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Then and Now

Jun 24, 2015 07:08PM ● By MED Magazine

By Alex Strauss

Sioux Falls plastic surgeon Richard Howard, MD, says it was T-Ball that originally prompted him to establish his practice in Sioux Falls in 1992. Specifically, his son Tommy’s T-ball.

“We were living in Kansas City at the time and we had one son. It was T-ball season and, if I wanted to catch a game, it was a 45 minute drive there and then another 45 minutes back to the office to finish up,” says Dr. Howard. “An hour and a half to watch one game. Living in the big city had pros and cons but, at that point, the cons were outweighing the pros by a long shot.”

Leaning on advice from his father that “a man who fails his family fails his life”, Dr. Howard moved his family and surgical practice to Sioux Falls, enjoyed as much T-ball as he could, and never looked back.

Twenty-three years later, that emphasis on family appears to be paying off in spades. Not 

 only did Thomas Howard, MD, decide to follow his father into medicine, but he has recently decided – after some considerable debate – to follow him into his Sioux Falls practice.

“Tom told me years ago that he was absolutely not going to go into plastic surgery,” recalls Dr. Howard with a laugh. “He got into medical school at USD and arranged most of his rotations outside of Sioux Falls. He decided that he wanted to do cardiovascular surgery.”

But things changed for Dr. Tom Howard when he realized how the cardiovascular landscape had changed in recent years.

“Interventional cardiologists have become so proficient that the surgeons tend to get the very sickest patients. That means more challenges, longer recovery, more problems,” says the younger Dr. Howard, who completed his Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery residency at the University of Oklahoma in June. “With plastics, everyone seemed really happy and excited to go to work. Their patients tend to be happier, too. It all seemed much more attractive.”

After discussions with his dad and evaluation of the local medical landscape, the idea of coming home to Sioux Falls with his wife Katie (also a Sioux Falls native) and young son seemed more attractive, too.

“My dad and I get along great,” says Tom. “He’s a wonderful teacher, a talented surgeon, and great with people. I would be missing a great opportunity if I went anywhere else.”

 “I’m confident knowing Tom’s personality, his high standards, and how he approaches taking care of people, that he will do very well here,” says Dr. Richard, who is hoping to cut back his own workload by 25 to 30 percent. “I think it will be a lot of fun. And the timing for me right now couldn’t be better.”

Like his father, Dr. Tom Howard says he enjoys the personal nature of plastic surgery and the opportunity to get to know patients over time, such as over the course of a breast reconstruction. As much as he knows he stands to learn from his dad, he’s also hoping to be able to teach some, too.

“I am hoping that he will show me some of the old tried-and-true things that always work and I’ll be able to show him some things that are on the forefront of the specialty,” says Tom, who will be studying for his board exam in the fall.  

For his part, Dr. Richard Howard, whose Sioux Falls Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has been primarily a solo practice, is glad to be gaining not only a partner he likes and trusts, but also a closer relationship with his three-and-a-half year old grandson, Benjamin.

“He’s my only grandson and now I am going to get to go to his T-ball games,” says Dr. Howard.

Note: Dr. Tom will join Dr. Richard in practice at Sioux Falls Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in August.