"Beauty Broker": Unethical or Just Brutal?

K. Mathews on 7 Oct 2012 at 9:00am


Melinda Farina will look you up and down, tell you your physical flaws, and then suggest how you could improve your appearance with cosmetic surgery. She’s not a plastic surgeon - not even close - but Farina will refer you to a doctor to do the work for you. In essence, she’s a plastic surgery pimp, though she prefers the term “beauty broker.”

Farina’s unconventional, and ethically questionable, profession was profiled in a New York Magazine article this week. While she accepts no money from the would-be patients she sizes up and slams, Farina earns $10,000 annually from each of the doctors to whom she refers her clients. Since it is illegal for medical professionals to split fees, Farina got around the regulations by establishing a "consulting firm" that includes more than 200 doctor members.

In the article, Dr. Steven Pearlman says that while Farina does refer her clients to doctors, she hardly has the best professionals available like her network touts. “The top guys are in another league,” Pearlman says. “They don’t know her and they don’t need her.”

Farina insists that she enlists doctors who perform surgeries on celebrities and openly rants on people who judge her -- but if she's dishing it out on a daily basis, she should be able to take it. Compared with a site like RealSelf, that is on a mission to foster confident choices, patient safety and helping the those who decide to move forward with procedures to find qualified doctors, it's interesting that someone would choose to be in the business of bringing people down instead of boosting people up.

If a barrage of criticisms from a stranger motivates her "clients" to get surgeries through a secret network, they may want to hit pause for a bit of soul searching.


How do you feel about Farina’s job as a plastic surgeon middle-man? Is it a helpful service or shameless bullying? We'd love to hear your thoughts! 


photo credit: valuavitaly


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I am a plastic surgeon in NYC and have been in practice for 30 years. I find nothing wrong with what Ms. Farina does. She is just another form of PR and her fees are probably lower than the ones that PR companies charge. One does not need to go to the doctors that she suggests. It is still up to the person to check out the doctor either through the board of plastic surgery, reviews or asking around about that plastic surgeon. She helps young doctors to get their name out there and those who do not want to reveal to their friends that they are contemplating plastic surgery can get started by asking her which I am sure is confidential. She found a great niche and to stay in business I am sure she checks to make sure that the doctors in her network are qualified. Whether they are good for you it is up to you. Since my daughter Dr. Kari Colen joined me in practice I realized how difficult it is to let people know that his young talented doctor is out there. There is so much confusion who does what, which specialty is best for the particular procedure one seeks, and which field deals best with the problem one has. I definitely will tell young doctors about her company to let them know that there is this form of networking and PR. There are brokers for most businesses and no one needs to follow their suggestions. This is just another avenue to seek. Helen Colen MD
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Who would hire her? Those are the crazy ones.
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A crucial part of our screening process when considering bringing on a new plastic surgeon is making sure that each specialty plastic surgeon has gone through a vigorous trained residency and is a board certified plastic surgeon through the ABMS, ACGME and is a board certified member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery within their respective specialties. We speak to peers in regard to their work, we speak to patients we look through tons of their work- look for consistencies of great aesthetic results, post op healing, suture lines, attention to surgery time etc. We also look into the anesthesiologists and OR nurses as well to make sure that the entire team is well trained and have impeccable records.
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Hi Ms. Matthews, I am happy to answer any questions anyone might have (Email at the bottom of this entry). Many of my doctors write on behalf of Real Self blogs and I felt it was necessary to comment. This is what I am passionate about and I truly do respect the doctors that I work with. I am in the business of referral "networking" and run professional medical corporate networking groups. Yes there is a detailed screening process prior to doctors being signed and I also work with numerous specialties- trained in cosmetic dentistry and plastic surgery for the past 18 years. I have 5 territories thusfar and each territory consists of only 10-12 Plastic Surgeons - one surgeon per niche. Patients find me through social media and/or word of mouth. They find me and come to me looking for specific procedures. I NEVER have someone come to me and tell them what they need...THAT IS TERRIBLE. People come and ask me a million questions- we discuss the procedure what is most important pre/post op, fees, downtime and I connect them with other patients whom have seen my doctors. I have a great relationship w my surgeons and sometimes I will even go with a patient to their consult to make sure they are choc full of information and understand what the doctor is telling them. I am also not a one woman show- I have several territory managers all with 15+ years of experience in the medical industry and 2 assistants to date. We keep ourselves very well educated and up to date with current events withing the industry. I also require most of my patients to see a nutritionist for rapid recovery healing pre/post surgery and make sure that they understand that the body's physical appearance is normally a direct result of what is going on inside - I truly believe that a great plastic surgery result has a lot to do with good health and maintenance...HENCE- the name of my company INTEGRATED AESTHETICS. Having a good professional health/medical team is essential and if I can help direct people to professionals that will help them look and feel their best..then at the end of the day it's a job well done. This network is about connecting people. There is a fee for the membership b/c I also consult/staff and flank a practice's business all around..but there is no way I will do so for a doctor that I don't screen fully and/or believe in. My reputation stands behind who I represent ...no dollar value can sway me to do otherwise. I turn 8 out of 10 doctors away most times. It is a boutique company and hopefully can provide some sound and safe advice for the patients who are window shopping. Not sure if you still feel that is unethical or brutal...but I am proud of what I have built and the doctors who are involved are truly wonderful and skilled professionals. Not sure how what I am doing is different than PlasticSurgery.com PlasticSurgeryReview.com DrOogle.com etc there are may more(lets not even talk about GILT or Groupon- obvious fee splitting sites that many docs have participated in and I look down upon) Unlike those sites I run a LIVE selective exclusive medical corporate networking group. What makes me popular w the patients is that they get a human touch, someone w knowledge and someone who actually listens to them and can understand them (I have been a patient myself and can sympathize w many patients) Hope this sheds some light upon what I do as a professional. Best- Melinda Email: ******************.com

