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Man With Solomonic Wisdom and Medical Artistry To Change Lives In Los Angeles

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It takes a special person to do facial cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. More than facelifts and rhinoplasty and facial rejuevation, reconstructive surgery also repairs facial deformities, hemangiomas and vascular birthmarks. One such special man is Benjamin (Ben) Talei, a little-known surgeon whose name will soon be known after two new unique medical centers open in Beverly Hills, California.

Dr. Benjamin Ben Talei
Dr. Benjamin (Ben) Talei

Editor's Note:
Nurit Greenger, who lives in Los Angeles, got to know the Talei family early this year, and they became instant friends. Nurit recently met Ben Talei in New York where he was teaching and improving his surgical techniques, just prior to moving to live in Beverly Hills. She said she was beyond impressed with Ben Talei.

Speaking about his son as a child, his father said,

"When Ben was in elementary school first grade, one day his teacher called me to the school, to show me one of Ben's drawings for the assignment, 'Draw Your Dream House!'"

"He had drawn a detailed two-story house but the interesting part was that the garage was on the second floor. His Morah (teacher) Shula asked Ben these questions"

Morah Shula: Why did you put the garage on the second floor?

Ben Talei: Because when we go looking for a house, my father routinely expresses his dislike when he sees that the garage is right in front of the house. So, I hid it upstairs!

Morah Shula: Then how would you suggest taking the car up there to the garage, which is on the second floor?

Ben Talei: Oh! That's simple. With an elevator!

Ben's father said "Ben was only six years old then, and Morah Shula gave us the first warning that he is beautifully unusual, and that is how he turned out to be."

"Ben has an inherent Solomonic wisdom that has provided him with an understanding of goodness and independence. I say that not to blow my horn as a father, rather, to simply state how blessed I have been to have had witnessed his appearance and growth in my earthly life. He is a good surgeon and an excellent artist. His spiritual side lives in harmony with his physical parts."

For the past several years, Dr. Ben Talei has engaged in much sub-specialty training. Operating and helping people is not work or a job for him, rather it is a means to obtain enormous gratification and joy. For several years, before developing his own techniques, Ben went on a path to master and improve the techniques used by the leaders in his field. After training at the Medical Centers of Columbia and Cornell Universities, Ben moved to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, after which he joined the New York Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery There, he only performed facial cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, but that was not enough for him, so, before returning to Beverly Hills, he decided to work in Pediatric Facial Plastic Surgery and Vascular Anomalies at Lennox Hill and Manhattan Eye Ear And Throat Hospital (MEETH) in New York City.

Dr. Talei at work
Dr. Talei at work

Next, to advance his knowledge and his work, Dr. Talei joined the Vascular Birthmark Institute of New York, as a full time volunteer, operating with the doctors who had been his mentors, Dr. Milton Waner and Dr. Teresa O. The Vascular Birthmark Institute of New York is a world-leading institute, that treats children and adults with the rarest vascular anomalies and facial deformities. Dr. Waner is considered to be the forefather in the treatment of vascular birthmarks. Patients from all over the world come to this institute, one of the few centers in the United States equipped to deal with the more difficult anomalies. Dr. Talei will incorporate these methods into his Hemangiom & Vascular Birthmark Practice, when he returns to Los Angeles.

Dr. Talei center with his staff
Dr. Talei (center) with his staff

The Plan

Dr. Ben Talei has now decided to move his practice and open two centers in Beverly Hills (BH), California, in October 2014. The Beverly Hills Center for Plastic & Laser Surgery will focus on Facial cosmetics and reconstruction, performing advanced facelifting, rhinoplasty, reconstruction and more, while the Center for Hemangiomas & Vascular Anomalies will care for children and adults with surgical, medical and laser treatments. [See beverlyhillscenter.com]

Apart from being a specialty doctor, Ben truly loves life and exerts the utmost of it. He is a great cook, who happens to have a mile-long list of his own recipes he is an artist of stone sculptures, pencil sketching and upholstery work; he is a piano player and composer, writing music since he was 12 years old; he races cars and boats; he used to work as a Ski Patrol, and his latest "gig" is fund raising, organizing a cross country drive for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

To welcome Ben Talei to the Los Angeles community and to introduce him as a person worth knowing, here is an interview conducted in New York.

Nurit Greenger: How do you find the time for all your activities?

