Dr.Rushapol Sdawat's hands are known for creating and mending. As the facial and reconstructive specialist at the Phuket Plastic Surgery Institute (PPSI) in Phuket International Hospital, he spends much of his days perfecting contours and cranial structures to his clients' specifications.But it's in his spare time that Dr Rushapol gets to use his hands for a passion that moves the rhythm of his heart — guitar-making.
But it's in his spare time that Dr Rushapol gets to use his hands for a passion that moves the rhythm of his heart — guitar-making.
"I know how to change the shape of a face. Now I've learned how carpenters work, it's the same. To change the shape, to grind it out, to reassemble, it's the same as the human skull. I understand what they're doing, especially when making guitars," he says.
At 46 years old, Dr Rushapol is an avid guitar collector with over 140 examples stored in a dedicated room in his house in Sam Kong. As a luthier — a guitar-maker and designer — he has created over a dozen acoustic prototypes though he's recently moved on to designing environmentally-friendly carbon fibre guitars.
Dr. Rushapol keeps busy when he finishes his surgical duties at the hospital. He spends time on the badminton court, plays the guitar, studies astrology regularly, and has added Aikido training to his martial arts repertoire.
As the top neuro-surgery student at Siriraj Medical School in Mahidol University, he was offered a faculty position upon graduating. Instead of choosing to become a brain surgeon and professor, he decided to go into general surgery specialising in the abdomen in order to save lives.
But soon after, he made the change to go into plastic surgery.
"The main purpose of surgery is to save life, to save function and to save the appearance. Plastic surgery definitely improves appearance; it also improves function and, in the case of burn victims, plastic surgery can save lives." he says.
After eight years of working on reconstructive surgery such as breast enhancements, organ repairs, severe burns, nose reconstruction and more at Sawanpracharak Hospital in Nakhon Sawan, personally handling over 10,000 cases, he was offered an opportunity in 2008 to move to Phuket.
Intrigued by the idea of working on cosmetics, the only realm within plastic surgery to which he had yet to dedicate himself fully, Dr Rushapol jumped at the chance.
"Dr Sanguan Kunaporn (PPSI) called me in 2008 because they wanted to create a strong team of specialists for this centre. I made up my mind to move here in one minute!" he explains.
Now, as a specialist focusing solely on the face and cranium, he spends days treating many clients, mostly patients who fly in from Australia and the west.
"This is the best place to live in Thailand. It has something for everybody and is very beautiful. When you first come you always want to go to the beach, but then if you don't like that anymore, there's always something else to do," he says.
"I'm lucky to have a place here."
As a second-generation Chinese-Thai, Dr Rushapol grew up with a strong focus on education, although he loved drawing and practicing Tai Chi in Lumpinee Park with family members. Phuket allows him to continue his interests within the wide range of people who live on the island, while also perfecting his skills as one of Thailand's foremost facial specialists.
A devout Catholic, Saint Joseph's Church in Cherngtalay is where you'll find him on Sundays. "Certain people live here, people who can help me and I can help them. Smart people live here, who are also good people... the living cost here is high for Thailand, but it's still much cheaper than many places in the world, like New York for example," he says.
For Dr.Rushapol, the fact that patients seek him out is what helps get him up in the morning. "Phuket allows me to express my ability in cosmetic surgery. Before Phuket, every choice was forcing me to do reconstructive work, fixing organs with other parts of the body. Surgery is why I moved here, it allows me to do what I've never done before in my life... the social part of surgery which is cosmetic," he says.
Still, the main reason he got into surgery in the first place has always remained with him.
"Life comes before function, function comes before appearance. This is still is my guiding principle."
Phuket International Hospital