS affiliate, Houston Public Media TV 8. The 60-minute film tells the story of the genesis of the channel and details its ongoing position as one of the world’s busiest channels.

“We had done a number of historical and cultural documentaries for PBS stations over the years, so the Port Committee came to us about a year ago to talk about doing a documentary on the history of the channel,” said the film’s co-producer, Jim Bailey. “It’s such a deep, rich story that affects all of us in this area and the more we got into it, the more interested we got about documenting how it all came about and the history of some of the people who worked there.”

Bailey says he and co-producer Kim Lykins and their crew began doing pre-production for the project about a year ago and filming began in the spring of this year. Bailey and Lykins interviewed over 30 people, ranging from channel executives, eye witnesses, historians, authors and people who have family connections to the channel. Archival photographs of the area were obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Library of Congress, the Port of Houston and University of Houston archives, and private entities who loaned their photographs. The documentary also makes use of film footage shot in the 1970s and helicopters to obtain aerial views of the channel as it looks today.

“The staff we encountered at the channel wanted the story to be told and were very helpful in opening doors to allow us to get to places for vantage points where we could film,” Lykins said. “The interesting thing about the channel is that people know it’s here, but since it’s not downtown like other ports, people are unaware of the massive effort that went into dredging Buffalo Bayou to turn that sleepy little river into a 52-mile channel 100 years ago.”

While the documentary is a contemporary film, it traces the roots of the channel all the way back to the early 1800s, when legendary Gulf Coast pirate Jean Laffitte took his boats as far inland as possible, likely all the way to Allen’s Landing in downtown Houston. It also examines what was called the “Houston Plan,” in which Houston citizens voted to put up $1.25 million for the project that was then matched by the federal government in an arrangement that had never before been done in the U.S.

“The documentary is 60 minutes long, but could have easily been three hours long because we had so much information,” Lykins says. “There are topics, like Jean Laffitte and the fact that the Panama Canal is also celebrating its centennial this year, that could be made into 60-minute documentaries of their own.  But we had to keep the story flowing as best we could and painted in broad strokes so we wouldn’t get caught up in the minutiae of things.”

One of the more fascinating conversations in the film is with Andrea Gardner who, in the 1980s, became one of the first women to work as a longshoreman at the channel. Gardner, who still works with the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) recalls that there were very few women anywhere to be found along the channel largely because of the widely held belief that women would be a distraction to the men loading and unloading vessels. She also recounts how there were virtually no restroom facilities available for women.

“We also interviewed (long time ILA executive) Clyde Fitzgerald, who started working in the channel as a teenager and whose father and uncles also worked there. He tells great stories about the days before containerized shipping when everything had to be loaded on pallets or hand carts,” Bailey said.

The advent of containerized shipping in the 1950s and ‘60s is featured prominently in the film due its huge impact on global shipping and the Houston Ship Channel’s leading role in the development of that type of shipping.

“We wanted to show how the development of containerized shipping made a big difference globally, not only with the people who worked on the docks, but also those who worked on the ships,” Lykins said. “We talk to pilots who sail the ships to the mouth of Galveston Bay and are then met by ship channel pilots who navigate the ships up the channel and to the Port of Houston.”

Lykins said she came to realize that much of the work on the docks is similar to what happens on a music or theater stage in many ways.

“It’s a very intricate choreography that takes place, not unlike a symphony, where everybody is doing their job and everyone is crucial to the outcome,” Lykins said. “We talk to longshoremen who said they get a sense of accomplishment after getting all the cargo off of one ship and then move on to the next one.”

The producers of the film conducted extensive research on the topic before filming began, but they were frequently surprised by little known facts uncovered during the production. For example, Bailey says that after the channel was opened, many ship owners were hesitant to allow their vessels to traverse the waterway out of fear that they would become stuck. As a result, channel officials devised a system to ensure the ship’s owners that they would get through, providing a vivid example of the kind of aggressive leadership that was required at the time.

“As a native Houstonian, it was interesting to see how the channel began the day Houston began,” Bailey said. “The Allen brothers established a dock because they wanted to bring goods up Buffalo Bayou so they could start a town so, really, the channel is our whole reason for being.”

Shot entirely in high definition, it took about two months of editing to complete the film. After it airs on TV 8, Bailey says it will be distributed to other PBS stations around the state and will be made available to schools. Lykins says the debut date of November 10th has historical significance because the channel was officially opened by President Woodrow Wilson on Nov. 10, 1914. For more information on the documentary, visit Texasarts.org.