Chatard, Peter R. N. Jr. 1936–
Peter R. N. Chatard, Jr. 1936–
As lead surgeon at AEsteem, The Plastic Surgery Center in Seattle, Washington, Dr. Peter R. N. Chatard has spent over 20 years helping patients improve their self image through cosmetic surgery. “My daughter Faedra came up with the name AEsteem,” Chatard told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB). “Her theory is that we are engaged in activities that improve the self esteem of people.” Self esteem is something Chatard knows about. His own is rooted way back in his New Orleans childhood, where his father taught him and his siblings to believe in themselves. “[He] inspired us all to do better than he had done,” Chatard told CBB. Honored by Morehouse College alongside such luminaries as boxer Muhammad Ali, composer Quincy Jones, and publisher Earl Graves during a 1999 awards ceremony, Chatard has definitely fulfilled his father’s aspirations.
Peter Ralph Noel Chatard was born on June 25, 1936, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a Creole family. Descendents of French-speaking slaves and freed blacks, the Creoles sat at the bottom rung of the social and economic hierarchy in New Orleans. This didn’t dampen the Chatard household. “My family was poor but never thought of themselves as poor,” Chatard told CBB. “They definitely were not poor in spirit.” At the helm of an extended family that included Chatard, his mother, two younger sisters, and a paternal aunt, was Peter Chatard, Sr. “He only finished seventh grade, but he was a very intelligent man and had very high self-esteem. That made it tough for him,” Chatard told CBB. “He was constantly getting in fights because he would not tolerate anyone putting him down, especially regarding race. Even though he was a very skilled artisan and plasterer and did a lot of the type of work typical of the French Quarter, he was constantly being hired and fired.” It fell to Chatard’s mother, Alberta Reine Chatard, to support the family. With a steady job as a seamstress at a clothing factory, “She really kept the family together,” Chatard recalled.
An intelligent child, Chatard found early academic encouragement in elementary school. “[Principal Fannie C. Williams] was one of the significant people in my life,” Chatard told CBB. “She personally selected her own teachers and always emphasized discipline and education. It was a great learning experience for me.” Unfortunately high school was the opposite. “It was awful, there was no discipline and most of the teachers were not good. It was a waste,” he told CBB. Chatard was also regularly beaten up by other students. He admitted to CBB, “I was a big nerd, and they wanted to beat on me. Of course, I didn’t ingratiate myself to the students. I was always telling the teachers about who did what. I really lacked social skills with the other kids in high school.”
Chatard’s high school horror came to an end in the tenth grade when he aced a scholarship exam. In doing so, he scored an early entry to Morehouse College, a private all-male school and one of the most prestigious black colleges in the country. Just 16 years old, he moved to Atlanta and began a new life. “It was a liberating experience for me because for the first time I
At a Glance…
Born Peter Ralph Noel Chatard, Jr., on June 25, 1936, in New Orleans, LA; married Patricia Myrl White, January 31, 1963; children: Andrea Michelle, Faedra Noelle, Tahra Deonne. Education: Morehouse College, BS, biology, 1956; University of Rochester, MD, 1960; University of Colorado, surgical internship, 1961; University of Rochester, general surgery, 1963, otolaryngology residency, 1967; University of Florida, plastic surgery residency, 1982. Military Service: U.S. Air Force, Captain, 1961-63.
Career: Private Practice, Seattle, WA, Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, lead surgeon, 1968-80; AEsteem: The Plastic Surgery Center and AEsteem Outpatient Surgery Center, Seattle, WA, lead surgeon, 1983-; Northwest Hospital, attending staff member, 1990s-; Swedish Medical Centers, attending staff member, 1990s-; Stevens Medical Center, attending staff member, 1990s-; Overtake Medical Center, attending staff member, 1990s-; Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, attending staff member, 1990s-.
Selected memberships: American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons; American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery; American Academy of Otoiaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery; American College of Surgeons; Washington State Medical Association.
Awards: Seattle Museum of History, inclusion in the “OBA: Men of African Descent Making a Difference in Seattle” exhibit, 1998; Morehouse College, “Candle in the Dark,” Bennie Achievement Award, 1999.
Addresses: Office —AEsteem Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Inc., 1200 N. Northgate Way, Seattle, WA, 981338916.
could do well academically without the fear of being harassed,” he told CBB.
Chatard was very active at Morehouse. He played football, served on the student body, and was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He also worked. “The first two years at Morehouse I had a full-ride scholarship, but the last two I had to work to help pay tuition,” he told CBB. Chatard picked tobacco, waited tables, and worked in the campus cafeteria. “I earned the nickname ‘Iron Belly’ because I would eat whatever they served. The food was often just horrible, but it was that or not eat.’ Despite his work load, Chatard excelled in his classes and in 1956 he graduated class valedictorian with a degree in biology and minors in chemistry and math. His high marks landed him several scholarships to study medicine and he chose the University of Rochester in New York. “I also had a scholarship from the state of Louisiana. It was a special scholarship for blacks from Louisiana to study out-of-state and not try and integrate Louisiana colleges. It was fine with me because I considered the University of Rochester much better than the medical schools in Louisiana,” Chatard told CBB.
