The proboscis files

  @FortuneMagazine October 10, 2013: 7:53 AM ET
NOS28 denenberg

Steve Denenberg, MD, in his Omaha operating room

(Fortune)

Steve Denenberg, 58, is an unassuming Midwestern guy. Unless you've been in the market for a nose job, you've almost certainly never heard of him. He grew up in Omaha, and after graduating from Harvard and doing a medical residency at Stanford, he returned home to open a practice as a plastic surgeon 29 years ago. He married late -- to another Omahan -- and has five kids under 11. He drives an '05 Honda Pilot; he takes bridge lessons three times a month; he subscribes to Sky & Telescope; and he really gets Playboy for the articles. After discovering the Chinese domino game pai gow in Las Vegas, he spent years writing a 600-page treatise on the topic. When he's exasperated -- like by his engaging parents, who live just around the corner in the house he grew up in -- the most he says is the Yiddishism, "Oy vey ist mir!"

So this is probably not the fellow you'd expect to be leading a crusade. But Steven M. Denenberg, MD, may be the most important plastic surgeon between Hollywood and Manhattan's Upper East Side. For the past decade he has been waging an intellectual-property fight against the worst kind of nose job -- that is, the misappropriation of his patients' online before-and-after photos. Denenberg's tale is about the astonishing reach of the web for a small business and the ease with which scoundrels can take advantage. It's also a pretty funny story.

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