By Dina Morrone
Dr. Moretz, or Dr. Mac, as his patients and close friends endearingly call him, uses cutting edge technologies and state of the art techniques, to remove the signs of aging and environmental damage in the facial area. But it isn’t only Dr. Moretz’s advanced work in the field of aging that has made him a sought after doctor in Beverly Hills and around the world. He is a top international surgeon who has made it his mission to provide pro bono surgeries for the Mending Kids Foundation. An organization that provides life-changing surgical care to underprivileged children in 43 countries worldwide. These patients are grateful for his skill and immense generosity. The surgeries are transformational, and the results are life-changing, and not only for his patients, but also for Dr. Moretz, who regards what he does not as a job but rather a vocation. He truly loves what he does and recalls the doctors of yesteryear. The doctors who made house calls, and whose motto was quality, not quantity!
We are thrilled and honored to feature Dr. Moretz, the incredible doctor, surgeon, humanitarian, in this issue of The Eden Magazine.
Hello, Dr. Moretz, thank you for your time and for sharing your story with The Eden Magazine. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I like to consider myself an old country doctor who happens to be in this big city of Beverly Hills/Los Angeles! But seriously, that is my mental attitude, which is to provide genuine, personal unrushed individualized care to each of my patients every day. Whether I am in a consultation or procedure, I want them to feel that there is no other place on earth at that moment where I would rather be than with them. I want them to feel that they have ample time for our process together and for whatever cosmetic concerns they have brought to me.
I grew up in a small Southern town in North Carolina, but from the young age of 12, I knew that medicine would be my career path. After High School, I enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with a degree in Chemistry after three years while also being a Varsity letterman for two years in NCAA Division 1 Fencing and performing in the University’s marching band during football season. I was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. After graduation, I began medical school at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, home of the famous Augusta National Masters Golf Tournament. I then completed my postgraduate studies in Atlanta, Georgia at Emory University Medical Center Hospitals in a five-year specialty surgery program in Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery/Facial Plastic Surgery. Upon program completion in 1987, I opened my solo private practice in suburban Atlanta, GA, practicing there for 18 years before relocating to Beverly Hills, CA. I have always had a love for the outdoors, growing up in a rural setting .
The Boy Scouts were an influential part of my childhood, traveling around the United States to regional and national The Boy Scouts were an influential part of my childhood, traveling around the United States to regional and national jamboree events as well as internationally to Japan. I am an Eagle Award recipient. My family was strongly influenced by music, and early on, I learned to play piano and later thesaxophone. Photography has been a hobby of mine from approximately the age of eight years. I was the school photographer for yearbook organizations from high school through medical school. I enjoyed cultivating the “eye” for the aesthetic beauty of all things in nature. My adult life was the problematic balance of career obligations between being a physician and my family being the father of 6 children (5 living). The mantra of “family first” was one that I always had to balance within medicine’s Hippocratic Oath obligations of being available to my patients 24/7. I can honestly say that there were frequent internal battles within myself trying to maintain this balance. Now they are all adults, and currently, all except one (my youngest son who also happens to share my birthday) reside in the Los Angeles basin. Now I divide my time amongst practices in three locations: Beverly Hills, CA, Hickory, NC, and Xi’an China.
Besides being a plastic surgeon, you also inherited a family business Moretz Mills Hosiery, can you tell us about it. And how did you decide to become a surgeon?
Well, my “inheritance” as such was a generational legacy of hard work, maintenance of a life vision, and focus on the “prize” to achieve the desired goal ahead. My brothers are the family members that went into the family textile industry as my father, C. Hugh Moretz, and our ancestors before us. My brothers and our generation are 4th generation “lint-heads” as we affectionately call ourselves. Textile workers in case you didn’t guess! Even further back, our European ancestors have been identified as having been tailors to various families throughout Austria (the primary origin of the Moretz family) and were this occupation as well when immigrating to the United States. In grade 7, at the age, of 12, I decided then I wanted to become a physician. I prefer the word “physician” to that of “doctor,” as a physician in Latin means “teacher” and I believe it is a physician’s duty to educate each patient regarding the condition for which they came into my office, whether it is aesthetic or about their physical health. I was influenced at age 12 during a civics class studying various occupations and reviewing the educational requirements of each type of job. I always had enjoyed school and the accumulation of new knowledge, even at 12. I believed that medicine would always be an expanding field of knowledge requiring continual study and learning. That excited me and led to my decision to direct my studies towards the field of medicine. My 12-year-old assumptions proved to be truer than I could have ever hoped.
