PSS Winter '13


Face Value

by Jeanne Nagle

Dr. Bill Truswell ’68, P’01

FIRST JOB: Ice Cream Man

CURRENT JOB: Physician in private practice, Aesthetic Laser & Cosmetic Surgery Center

Dr. Bill Truswell ’68, P’01 learned the medical trade through pretty typical channels: pre-med studies as an undergraduate, medical school and a dual surgical residency at The University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where he is now a clinical faculty member.

His bedside manner, however, appears to have come courtesy of summers spent driving through the streets of his native New Jersey, ringing the bell of a refrigeration truck and doling out icy treats.

“The job that I loved through college and one year of medical school was being an ice cream man, “ says Truswell, a facial plastic surgeon based in Massachusetts. “Interacting with hundreds of children and adults over five summers was instrumental in learning people skills and shaping my personality.”

Truswell’s interest in becoming a doctor started well before his medical training or his stint in ice cream sales. As a child he was drawn to toys with a scientific bent and activities that involved construction and reconstruction. He spent many hours tinkering with Erector and chemistry sets, as well as taking apart the family’s clocks and radios for the thrill of putting them back together again as much as seeing how they worked. His middle-school interest in becoming a surgeon carried over into his time at Red Bank High School in New Jersey, where he and two similarly-minded friends formed their own Future Doctors Club.

When it was time to enroll in college, Truswell relied partly on the advice of a William Smith graduate and family friend. “Her love of and enthusiasm for the Colleges was contagious,” he says. It also didn’t hurt that the Colleges’ pre-med program had “earned the reputation of getting most, if not all, graduating pre-med students into medical school.”

The medical school Truswell chose was the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. After graduating in 1972, he completed residencies in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery and facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, electing to specialize in the latter.

Since 1976, Truswell has been in private practice at the Aesthetic Laser & Cosmetic Surgery Center in Northampton, Mass., a clinic he built from the ground up; he also is a staff member at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

As an adult, Truswell has eschewed Erector sets, but that doesn’t mean he lacks for a creative outlet. An amateur artist, he draws and—perhaps while taking something of a busman’s holiday—creates woodcuts. Obviously he’s pretty good with a knife; a woodcut he carved while in medical school took second prize in a local art show.

By his own estimation, Truswell has performed more than 25,000 surgeries during his 36 years of practice. “As a facial plastic surgeon, I have repaired significant facial injuries from motor vehicle accidents to shotgun and chainsaw wounds,” he says. Other aspects of his work involve resections and reconstruction on patients with advanced head and neck cancer as well as cosmetic surgery.

Truswell believes that to be successful in his profession a person must not only be a talented surgeon, but also be an all-around caregiver. “I have my talent, skills and art,” he says. “That yields good results. When the patient is cared for and happy beyond the mirror’s image, when he or she feels the doctor cares for them, the results are excellent, and the reward is beyond the material.”

In addition to clinic work, Truswell performs pro bono work for Face to Face, a humanitarian effort sponsored by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Truswell has volunteered with the program’s Domestic Violence Project, helping to heal the facial scars and wounds of battered women. With Faces of Honor, he has performed reconstruction work on uninsured and underinsured veterans, and with Face to Face International he has worked with children around the world who have facial deformities.

Working without pay is nothing new to Truswell. At various times during his career he has been paid in produce, quilts and even “dressed and frozen rabbits” by patients who could not afford his services. That’s just fine with him. He says he always knew he’d make a good living, but that wasn’t the reason he chose the profession.

“The rewards from my career have been abundant,” he says. “But the greatest reward has been making people smile.”


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