A Guiding Light in the Storm
By Lynn Laurenti
When the COVID-19 global pandemic began earlier this year, Bernard A. Shuster, MD, FACS, a third-generation plastic surgeon, immediately complied with the orders from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Broward County to stop elective medical procedures.
This brought his nearly two-decade-old practice in Hollywood, Fla., to a halt of unknown duration, affecting not only him, but also his four full-time and two part-time employees. This was the first time in his 29 years of working in the medical field that he felt uncertain of his next steps, Shuster said.
That is until he connected with Parbatee Chang, a consultant at the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), who informed him about the disaster recovery loan assistance program.
"I contacted the SBDC March 19 and was referred to a consultant, Parbatee Chang," Shuster said. "She got back to me so fast – not seven to 10 days, but within 24 hours. Her response was lightning fast. She walked me through the application process, making sure that every 't' was crossed and every 'i' was dotted. She sent me a checklist to make sure we covered everything. Thanks to Parbatee, and her equally efficient associate Anil Chang, my application was approved, and the funds received in less than two weeks."
The disaster recovery loan was originally created by the State of Florida to help businesses recover from hurricanes and other natural disasters. As soon as it became apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc on the economy, state officials expanded its mission to include mitigation of financial damages to businesses hit hard by the pandemic. "It's really helpful," Shuster said. "It provides breathing space until other forms of relief can kick in, like insurance or a return to normal business."
The disaster recovery loan provided Shuster with the confidence and ability to maintain the jobs of his full-time and part-time employees and continue providing specialty medical services to his community as appropriate. And, despite the county's recent order to stop elective medical procedures again, Shuster says with the Florida SBDC at FAU on his side, he will remain confident about the future.
Shuster, who attended Brandeis University, Massachusetts; Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York; Stanford University, California; and Northwestern University, Illinois, has been a member of the medical profession for many years. In addition to specializing in aesthetic and reconstruction procedures, he has also traveled to Central America and Asia to provide reconstructive surgery for underprivileged children and to teach plastic surgery.