In 1960 Chatard graduated with an MD and moved to the University of Colorado for a surgery internship. He hoped to follow that up with a residency in neurosurgery. “I was even accepted into their neurosurgical program but in the end I decided not to pursue it. I had become interested in otolaryngology surgery (ear, nose, throat, and facial plastic surgery). The school was looking for volunteers to join the program and because it was difficult, I wanted to try it,” Chatard explained to CBB. The military came calling, however, and in 1961 Chatard was drafted into the Air Force as a general medical officer. “I did basic training in Montgomery, Alabama, and while I was there I visited Morehouse and a professor whom I respected a lot told me that I should meet a woman named Patricia (Pat) White. She was at Spellman (Morehouse’s sister school), and I eventually got her photograph and we became pen pals,” he told CBB.
Chatard was assigned to a base in the Midwest but before transferring there he met another soldier with orders to Korea. “He was upset because he had a child and a wife,” Chatard told CBB. “I didn’t, so I swapped orders with him. It made both of us very happy.” Chatard spent the next 13 months at Osan Air Force Base. During that time he and Pat wrote regularly. After returning from Korea, Chatard decided to meet Pat in person and traveled to the University of Wisconsin where she was a graduate student in biology. “Three days after meeting her, I asked her to marry me, and she said yes,” Chatard told CBB. They wed in January of 1963.
After leaving the military Chatard resumed his medical training with a residency in otolaryngology at the University of Rochester. He finished in 1967 and moved to Seattle, where he hoped to set up a private practice. “At the time I really I thought I could go anywhere, do anything, but it was a little more difficult than that,” Chatard told CBB. “Seattle wasn’t as liberal back then as it is now. It was difficult for blacks to get a bank loan.” Unable to open a practice and nearly broke, Chatard took a job as an ear, nose, and throat doctor with the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound. “At first I thought it was great. I was finally utilizing all my training,” he recalled to CBB. However, his skill didn’t comply with the group’s cost control policies. “Eventually someone from management came to see me and I was told that I was doing too many surgeries…. Even though so many of the patients could best be served by simple surgical procedures, they wanted me to just send people out with prescriptions.” Chatard became angry and “…realized right away that the best thing for me was to get out.” He immediately submitted a resignation.
Fortunately Chatard soon met a Seattle banker who recognized the problems that African Americans had in securing loans. “He took a risk and lent me fifty thousand dollars to launch my private practice,” Chatard told CBB. “This was after being turned down over and over. No one had ever said it was because of race, but many white colleagues I knew had no trouble getting funding.” Chatard’s private practice opened in 1968 and grew steadily over the next 12 years. During that time he began to focus more on plastic surgery. “Part of otolaryngology training is facial plastic surgery, and I got really interested in that,” he told CBB. “I began to do nose jobs and face lifts and soon my patients started asking me for breast lifts, liposuction, et cetera. I didn’t have training in that, but because of my interest and my patients’ insistence, I decided to seek additional training.”
In 1980 Chatard closed his practice, packed up his family, which by that time included three daughters, and moved across the country to enroll in a two-year plastic surgery residency at the University of Florida. “I was the first African American to study plastic surgery at University of Florida, and one of very few African Americans in the school,” he recalled to CBB. After successful completion of the program, Chatard and family returned to Seattle where he set up AEsteem in 1983. “I had to start all over again,” Chatard recalled to CBB. The patients who had originally encouraged him to pursue plastic surgery were long gone, nipped and tucked elsewhere. Specializing in breast, neck, and face lifts, liposuction, and other forms of plastic surgery, Chatard slowly began to build his new practice from the ground up, forging a reputation by combining the latest techniques with close patient relationships. It is a formula that has worked for over 20 years. Though he told CBB, “I’m still struggling to get the practice exactly where I want it to be,” Morehouse College was sufficiently impressed by his achievements to award him the 1999 “Candle in the Dark” Bennie Award at a star-studded awards ceremony.
When not making patients look better, Chatard has helped people—particularly young African-American males—live better. An active member of the Seattle branch of Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, a group dedicated to making college an attainable dream for black students, Chatard has mentored several students. “I think the mentoring part is as important as the money,” he told CBB. “One young man I mentored is now getting a Ph.D.” Chatard is also very active in the Rotary Club and has served on several of its committees. His activities earned him recognition from the Seattle Museum of History and Industry, which included him as part of their 1998 “OBA: Men of African Descent Making a Difference in Seattle” exhibit. He seems destined to continue doing just that. With an eye on retirement, he told CBB that he hopes “to spend more time doing other things that I think are significant in the community.” His father wouldn’t argue with that.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 17, 1998, p. C1.
“Peter Ralph Noel Chatard, Jr., MD, FACS,” AEsteem, http://aesteem.com/aboutdrchatard.htm (January 28, 2004).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Dr. Peter R. N. Chatard, Jr., on February 3, 2004.
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