Aside from your work, you also are involved in incredible charity work, the Mending Kid Foundation. Please tell us about it?
I was fortunate to be introduced to Mending Kids by my friend Mel Gibson. He was instrumental with his wife in supporting and fostering the organization in its early days. I attended several charity fundraising events, and during this time, identified how I, as a practicing surgeon, could contribute my abilities to help at-risk children. When I first became involved, MK was only performing international surgical missions. My initial surgeries were in Guatemala City. I operated on children whose noses were deformed by cleft-lip sequelae as well as revision scar procedures and cleft palate closure, to name a few types of operations. Subsequently, MK is also now performing what are called Home-Town Missions (HTMs). In the HTM, we perform surgeries on local LA basin at-need children whose surgeries have been considered non-covered or cosmetic by their insurance companies and declined for service. These still are life-altering surgeries helping to raise these children’s self-esteem and self-worth through improvement in physical appearance concerns. I also currently participate in fundraising both locally and at my surgery center in North Carolina.
Mending Kids is an organization that provides life-changing surgical care to children in 54 countries worldwide, how did you expand to so many countries, and how do you manage it with your busy schedule?
I don’t travel to all these countries! Guatemala and the US are the only locations where I currently travel. MK has sought to provide surgeries to children whose medical conditions are those who typically fall through the cracks of other international surgical organizations, such as Operation Smile. MK has missions comprised of US doctors who travel the world, additionally performing cardiac, orthopedic, ENT, colorectal, and urologic surgery. Many
of the teams come from major institutions such as UCLA and Duke Medical Schools besides us, the private practice doctors. When there is a child who can’t be treated in their own country with a mission team, then MK will bring them to the US for surgery at a center of excellence in the area of the medical condition with which the child is afflicted.
You are a medical ambassador for Kathy Ireland worldwide, Inc. What is involved in being an ambassador for Kathy Ireland “Beauty and Wellness Division”?
Kathy’s relationship with the Moretz family goes back several decades. She was a past brand ambassador for Moretz Sports (my family’s business) during the 1980s. Through this connection, I became her medical ambassador. She was expanding her KI Brand into multiple arenas, and aesthetic therapies were one. I would review and evaluate the various medical devices and cosmeceuticals, which were in review for potential endorsement within her “brand” platform. I performed this function for several years. She subsequently redirected her business focus into business advertising, and as such, this medical ambassador position wasn’t further required. She is a very spiritual person with deep personal beliefs as I am, so we were very much on the same page in the demand of ethical oversight and review of those products to which she would consider attaching her name and her brand.
Please tell us about your facial stem cell treatment?
I prefer to use the terminology “biologic allograph therapy/treatment” as opposed to the term “stem cell treatment.” I say this in that only referring to stem cells is very limiting in terms of therapeutic options available today for patient treatment, and most definitely in the future as well. Biologic allograph covers the use of any variety and all types of human tissue sources, both cellular and acellular. Examples of these are umbilical cord blood/Wharton’s jelly derived, bone marrow-derived, amniotic fluid/tissue, platelet-rich plasma, and exosome fractions. So, stem cells are just one of these therapeutic resources and are a very misunderstood one at that, by both the lay public and FDA as well. I perform a variety of these therapies for both aesthetic as well as functional medical conditions. I am certified to perform various joint injections for regenerative health in addition to the obvious cosmetic injection uses of these materials, which biologically stimulate collagen growth, improving wrinkles and fine lines. I enjoy treating my patients from the “inside out”!
