There were times as a boy that resident physician Dr. Mitchell Lyons thought about becoming an actor, or an astronaut.
Now in his second year of a plastic surgery residency at the UNLV School of Medicine, Lyons was a child actor in his hometown of Atlanta and thought it was cool he got paid for doing something that was fun. But the more he thought about it, the more he didn’t like the fact he’d always have to look for a new part to play.
He went to space camp four times and enjoyed it, but he came to realize astronauts weren’t rocketed into space all that often.
Besides, the way Lyons looked at it as he grew older, neither actors nor astronauts were in a profession that could directly transform lives the way a plastic surgeon like Dr. Fernando Burstein could.
“He was my sister’s craniofacial surgeon,” Lyons says. “He was the director of the Center for Craniofacial Disorders at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta that has changed so many children’s lives for the better... He changed the course of my life...I looked up to him and watched as he would talk to my parents about my sister’s surgeries.”
Lyons was 8-years-old, excited that he was about to see his newborn sister, when he learned that sometimes children are born with birth defects.
“The first thing my father told me was, ‘Your sister looks different, but you’re going to love her,’” Lyons recalls. “When I went into the room with my mom and saw my sister, she had a hole in her face. I later learned this was a congenital deformity called cleft lip and palate.”
Lyon’s sister, Grace, would undergo more than 20 surgeries to repair the problem. Lyons says Grace grew up to be a confident young woman, one who played varsity college lacrosse on an athletic scholarship, an honors graduate who will enter her first year of law school this fall.
“My passion is to improve my patients’ quality of life as well,” Lyons says. “I love seeing my patients...healed and living their lives.“
Lyons -- both of his parents are in marketing -- had just entered high school when he decided to become a doctor.
“I came home one day after high school and told my mom, ‘I want to be a craniofacial surgeon.’ At the time, she told me to follow my dreams. Now she tells me after I left her office she had a big laugh. At this time in my life I was not the best student -- I spent a lot of time on skateboards -- and my parents didn’t think I was even going to get into college. It’s fun to look back on it now.”
Lyons graduated from the University of Colorado, where he majored in integrative physiology. He’d earn his MD from the State University New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University, becoming a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Society along the way. At the UNLV School of Medicine, he’s in the second year of a demanding six-year residency program.
During his residency here in Las Vegas, Lyons says he will have the opportunity to work on a variety of cases. “We are lucky -- we truly do it all here.”