MID-CITY — It’s been a lifetime of service for Santa Monica plastic surgeon Robert Amonic.
“I have always thought it’s very important to give things back to the community,” he said. “It’s just something you just do — it’s not even optional.”
Amonic’s latest chance to serve comes with his election to the position of chairman of the board of directors of Red Cross of Santa Monica.
John Pacheco, branch CEO, said it was “rare” for someone who has only been on the board for a few years, like Amonic, to be elected chairman.
“He’s been involved in just about everything,” Pacheco said, citing fundraising, blood services, disaster preparedness and youth services. “He’s a real asset to the community. Take what you expect a board member to do, go six steps ahead and there’s Rob Amonic out there doing it.”
Amonic said he puts in so much time and energy because of his passion for the non-profit’s mission.
“The Red Cross is one of the most under-appreciated organizations in the U.S.,” he said. “No one acknowledges it until they need it.”
Whether it’s an earthquake, a fire or a terrorist attack, Amonic continued, the Red Cross wants to be ready.
Amonic, who lives with his family in Brentwood, previously served on the Saint John’s Health Center board of directors, which oversees the daily operations of the hospital. For more than 20 years, he has been a trustee of the hospital’s foundation, which raises money to cover expenses for more far-reaching projects.
The foundation’s most recent achievement is helping to raise the $530 million required to repair damage done by the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. The Keck Diagnostic and Treatment Center was just completed.
Wearing several hats has long been a part of Amonic’s modus operandi. As a college student, Amonic was hesitant to pick a major and limit himself.
“I badgered the counselor,” he said. “Finally she told me about something called ‘premedical studies’ — if you take that you’re allowed to take a whole lot of classes without having the prerequisites.”
Amonic attended UCLA as an undergraduate and for much of his medical training. Today, he works as an associate clinical professor there.
Back in the day, he said, it was a big deal for someone from California to intern back east, as Amonic did at Yale.
“Most high class training in the U.S. was considered East Coast Ivy League kind of stuff,” he said. “The faculty at UCLA was anxious to have us go and learn their ways and to show them what we could do.”
In his second year of medical school, Amonic heard a lecture by a plastic surgeon and knew immediately that he wanted to go into that field.
In addition to his work at Saint John’s, Amonic performs plastic surgery procedures in his own office nearby, where he averages about three major surgeries a week. Amonic’s specialty is face and eye surgery, but he also performs liposuction, breast augmentation and some reconstructive surgeries.
“Noses were very big years ago, and they still are,” he said. “But I don’t do as many.”
Some of his patients are among Los Angeles’ most rich and famous.
“Most of the celebrities I know are delightful,” he said. “If they’re really high-powered celebrities it can be trying because they’re usually at a distance — they have their people call my people.”
Amonic said he is “envied,” not criticized, by colleagues for his work in plastic surgery.
“The nice thing about plastic surgery is that it’s paid for in advance — the patient knows exactly what it’s going to cost,” he said. “There’s no dealing with insurance.”
This self-assuredness probably helps him attract customers.
“He’s the best advertisement for his own plastic surgery business that anyone could be,” Pacheco said.
During the Vietnam War, Amonic served as chief of Base Surgical Services at a NATO facility in Germany.
“It was sort of like a secret place,” he said. “We had F-4 Phantom jets that were protected by dogs. And I got to see a lot of Europe.”
Pacheco revealed that Amonic also had a small acting career on the side.
“He was in ‘Spartacus,’” he said. “You have to watch closely to see him, but he’s there.”