LENOX -- Berkshire Medical Center continues to spread its countywide wings with the opening of its new Lenox Plastic Surgery and Skin Center at Lenox Commons off Routes 7 and 20.

The spacious facility, headed by the hospital's plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Rodrigo Santamarina, is relocated from its former offices at the hospital's Medical Arts complex on North Street.

"A lot of patients asked for a more private location outside of the hospital setting," he explained during an interview at his new office. "Also, it's more centrally located so we cover both North and South County, we have a lot of patients from Great Barrington, Stockbridge and Lenox."

Santamarina, who prefers to be addressed as Rodrigo, cited the additional space provided by the new clinic as well as ample parking.

The practice already includes about 3,500 clients but is open to new patients, said Marie Lafayette, his practice administrator.

A wide range of services is offered, including treatment for skin cancer, elective cosmetic procedures such as facelifts, Botox injections, laser skin rejuvenation and liposuction, and medical treatment such as reconstructive surgery for facial jaw, wrist and hand fractures caused by accidents, and treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.

For patients who undergo bariatric surgery for massive weight loss, Santamarina also performs reconstruction to remove excess skin, as well as breast reconstruction following mastectomies to treat cancer.

Several types of high-tech laser units are used for removal of unwanted wrinkles and aging spots, Santamarina explained, as well as treatment of spider veins, birthmarks and similar blemishes. A high-tech melanoma (skin-cancer) detection system is due to arrive shortly. Patients are often referred to him by primary-care physicians and dermatologists.

"There's a lot of overlap" between his practice and dermatology, Santamarina observed, noting a shortage of skin specialists in the region, most either closed to new patients or with long waits for appointments.

"That's why I decided to also offer this rapid-access diagnosis and treatment" for patients with suspicious lesions, he said.

For medical treatment, most forms of insurance are accepted, including Medicare and MassHealth (Medicaid).

Major surgery requiring a general anesthetic is performed at the hospital or BMC's Crane Center. Simple procedures such as mole and skin-lesion removals are handled at the new clinic, which adjoins the hospital's recently opened satellite department for primary care, the Lenox Family Health Center.

Both facilities are in the rear building of Lenox Commons at 55 Pittsfield Road, just north of downtown Lenox.

Dr. Santamarina, a native of Guatemala who lives in Pittsfield with his wife and daughter, 12, and son, 10, is a board-certified plastic surgeon, with specialized training at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, preceded by residency in general surgery at BMC. His initial medical degree is from Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala City, and he did research in cosmetic surgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

His primary avocation is painting during his spare time at home; his office and the corridors of the new center are adorned with his work as a self-taught artist.

"Plastic surgery is art, combining science and art," he commented. "A plastic surgeon works head-to-toe." In a typically busy week, Santamarina performs about 20 procedures.

The practice includes a licensed practical nurse, Kimberly Gwilt, and a medical assistant, Naomi Nicola. A physician's assistant, Elena Fyfe, is set to join the practice in August.

"This is part of the hospital's overall strategy to make it more convenient and provide access for patients," said Berkshire Health Systems spokesman Michael Leary. "Dr. Santamarina has a unique group of patients and we wanted to make sure they had a large facility, with privacy. This building is fantastic and suits those needs."

To contact Clarence Fanto:
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