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More Than Skin Deep

Decorated Military Doctor Brings Both Facial Reconstruction and Cosmetic Surgery to Local Eye Practice

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Dr. Whitney Pafford believes the beholder looks back at you in the mirror. 

Dr. Pafford’s unique set of skills as a Head and Neck Surgeon, medical residencies and fellowships, and combat field experience make her perfectly positioned to lead the new Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery department at Colorado Eye Consultants. Some might find it an unusual pairing, facial plastics at a medical eye practice, but Dr. Pafford believes it to be a great fit.

“It's not common to have a Facial Plastic Surgeon in an Ophthalmology group but it is truly a brilliant collaboration,” Dr. Pafford says. “I think people still get a little confused that I'm a Facial Plastic Surgeon with a Head and Neck-ENT background and not an Oculoplastic Surgeon with an Ophthalmology background. There's some overlap, but they are entirely different training pathways and different fields. I feel very fortunate to have found and been chosen for this unique and amazing opportunity.”

Dr. Pafford knew she wanted to practice medicine as a child. Following in her parent’s footsteps, she pursued junior ROTC in High School. Awarded both a full Navy and full Air Force scholarship prior to graduation, she accepted the Air Force scholarship at her dad’s alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, continuing in ROTC. As an undergraduate during 9/11 and the pursuant Afghan war, the war-zone injury stories she heard piqued her interest in facial reconstruction. Service people’s stories, such as that of JR Martinez, who was seriously hurt by an IUD and Kyle Carpenter, who protected his fellow Marines by shielding them. There is the story of Bibi Aisha, a local Afghan woman whose Taliban-supporting husband attacked her and left to die. She managed to escape to an American military hospital in Afghanistan and was taken back to the states for reconstructive surgery on her face.  

“These are the stories that made me so proud to have chosen the path of military medicine and the types of surgical cases I wanted to be a part of,” Dr Pafford says.

Her focus on facial trauma began during her NYU-Bellevue Hospital residency and primarily consisted of treating pedestrians struck by traffic or prison fight wounds. Only a year-and-a-half out of her residency, she deployed to Afghanistan to treat combat injuries like ballistics or shrapnel penetrating wounds. Vastly different types of injuries than those she has treated stateside, they leave soft tissue defects and secondary thermal injuries as well as delayed healing and higher risks of infection.  

“I learned two of the most important lessons in my medical career. (1) when you are the only option, you learn to step past your comfort zone. You can accomplish anything in your scope of practice with a strong knowledge of anatomy and appropriate preparation and (2) the importance and value of mentorship past my residency years.”

Speaking about her new role at Colorado Eye Consultants, Dr. Pafford says,”This job is an incredibly unique opportunity to develop and grow your own practice within an already thriving group. The practice is amazingly run, supportive, and I love the camaraderie. The practice and the people that work there are really why I chose this position and to move to Colorado.“

"I felt incredibly comfortable in the area and with the practice. It is outdoorsy and beautiful with lots of hiking.  There is a relaxed and pleasant vibe ... I loved how dog friendly it is.”

Founded in 1982 as Corneal Consultants of Colorado, Colorado Eye Consultants is committed to providing the highest level of eye care in the Rocky Mountain Region. Their philosophy is simple, deliver quality care along with a compassionate bedside manner in a safe and caring environment each and every time.

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