What is a typical working day like for you?
That’s an interesting concept of a “workday,” as I don’t consider my day to be divided into work and non-work. My brain is always working on any one of a number of projects that I always have ongoing. I genuinely think the term serial entrepreneur is too over-used and over-rated a phrase. I am actively involved in at least seven businesses at present. But this is my norm. My physical self does need to take a break at times, as I do need to exercise or sleep a few hours each night. But to answer the general question, I rise around 6 am daily and check my emails while getting coffee.
I have emails from around the world, so my nighttime is someone else’s daytime; thus, it’s never a surprise to already be behind immediately upon waking for the day! Depending on if it is a surgical day or not, I might be in the operating room by 7 am or so. If not, I likely have a conference call with an associate on the East Coast before my arrival at my office and start the patient day at 9 am. I then see both new and previous patients (surgical or not) throughout the day and in between patients check on my emails or make a quick phone call. My medical practice is what I’d consider a “boutique” aesthetic practice, so I’m not striving to see large volumes of patients per day as when I was in general medicine. I like everyone to receive their needed amount of time with my shortest time slot being 30 minutes and the majority being at least an hour. No one is ever rushed through or out of my consultation room due to time constraints. I don’t eat lunch, unless it’s for a business purpose, as I typically maintain an 18:6 hour intermittent fasting nutritional regimen at least five days a week. This intermittent fasting is another entire discussion of its own regarding the numerous health benefits of this lifestyle, from decreased cancer risk to longevity and generalized healthy aging. That, along with the increased documentation regarding the health benefits of coffee intake over 6 cups a day, which are rarely negotiable in my daily routine. After work, I will have some form of dinner nutrition in the 6-hour time block, followed by usually getting back into reading a number of research papers I need to review or write for my team. On occasion I will enjoy a recreational activity with friends such as dinner out or an outing listening to music. I don’t consider myself a workaholic as I am equally at “play” in my mind, whether listening to live jazz at my favorite place, Vibrato in Bel-Air, or reviewing an NIH clinical study or a patent on a drug therapy. I travel monthly for my work, to my surgery center in North Carolina. I consult within the United States in various locations, as well as onsite in China, with an international investment group based there.
I’ve made over 20 visits to China in the last five years. While I’m there, I perform patient treatment with a variety of these biologic allograph therapies we discussed previously. There are a lot more true stem cell and autologous cellular therapies available there than at present in the US. I enjoy being at this forefront of new technologies. In addition, I consult on various funded ventures by the investment group into US corporations, which either they wholly own or subsidized in part by sponsored research.
If you had a way to go back in time, what would you change in your life?
I believe it is difficult to say what that would be for anyone. We each at any singular point in our lives are a sum of the prior parts of our past. Would I like not to have gone into medicine and instead have gone into the family business? Well then, I would not have likely met the mother of my children and had the same number of children or maybe even made it eventually to California. As much as I would like to change the fact that my third child died, I have to say that which of the three children who came after her passing would ever have been born, as two boys and one girl where a very fulfilling family in my eyes at that time had Katy-Jane lived. Or maybe had I come to practice in California straight out of postgraduate training, as we did consider? Well then, I know the overall life I had up to this point would be very likely different than this has been. Thus, I feel that NO is my best answer. I live by believing in looking forward to opportunity not backward at what has now passed, as to those things you may have missed when you review your life with “20/20 hindsight”. I think that life should be looked at the same way as when we drive our cars. Think about it. You have a relatively large front windshield by which you scan the road ahead, looking from side to side for hazards that might come into your path. When looking out, you might also see something you have to slow down for, stop for, or you may even take advantage of exploring what’s out there before continuing down the path that’s ahead of you. You also have a relatively small rear-view mirror through which you can occasionally glance at to see if you’ve missed something. Or you might need to glance at it again in the future if something is coming from your backside, which may be a danger. But if you spend all your time gazing into the rear-view mirror reminiscing over what you’ve just passed, you will most definitely run off the road or cross over into oncoming traffic. Both would be potentially harmful if not fatal to you and your journey towards your ultimate destination. Even if you don’t know a destination for your life to lead to and you’re just on a journey to explore the adventures ahead, then the journey itself is the goal. We need to view life proportionately to the size of the windshield facing forward and the rear mirror reflecting behind. The Boy Scouts as well taught me always to leave each place you’ve been a little cleaner than it was when you arrived! I like that idea too.
