Tag Archives: Dr. Flora Levin

Flora Levin’s Eye On Guatemala

Flora Levin is a Westport plastic surgeon. She just returned from Guatemala, where she volunteered with the International Esperanza Project, a medical aid organization. Her  9th-grade daughter went too, working alongside surgeons and nurses, in the hospital. 

“It was an incredible experience,” Flora says. She writes:

I got involved with this medical/surgical mission through the wife of a friend/ and colleague.

I wanted to go for years, but COVID happened. This was the first opportunity to go since 2019.

I worked at a hospital run by nuns in Patzun, about 2 hours outside Guatemala City. It is truly a 3rd world place, where you feel that you are going back 2 centuries.

Dr. Flora Levin’s daughter, with a young Guatemalan patient.

There are no modern amenities. People cook on open fires, sleep 5 in one bed, and work in the fields after completing primary education. There is no preventative medicine, or what we consider routine care. Most families have 7-10 children.

When we first arrived, the most incredible sight was children and adults waiting in long lines outside the hospital, from 6 in the morning, to be seen. They waited patiently for hours, appreciative when their turn came, even if it was 8 hours later.

I was there with 3 other oculoplastic surgeons, one from Dallas and one from Paraguay. There were also 2 fellows (in training to be oculoplastic surgeons). There were 2 general surgeons, 1 pediatric surgeon and 1 pediatric ophthalmologist, in addition to an anesthesiologist, nurses and volunteers. My 14-year-old daughter Miri came as a volunteer.

Dr. Flora Levin (4th from left), and her team.

We worked for 5 days. On the first day we evaluated patients and scheduled them for surgery. The rest of the days we operated.

The conditions were not optimal: fewer operating rooms than surgeons, leaving procedures that did not require general anesthesia to be done in a regular room without ideal surgical lighting or air conditioning, limited supplies, and old equipment. Despite those challenges we did 55 oculoplastic procedures in both kids and adults and, with other specialties, operated on 123 patients.

Most people who came on this mission had never met before. It was incredible to see how everyone came together, putting personal needs (and egos) aside for a common goal. We shared all meals, late hours at the hospital, and left Guatemala as close friends. Without that camaraderie, kindness and humor, the challenging situation would have been impossible.

My daughter Miri worked tirelessly alongside the adults. She helped in the pre-operative area, playing with the kids waiting for surgery. She helped the nurses, got to watch hernia and gallbladder surgeries, and got to scrub in with me on a case and watch me operate. That was incredibly special.

Dr. Flora Levin and her daughter, at work.

It was an incredible week, Being able to help so many people and touch so many lives is a feeling that cannot be put into words. I plan to return next year, hopefully with supplies that I know will be valuable to provide even better care to those that need it.

I also have a new appreciation for all the modern-day amenities we take for granted!

(For more information on The International Esperanza Project, click here.)

(“06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.” To support stories like this, please click here.)

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Plastic Surgeons Practice Together. No Sibling Rivalry Here.

Flora and Mark Fisher’s father was a surgeon. But when the family emigrated from the Soviet Union to Brooklyn in the early 1990s, he switched to pediatrics. Three decades later, he’s still practicing.

So are his children. Both are plastic surgeons. His daughter — now Flora Levin — specializes in eye procedures. Mark concentrates on pediatric plastic surgery, and craniofacial reconstruction.

Their offices are in Westport. Actually, it’s one office. The brother and sister doctors practice together.

Dr. Mark Fisher and Dr. Flora Levin

Though they inherited their love of medicine from their father, they did not plan to join forces. Growing up, they spent little time together. Flora is 10 years older. She went to college at 17, married young, and — during her first job, at Yale — moved to Westport. She and her husband are raising 3 children here now.

Mark did his residency in Washington, DC. There are limited options for his specialty. So when the opportunity arose to work with his sister, he seized it.

“We’ve never been around each other as much as we are now,” Flora notes.

She does primarily eyelid surgery. Though the technical details are similar, the “artistry” for each is different, she says.

“It’s very creative. I look at the face as a whole, not just the eyelids. And each person has a different personality.”

Dr. Levin’s eye surgery: before and after.

Mark says his work is very different than, say, removing a gall bladder.

“There’s no one step-by-step approach. Each cancer or trauma patient is different. The results have to be functional, but also aesthetic.” For example, a patient with cancer of the lips must be able to eat — but also look normal.

In addition, he says, plastic surgery is “head to toe.” He works on every part of the body.

Mark’s practice involves reconstructive surgery, breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, along with congenital children’s deformities like cleft palates, and of course kids’ cuts and bruises.

Dr. Fisher’s plastic surgery.

As with any partnership — medical or otherwise — there are compromises. But, Flora notes, “If I had a partner I’d hired off the street, I might not listen as much as I do with Mark.”

She admires him as a doctor, too. “Mark has a bedside manner you can’t teach. He’s ethical. He listens. I really believe in him, and his abilities.”

In big sister mode, she adds, “I’m a nurturer. It gives me great pleasure to help him succeed, and watch him grow.”

Mark notes, “It’s a huge advantage to work with someone with 12 years’ experience. She’s well trained in surgery, but she also has real knowledge of basic things, like how to buy instruments and sign up for insurance.

“We mesh well together. We have the same approach and outlook. It comes from our father. Medicine wasn’t a 9-to-5 job. He lived it all day, every day.

“I know as my sibling, she has my best interests at heart. I wasn’t brought in just to grow the business. Neither of us is trying to gain an advantage.”

Dr. Levin and Dr. Fisher’s practice is growing steadily. Right now they’re at 131 Kings Highway North. But they’ve outgrown that space. Early next year they’ll move to Post Road East, near Balducci’s.

They look forward to working together in an office they’re building out themselves. Unlike most siblings, they won’t argue over who gets the bigger room.