Dr. Michele Koo isn’t afraid of a challenge. She went into cosmetic surgery to make a tangible difference in people’s lives and now sees patients from around the world. To better serve her clients, she launched her own successful skin care brand. Oh, and she and husband have tackled everything from white water rafting the Zambezi river to trekking to Machu Picchu.

How did you arrive at practicing cosmetic surgery?
I didn’t think I would be in cosmetic surgery. I used to perceive it as something unnecessary and vain. I’m a doer and I love seeing results and change. I want to make an impact in an immediate, tangible way, so I went into surgery rather than internal medicine. I think a lot of women shy away from surgery because they feel they can’t a have a life and family, but that’s not true. You just have to find a specialty you enjoy and are good at. Because I love details and creating change, plastic surgery just checked all of my boxes.

Who inspires you?
My parents were big influences on my life growing up. My mother in particular taught me I could do anything I wanted if I worked for it. Growing up in Palo Alto, California, there were maybe two other Asian families at the time. I didn’t perceive prejudice because we just didn’t talk about differences. In retrospect, I do see the biases that existed, but I didn’t experience the biases of gender because of my mom. I have three brothers, and she made sure there was never a limit to what was available to me because I was a girl.

How do you manage client expectations as a cosmetic surgeon?
I think it’s incumbent upon the surgeon to guide the patient into what is best for them, depending on their goals. It’s my job as the professional to choose what is best. A true physician that guides you. Since plastic surgery is elective, it’s an out-of-pocket cost. I should be responsible and guard your welfare and pocketbook like I guard my own. I want to be respectful.

What changes have you seen in plastic surgery?
I think because of social media, everyone expects perfect results in no time. That pressure has been increasing over the last ten years. People believe there are these incredibly quick fixes, but if you want something meaningful to change, it’s going to take time to recover and more than likely you’re going to have a scar.

You see patients from around the world. How did you grow that part of your practice?
From my clients in St. Louis. People used to always go to Beverly Hills, but that experience can be a bit like an assembly line. I take the time to get to know my patients and their bodies. I learn about their overall health before I take them into surgery. That type of personal attention makes a difference. I don’t advertise worldwide. People come in because of word of mouth and my reputation.

Tell me about your skin care line.
That’s always been a passion of mine. Part of that is part and parcel with surgery. My goal is to make that scar heal the best that I can. Everyone heals differently, so it’s something I’ve always been obsessed with. I started with mixing my own formulas to try on patients.

Plastic surgery is a unique field of medicine. What advice would you give others?
It’s wonderful. You can change so many people’s lives in a positive way. I caution those who think they’re doing it for the money. It takes so much patience, care and empathy. Sometimes, people come to you during a fragile time of life and they’re looking for change. You’re intervening and making them look and feel better.

What’s your favorite travel destination?
My husband’s and my criteria for travel is that if we haven’t seen it, we should go. In my opinion, it’s all great. Antarctica was one of our favorites. It’s one of those situations where you can’t imagine spending two weeks on a ship in freezing weather, but it was spectacular.

Tell me about one of your most memorable adventures.
White water rafting the Zambezi River In Zimbabwe. We didn’t realize it was rated so difficult, just below professional. Some parts of the river are not passable, so you have to portage along the edge. At one point, you have to climb down and back up 250 feet, and I’m afraid of heights. We survived.

Have you ever wondered “What am I doing here” on a trip?
We hiked to Machu Picchu, and I had altitude sickness. I couldn’t breath and was so anxious. We actually had another South American hike planned, but the night before the last day, I sat up and told my husband, “This is it! This is the last time I’m doing one of your crazy trips!” We started hiking at five in the morning, and when we reached Machu Picchu, it was so joyous. I gave my husband a big hug and thanked him, but in the middle of it, I wanted to kill him.

What places do you like to eat locally?
We like to try a lot of different things. We tend to go back to Annie Gunn’s.

What’s your go-to meal when cooking?
I love making one pot meals in the Instapot. I love the simplicity.

Who’s the bigger shopper between you and your husband?
My husband. He’s such a better shopper than me. He’s very diligent, but I don’t have the patience.

Is your style traditional or trendy?
My husband is very trendy, but I like an enduring style that is never really in or out.