AP NEWS

Top ECHS Graduate: Jose Feliciano Velazquez, plastic surgeon in training

May 29, 2017 GMT

HARLINGEN — To many of us, the face presents our first impression to the world.

We’d like to think that everyone first looks past the face, that they go directly to the heart and soul. But the reality is sadly different. We see the face and then the soul.

That’s why Jose Feliciano Velazquez, 17, wants to help those who’ve suffered injury to that face through burns or other incidents.

“As a plastic surgeon I would want to help people with burns, deformities, cleft palates,” said Jose, who is embarking on 12 years of study in the medical field.

That journey might be a little longer, but he’s completed two years of college credit at Early College High School where he just graduated salutatorian.

“I feel all the hard work I have done has paid off,” he said.

His path toward the medical field was somewhat pre-ordained in the third grade when he received plastic surgery on his eyes. A condition called ptosis had caused his eyelids to cover 40 percent of his eyes. Needless to say, this “droopy” affect made him the target of ridicule.

Fortunately, the surgery removed part of the eyelids so the droopiness would be less extreme. But it was there, and the situation was aggravated by his vision declining to the point he needed glasses. It’s uncertain whether his poor vision and the ptosis were connected.

One thing he knew, however, was that plastic surgery on his eyelids made a difference in the way he felt about himself. The experience gave him a sense of empathy for other people with facial defects or deformities.

“They feel at times as if they can’t be their true selves,” he said. “They feel ugly. They don’t feel like they’re enough.”

As he spoke, he seemed to feel it would be a privilege, even a sacred opportunity, to give people back their lives as a plastic surgeon.

“That would be such a positive influence on their lives and it would provide them with a sense of comfort back,” he said. “You’re essentially giving them back their lives.”

He hopes to reach out as the plastic surgeon who can help children lead normal lives.

“I think to help a child who has a condition, to help him evade the bullying and just live a happier and more confident life, it would mean the world,” he said.

twhitehead@valleystar.com