Ben Talei: I sleep less.

Nurit Greenger: What is it about plastic surgery that you love so much?

Ben Talei: It is fun and engaging. You never do the same surgery twice. Everyone looks at medicine from a morbid perspective, I don't. For me, plastic surgery is very engaging because each patient looks different and you have to have an artistic eye to really see what needs to be done for the patient. More importantly, you need the necessary skills to actually implement what your eyes see and to do what you promised the patient. I never analyze a patient in my head unless they ask me to. When I do, I try think of every single tiny issue that I could, which would make that patient happy. If a surgeon cannot put himself/herself in the patient's shoes and doesn't have the right eye, skill, or flexibility to do what the patient needs - or wants - the interaction might not be successful. It took me a very long time and a lot of work and understanding, but I have managed to develop the skills necessary to implement what many other doctors cannot do. I love the cosmetic aspect of my work because it is challenging; I like the reconstruction because I'm very familiar with facial deformities having a huge negative affect on someone's quality of life, and I love the pediatric aspect because I love kids and I realize that if I do not treat them, only few others can do for them what they need. A parent may be afraid to seek treatment for their child's facial deformity, but it is my duty and job to help them understand the benefits and consequences of treating, or not treating, and help them understand how their child, in all likelihood, be able to interact differently with the world.

Nurit Greenger: What non-medical skill do you use?

Ben Talei: To be a good surgeon, you truly have to understand people first, and how they interact with the world around them."

Dr. Talei with a patient
Dr. Talei with a patient

Fundraising Drive In A Mini Cooper S

On September 29th, 2014 Ben, joined by his brother Nathan, will be driving Ben's Mini Cooper S, which has been designed by Ben and is now all dressed up for the occasion. They will drive from New York to Miami and from Miami to Los Angeles to raise awareness and funds for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Organization. The goal is to collect at least $15,000 and to have supporters and drivers join them along the way. All advertising is done through social media, while the vehicle graphic wrap, the professional videography and photography were all donated. Since Ben loves cars so much, he is hoping that along the way, supporters will come join them for events and drive along with them, and the fundraising goal will turn exponentially higher.

NCADV Drive Against Domestic Violence - Beverly Hills Center for Plastic & Laser Surgery

Dr. Talei Applying His Own Specialty

Ben worked with many specialists and has learned from the best of the best. During his residency and second fellowship, Ben trained with the most renowned doctors in these fields and over time he added and developed his own taste and techniques. Now, recognizing his talent, these top specialists are asking Dr. Talei for his advice. Because, Dr. Ben Talei is rather opinionated and offers critiques, he develops, enhances, improves and constantly changes his work, by continuously developing and improving what he knows well so he can be the best in his field, and perhaps even better than the best.

Changing Lives

Dr. Ben Talei has been changing the world, one patient at the time, in the United States, Honduras, Ecuador and Colombia.

"To us," says his father, "the trips to remote places, is all nerve racking, to him, it is what he needs to do. There is that amazing story about the young girl in Honduras who was shot repeatedly and Benny (as his father calls him) 'fixed her up.' Or the line of people seeking his healing hands and skills, in Colombia, while he was being guarded by almost 20 armed men."

Dr. Talei has a collection of photos that illustrate the work he has done. His goal is to change many more peoples' lives, behind the surgery mask in Beverly Hills. For him, although he may not always be lifesaving, his goal is to help as many people as possible by being a life-changer.

Dr. Talei makes an ear for a patient
Dr. Talei makes an ear for a patient
Dr. Talei on the HUGS Help Us Give Smiles mission to Quito Ecuador
Dr. Talei on the HUGS (Help Us Give Smiles) mission to Quito, Ecuador
Dr. Talei in a newspaper when on a mission to Santa Marta Colombia
Dr. Talei in a newspaper on a cleft lip & palate and microtia mission to Santa Marta, Colombia

Nurit Greenger: "I close with my personal welcome of Dr. Benjamin (Ben) Talei back home, to be close to his parents, and siblings, and bestow his many talents on the Los Angeles, community. In time, the community will be thankful he returned home and he is one of us again."

Nurit Greenger sees Israel and the United States equally, as the last two forts of true democratic freedom and since 2006, has been writing about events in these two countries. Contact her by writing to nurit.4.nuritg@gmail.com Read more stories by Nurit Greenger.

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