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Steven H. Dayan, MD, FACS: A Difference-maker

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: January 28, 2010, from the November 2009 issue of
Dr. Steven H. Dayan and a student practice injections.

As the father of three daughters, Dayan believes many of the lessons he has learned in his practice have made him a better parent. Photography by Michelle CD Mueller, Michelle CD Mueller Photography

Upon entering the offices of Steven H. Dayan, MD, FACS, located in the heart of Chicago on Michigan Avenue, you are greeted by an urban setting, comfortable yet modern, with no Norman Rockwell pictures of kind doctors and trusting patients in sight. And yet, after taking the long walk down the bustling corridor leading to the physician’s office boasting a panoramic view of the city, there behind the desk you will find a doctor with a Norman Rockwell soul. Hardly old-timey and simple, Dayan is complex and fast-paced, but his motivation lies in the ideals portrayed in those famous illustrations: the notion that a doctor is invested in the well-being of his patient and the patient trusts that doctor implicitly.

Dayan insists aesthetic medicine is the last great frontier in medicine where the Norman Rockwell experience can take place. “We watched our forbearers practice medicine, and they got to be creative and got to be very one-on-one with patients. They were invested; they weren’t just some name on a list. It was a whole different world,” Dayan says of the lifestyle he aspired to when he decided he wanted to become a physician. “Doctors weren’t dictated to about how to practice medicine. They weren’t double- and triple-checked and asked to fill out forms. They weren’t being investigated by every organization and body possible, they weren’t doubted. Aesthetic medicine is the last bastion where you get to be a doctor. You get to talk with your patients and invest in them.”

A focus on education

Dayan has built a career—some would say an empire—on just that kind of patient investment. This 42-year-old facial plastic surgeon has known since he was young that he wanted to practice medicine. At the age of nine, Dayan’s mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That, coupled with a heart attack experienced by his father, resulted in an early introduction to the field, although he narrowly avoided missing his calling by being a middle-of-the-road student in high school.

“I was a C student in high school. I got into college based on football,” Dayan explains. As an all-conference wide receiver, he was offered a football scholarship at Washington University in St. Louis, and took that opportunity to focus on his education. “Once I got there, I started studying really hard. I didn’t end up playing football because I couldn’t do both. All of a sudden, I started getting A’s, and it just kept rolling,” he says. “Now I go to my high school reunions and my friends say, ‘You’re a doctor?’ And the people in my office don’t believe I played football.”

After graduating as one of the top students in his class, Dayan was accepted to nearly every graduate school he applied to, but decided not to pursue the Ivy League because of the expensive tuition, and ended up back home, attending the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. “In retrospect, it was a great experience, because I was in Cook County going to all of these inner city hospitals, and I really learned a lot; it helped make me become resourceful. So, there were a lot of advantages to going there as opposed to a private school,” he says.