Skip to main content

Let’s Get to Know: Dr. Al Aly, New ASJ Open Forum Editor-in-Chief

Aesthetic Society Members
Aesthetic Society Members

Dr. Aly was raised in Los Angeles. He describes his life as a series of events where he was “lucky to be in the right place at the right time” A graduate of UCLA with his Bachelor of Science, and Georgetown Medical after which he planned to be a vascular surgeon. Luckily, for the plastic surgery industry, he realized that his temperament was not cut out for general surgery and after a residency in ENT at Vanderbilt, he fell in love with rhinoplasty. This was immediately followed by a facial plastic surgery fellowship, a two-year stint in private practice, and finally a return to plastic surgery residency at the University of Miami.

Al Aly, MD
My family is pictured in the front row at a Texas Dinner Theatre in 2023. My wife Tracy is on the left, Adam my son is next, Hana is next and I am the guy all the way on the right. We enjoy doing fun things together!
Tell us about being in the right place…

After completing my residency, I moved into academia at the University of Iowa, the home of bariatric surgery. This was completely unplanned on my part. Out of necessity of taking care of deformities I had never seen before, I helped pioneer “body contouring after massive weight loss,” a brand new branch of plastic surgery at the time. During my stint in Iowa, bariatric surgery became very popular, where previously it was limited to north/ midwest. I was lucky enough to publish the first paper on the subject and fortuitously Dr. Foad Nahai had the foresight to give me, a complete unknown at the time, a chance to present and publish widely on the subject. Due to these events, I have been lucky enough to speak or give surgical demonstrations in over 35 countries and six continents. I spent 13 years in Iowa where I got married to my wife and we had our two kids. Subsequently I moved to UC Irvine where I was the vice-chair of plastic surgery. I was then recruited to the Cleveland Clinic in A bu Dhabi, with a focus on weight loss body contouring and rhinoplasty, my two passions. As a bonus, my kids had the fortune of living in a multi-cultural environment that has given them a holistic view of the world. Lastly, I moved to the University of Texas Southwestern in 2020 where I am professor of plastic surgery, which was greatly facilitated by my relationship with Dr. Jeff Kenkel, MD, over a period of two decades. When Dr. Nahai took over the Aesthetic Surgery Journal over 15 years ago, I was fortunate enough to be appointed the “body contouring” section editor and have been in that position until the present time. I have always been passionate about the education of plastic surgeons. My association with the Aesthetic Surgery Journal has been and continues to be one of my life’s most prized responsibilities, especially as I move into my new role as the editor-in-chief of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal Open Forum.

What advice would you give to your younger self, and to those starting out in plastic surgery?

Look out for your mental and physical health. Nothing works if those two things are not taken care of. Question Was there one plastic surgeon you looked up to starting out? Answer When I was a facial plastic surgeon in private practice, I came across a book that would define my entire career… “Principlization of Plastic Surgery” by Ralph Mallard, MD. After reading this textbook, I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. To this day, I feel this is the “the best plastic surgery textbook.” Dr. Aly said he was fortunate to be in Dr. Mallard’s last group of chosen residents, learning the principles of plastic surgery and a passion for the profession. He has since tried to pass this onto his students.

Tell us about the one lesson you wish you had learned earlier.

When you don’t get something that you desperately want, things will work out, and most likely you will get something that is just as good, but different from what you had planned.

The accomplishment I am most proud of…

Other than my wife and two kids, is teaching Dr. Millard’s plastic surgery principles to generations of students. This has affected many more patients than I have worked on personally. And ultimately, helped make more patients “better, or closer to normal,” rather than just “different.”

Were there other mentors that helped to guide your career?

Dr. Foad Nahai had a profound impact on my plastic surgery career. He recognized and promoted talent. His desire to educate the next generation of surgeons was (and still is) contagious. Dr. Jim Netterville, a head and neck cancer surgeon, taught me that surgery should be like a symphony; “smooth and beautiful.”

The nicest compliment I ever received…

Hearing from past fellows, residents, and readers of my publications that they used the lessons/principles I taught them to be better plastic surgeons. I feel very fortunate to have been put in such a position where much better and smarter surgeons than myself have not.

Any funny patient story you would like to share?

I had a liposuction patient who I advised to always wear a compression garment after her surgery for 3 weeks. Three weeks later she advised me that she never took it off… even while showering! My post-op advice was taken a little too literally!

Al Aly, MD
Dr. Aly is “soccer mad”—he played in college, semi-professionally and eats, sleeps, and drinks soccer every chance he gets.
What do you do in your spare time?

Dr. Aly is a “fanatical” (his word) ex-soccer player and now fanatic fan who watches the game every opportunity he finds.

What place(s) means a lot to you?

I love travel and have been to six continents and over 35+ countries, most of which were visited during work-related meetings. The locations, while beautiful, historically significant, or simply relaxing were not as important as the people that I met and the friends that I made along the way. If I had to choose one favorite location, it would be The Blue Voyage on the edge of Turkey. It was one of the most spectacular places I have ever had the privilege to visit!

What was the best book(s) you read?

I am an avid reader on different subjects; everything from history, medical history, to great novels. My all-time favorite books were “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole, which is an American Don Quixote. It is funny but profoundly philosophical. The other is “The White Tiger,” by Aravind Adia. It explains the Indian caste system of social hierarchy in a funny but deeply moving manner.

Most surprising app you depend on.

Shazam is one of the best apps ever developed and I use it frequently. If you love music, you will love this app.

Do you listen to music while in surgery?

I listen to a mix of everything while in surgery… except country, acid rock, and pure rap.

In another life I would have been...

A professional soccer player. And if that didn’t pan out, I would have worked in business creating inventions and innovations. However, I truly have a passion for plastic surgery and can’t imagine my life doing anything else. I love the unique way it makes you think and look at problems from all sides.

The best bit of advice I ever received was from two people.

I was a shy kid and my father, a go-getter, told me that “if you want something, ask for it.” I wrote a paper on a massive weight loss procedure that was accepted by the PRS, and I wanted to present it at a Breast and Body Symposium hosted by Dr. Foad Nahai. My father suggested I reach out, so I sent a letter, which I would have never done without my father’s prompting. Dr. Nahai explained that lecture positions were full, but to come to the meeting prepared in case someone dropped out. Shortly before the symposium, I received a call that I got in! After my presentation, Dr. Nahai became my mentor and guardian angel. He helped promote my career and introduced me to Quality Medical Publishing (QMP) who ultimately published my book, ”Body Contouring After Massive Weight Loss” in 2006. The other great piece of advice came when I was a young resident in head and neck surgery. I wanted to publish lots of articles. My mentor, Dr. Jim Netterville, told me “If you talk too much, people don’t listen,” which ultimately meant that if you publish “garbage,” nobody will take you seriously. When you do publish, “make sure it is remarkable.” This is advice I have taken seriously throughout my career.

Related Articles