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Do you mind me asking which of your doctors are active on RealSelf?

Also, you mentioned a couple times that you have a screening process. What are your specific requirements for the doctors to participate? 

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There are special lawyers called injury lawyers and it is a serious criminal offense if a patient does a fake promises to his patient or patient is not satisfied with the kind of results he/she is getting after the treatment.

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I've been in the aesthetic industry for 13 years now and have met Melinda at quite a few events. She is lovely, young, energetic and very knowledgeable. Everyone seems to like the gal and she seems heavily connected in the NYC scene. Other consultants and some of the political doctors like Lewis and Pearlman will try to take her down b/c she brings something fresh and new to the industry. Pearlman may argue that she doesn't work with the best and the best don't need her..but then again- WHO IS HE TO SAY? She is a connector and people who like and trust her will go to her regardless b/c they value her opinion. She is not a healthcare professional so she shouldn't be charging patients and she doesn't. It's a new age way of networking health professionals and patients. Her business model seems 100% legit if one looks into it. She runs corporate networking groups for medical professionals and connects inquiring patients with health professionals within this group- that she orchestrates. The people who go to her seem to like her a lot and if they have a good experience they are going to talk about it no matter what people might say. Good for Melinda, she seems to be doing a good job! I am hoping to see more of this young lady for years to come!
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Do you happen to know what her requirements are for doctors to participate in her networking group? Obviously keeping the patient safe should be the utmost concern, so I'm curious if she allows only board certified plastic surgeons?

For those not aware of the difference between a Plastic Surgeon and a Cosmetic Surgeon here is a Q&A to help:

Plastic Surgeon Vs. Cosmetic Surgeon - What's the Difference?

This blog might also be of interest:

Staggering Differences in Satisfaction Between Board vs. Non-Board Certified Doctors

Also, you make a good point that the patients aren't paying her directly, but isn't she more or less running a referral service if she is getting compensated by doctors? The doctors are paid by the patients of course, so although it is a bit of a roundabout way ultimately the patient is paying it seems. Of course there is no harm in that as long as people understand what is going on.

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I'm glad that light is being shown on the fact that these doctors she is referring to may not be the safest or most skilled in the profession. Furthermore, since she is not a plastic surgeon and as the old saying goes "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" (or in more modern language its a matter of personal taste) I'm curious what makes people trust her opinion of what will supposedly make them beautiful.

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Miss Farina had countless procedures done to herself. She states in her article that she will continue. How can I trust a professional who isn't happy with herself? Not that I agree that being happy is looking like the latest fashion face trend. Happiness is an inside job.
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I can only assume that someone going to her knows what they're getting his/herself into, so I don't really see an issue with what she does. I do think what Dr. Pearlman says is worth noting, though. She may not be recommending the best doctors because the best people don't need pimps -- their work speaks for itself.

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