I grew up in Short Hills, New Jersey, and I am happy to be back home. My father, Rocco Tutela MD, was a plastic surgeon in the community for 30 years and I am glad to be able to carry on his legacy. I wanted to be a plastic surgeon before I even knew what it was. Like many boys at the age of five, I wanted to be just like my father. Watching him at work, I realized quickly how a kind word or a gentle touch could change a patient’s experience. Regardless of the situation, my father always put a smile on everyone’s face, patients and colleagues alike. As a busy community plastic surgeon he showed me the value of hard work, the importance of family and the benefit of loving your career.
I grew up in a traditional Italian-American household that was constantly filled with grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles who came over every week for Sunday dinner. Living in a large, close-knit family has exposed me to a myriad of emotions and taught me how to be flexible and open-minded during stressful situations. These invaluable lessons have allowed me to create solidarity with my patients.
Being part of a third generation of doctors, patient care has always been a part of my life. I dreamed of the day when I could stand next to my father both in the operating room and in character. Part of that dream can never be fulfilled. My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2008 and died in December of the same year. As much as this has devastated me, my experience has strengthened my resolve and determination to embody the values I know well: loyalty, compassion and enthusiasm for life.
Despite my father’s early death, I feel blessed that I had the privilege to know him so well. What he showed me is that Family and Friends are the 2 most important things in life. Growing up Italian in Northern New Jersey, my large family has always been my best friends, and my friends have always found themselves to be part of my family. My patients have now become part of the Tutela Plastic Surgery Family.