When Purushottam Nagarkar graduated from Rice University in Houston, he was eager to embark on a career in electrical engineering, much like his father did, and his father’s father before that. The family legacy of engineers spans eight generations, so it seemed all but preordained when “Puru,” who grew up in India and then Dubai, began following that same path.
It wasn’t long before he became a management consultant and had several clients in the health care industry. That’s where he saw, up close, the enormous impact physicians can have on people’s lives.
And that’s when he decided it was time to rewire things in his own life.
He applied to medical school at UT Southwestern, where he would spend the next decade honing his skills and becoming a surgeon’s surgeon. After a year in Los Angeles at UCLA for advanced training in hand and microsurgery, Dr. Nagarkar returned to UT Southwestern and joined the plastic surgery team in Frisco.
That’s where you’ll find the former electrical engineer these days, restoring people instead of projects.
What made you decide to switch careers?
“When I was a consultant, I got to work closely with doctors and see how they affected people’s lives. It was inspiring, and what I was doing just wasn’t very personal. Once in medical school, there was no question that plastic and reconstructive surgery was what I wanted to do. I loved the idea of helping patients get their function back. When I see a patient and they’re able to do something they couldn’t do before surgery, even something simple like twisting the cap off a bottle of water, it makes my whole day. My whole month, really. That’s when I know I made the right choice.”
Do people have preconceived notions about plastic surgery?
“People tend to focus on the cosmetic side, and a portion of my practice is spent on face lifts and breast and body surgeries. I also do about 50% reconstruction work for patients with wounds from cancer surgeries, traumatic wounds, or hand injuries. The fact that plastic surgeons do so many things is what appealed to me. We like to think of ourselves as the surgeon’s surgeon. When other surgeons have problems, or a wound they can’t close, they call us. It’s a great feeling to be able to help my colleagues help their patients.
"And the way I see it, both are a means of getting people back to the way they were. When you restore someone’s function after an injury, the happiness they get out of that is a daily, every-moment-of-your-life kind of thing. But when you do a face lift and the patient catches a glimpse of themselves in the mirror or sees how their friends or family looks at them, it’s the same kind of joy. The emotional impact on the patient is very similar.”
Dr. Nagarkar's patients share their stories
What are some of the advanced surgical techniques you provide in Frisco?
“Microsurgery is the ultimate in reconstructive surgery, and I’m not sure many people realize we (plastic surgeons) do it. It involves taking tissue from one part of your body to fix a problem or wound in a different part of your body. For example, I recently removed a portion of a patient’s back muscle and reconnected it to blood vessels in his neck so we could help cover a hole in his skull following tumor surgery.
“Microsurgery, which is done under a microscope, opens doors that were completely unavailable before. No matter where a wound is, or how big it is, or how deep it is, we can fix it.”
What are the benefits of getting plastic surgery from UT Southwestern?
“I’m not sure how many people know UT Southwestern has plastic surgeons, but we do, and I think the benefit is that with UT Southwestern you know you’re getting academic, highly trained, very ethical people – it’s a great place to be if you want plastic surgery. And I can’t emphasize this point enough: Because we have all these specialists in one place, all working together, however unusual or complex your problem, we have someone who specializes in that. If I can’t fix it, I know I can find someone here who can.”
Dr. Nagarkar: Restoring lives and function
As a plastic surgeon in Frisco, Dr. Purushottam Nagarkar has earned a reputation as a "surgeon's surgeon." He brings advanced training in hand and microsurgery to the team at UT Southwestern Frisco.
How do you connect with your patients?
“First, I try to focus on what’s actually important to them. Will they be able to play catch with their kid? Can they take trips with their family? I also like to give my patients all the information they need so they can make a good decision. Sometimes I draw pictures to explain the problem and show them options of how we can approach it. I try to explain my process and I don’t just give them a cookie-cutter answer. Every patient is different, and I think it’s important for them to understand all of their options so they can decide which way we’re going to go.”
What do you think about UT Southwestern opening in Frisco?
“I couldn’t ask to be in a better place or with better people. My wife and I bought a house in Frisco in 2017 and now we have a 4-month-old son. We’re proud to be raising our family here.
“It is also very rewarding to be living and practicing in the same place, because I can’t count the number of times somebody has come up to me and asked, ‘Hey, do you know a good orthopedic surgeon?’ or ‘Do you know a neurologist I can go to here in Frisco?’ Well, yes I do! It’s a great feeling to be able to help out my neighbors and know that my colleagues will take very good care of them.”