What is your strength, and what is your weakness?
Strength, I’d say, is the desire to have an open mind for new opportunities and possibilities. To give each opportunity a chance to take root and become something that can blossom and bear fruit. Whether I get to enjoy that fruit myself or it’s meant to be for another person. My greatest weakness is not being easily able to say, NO. Basically, my inner being desires to help others for no other reason than these three reasons, they either have asked for my assistance, I perceive their need and try to fill it, or they are simply a child of God and worth of aid. This has led me to, at times, waste my time and resources. But hopefully, these become learning, teachable moments to myself. So, I guess then that they aren’t a total waste after all, are they?
You have traveled all over the world to help with your charity, which place is closest to your heart?
My primary travels with Mending Kids have been in Guatemala, which was my first location and has remained closest to my heart. The children are so sweet, kind, and appreciative of our being there, as are their families. The types of surgeries we do there are so often taken for granted here in the US, as they are easily available. But for these children with their significant lack of medical resources, it is a life-changing thing to have even the simplest of these surgeries performed. It reinforces to me that this is what God’s plan for my life was all about. Upon my return, I’m always more centered and focused on what a blessing it is to have been born in the United States. Also, I feel that I have an obligation through these blessings bestowed upon me to seek ways of trying to make the lives of others a little better.
In the fast-growing world of technology, what type of technology helps your practice the most?
The best technology to help my practice is “all of them”! I say this in that I believe that another primary talent of mine is to visualize how to integrate various technologies into a unified whole for the best patient outcome. This is the same in surgery or in business. I always say, “if you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” In the course of learning about many and varied practices or technologies in businesses, I seem to have a knack for finding a way to integrate different ones into a more efficacious treatment methodology or business model than either is singular. I like to have many arrows in my quiver! That said, in medicine, I like the biologic allographic therapies, and in business, I like the genomic level new therapies being developed. We are dealing with drug therapies acting at the DNA level of changes to make life better by treating diseases, which is fascinating to me.
You are the father of five children, and one of your children, is actress “Chloe Moretz.” How do you feel about your daughter being an actress?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m actually the father of six children. My first daughter, Katy-Jane, was my third child, and she died in our arms in the Neonatal ICU at just a little over one day of age. This isn’t an oft talked about topic of conversation, but it does give me empathy for those who have lost a child. It’s a pain I wish no one would ever, ever again, have to bear. This experience also places a lot of perspective on one’s living children as well. So, to say that I have an “actress” child is relatively meaningless, as I look first at each of my children as number one being an “alive” child of mine! After that, all of their career paths, attributes, and life choices come second, third, etc. Whether it is Ethan, Chloë, Colin, Brandon, or Trevor, I am referring to. They are, first and foremost, alive. I do not desire ever to bury another one of my children. Doing so is an exclusive club that you wish would never have another member added. I honestly am proud of each and every one of them equally for their individual accomplishments, which are just that, individual.
I do not look at anyone being more special than another and to only look at each’s need at the moment as the most special thing about them. I like to think akin as that of the mother of the great Christian preacher Charles Spurgeon. She had 17 children, 9 of whom died in infancy. She was once asked being the mother of so many children did she have a favorite. Thinking she may name Charles, her son, the famous preacher, but also herself being a Christian, she shouldn’t have a favorite. She surprisingly said “yes” she did and then went on to explain that she did have a favorite, but that one was the child who had the greatest need at that moment! That is the attitude I aspire to emulate. To have the one with the greatest need at this moment be receiving my upmost attention at this moment in time. I also aspire to look at others in my life in the same way and to see each individual’s greatest need as the primary beneficiary of my attention at that moment in time.