How did you get your start in medicine?
I always wanted to be a veterinarian until my junior or senior year in high school when I got an opportunity to spend two days with medical doctors – four half days each with a different specialist. One was a neurosurgeon and I was fascinated. Subsequently, I got an internship in a research lab at Bowman Gray – now Wake Forest – School of Medicine Department of Neurology, and I was hooked. I entered freshman year at UNC-CH wanting to go to medical school to be a neurosurgeon. I later changed my mind about that specialty but never diverted from my goal to become a doctor.
How did you choose your specialty?
The first week of the first year of medical school – also at the University of North Carolina – in an immunology course, there was a lecture by a dermatologist, Dr. Al Briggaman, and I thought the dermatology part was very interesting. I always kept an open mind but decided I did want to pursue a career in dermatology and Dr. Briggaman advised me that he thought I could find a residency spot so I pursued it. I am so blessed to have found a career that I absolutely love and in which I continue to learn new things almost daily. In residency, I worked with Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, the inventor of antioxidant serums and the founder of Skin Ceuticals. He became an important mentor as he was a pioneer in anti-aging skincare.
Later in residency, I presented an abstract at the annual meeting of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, and at that meeting, I met my future mentor Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick who has been called the King of Lasers and the father of laser resurfacing. He invited me to do a laser and cosmetic fellowship in his practice with him and his partners – two well-known cosmetic dermatologists. “Fitz,” as he was known, became an invaluable mentor to me. Sadly, I have lost all my valuable mentors but their impact on my career and life cannot be understated. I am so grateful for the relationships I had with these influential dermatologists.
Were there any other specialties you considered?
Yes, I seriously considered a career in general surgery and most of my electives in medical school were surgical electives but I loved my dermatology rotation and decided to commit to dermatology.
Tell me about Charlotte Skin & Laser?
After residency, I took a fellowship training position in cosmetic and laser surgery with experts in San Diego, California. In fellowship, I gained incredible training and experience in lasers as well as cosmetic procedures. At the end, after an extra year of practice in San Diego, my husband and I decided to move to Charlotte because we both loved the area. I could not find a practice to join that matched my goals of creating a state-of-the-art laser and cosmetic services practice so I started my own.
Initially called Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Center of Charlotte, my practice filled a need in Charlotte in 2001 for a medical dermatologist and for a physician with expert training in laser surgery. My practice was immediately busy and grew from there. We offered the most cutting-edge, latest technologies in laser and cosmetic surgery and were committed to offering expert-level care in these areas as well as medical dermatology. In 2010, my practice relocated to its current location on Providence Road near uptown with a new name – Charlotte Skin & Laser.
What makes your practice unique in our community?
My practice offers full-service dermatologic care from acne, rosacea, and rashes, to skin checks and cancer treatments, as well as a broad menu of anti-aging and cosmetic services, all in a new, well-apportioned building with attentive staff and a commitment to meeting our patient’s individual needs. We pride ourselves on supporting each other as well as our patients and our community, and my staff and I stay up to date with the most innovative and evolving treatments and in our training and expertise.
Does your practice have a mission statement?
Yes, “We help you look and feel your best.” It is worded to reflect our primary goal of helping our valued patients look, as well as feel their best. People feel better when they get their worrisome spots checked or their acne treated or their rash cured. They look better when these issues are addressed, along with acne scars, signs of sun damage and aging, or when unwanted blemished skin is improved.
Tell me about one of your favorite successes as a physician.
There are several. I remember an infant I received a call about years ago. She was in the hospital with an ulcerated hemangioma, which is a normal birthmark but can have severe variants such as this one that was creating a large wound in her vaginal area. The very next day she was scheduled to have surgery to divert her urine flow. One of the pediatricians involved in her care called me and I told her I could help. She was discharged from the hospital to get a laser treatment in my office that healed the ulcerated wound and saved her from surgery. I saw her years later as a young girl of about 10 or 11 and she and her mother remained so grateful. Thankfully it was life-changing for this infant.
I also recall the many scars I have treated that really have had life-changing realities for those that suffer from them.
What do you find are your biggest challenges?
Probably an age-old story, but finding the time to do all that I want to do – put all the energy and time that I want into the practice and my patients and staff and still have time for hobbies and friends and family as well as relaxing time. I do not take a lot of time away from the practice for vacations and should probably take more. Also challenging, is surviving and thriving as an independent practice in a medical community dominated by a few large medical systems and groups.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It is a busy day but not as busy as it once was when I was younger. My day now consists of seeing medical dermatology and surgical cases then I begin my cosmetic cases which consist of minor surgery, ablative laser cases, and a lot of dermal filler and neuromuscular relaxer patients.
What is your definition of quality care?
Solving my patient’s issues in an efficient way with minimal trouble and expense to them. Simple solutions that are doable and affordable. Quality care is really listening and honing in on the primary issue or concern and finding a solution for it. The patient’s concern is not always precisely what I see on their skin. Quality care is also preventing worsening disease in the simplest way possible and treating cancer in an effective minimally invasive way. It is using all the tools I have in the most creative and effective way possible to reach the end goal of better, less symptomatic, and healthier skin.
What motivates you or excites you about what you do?
Oh goodness, I may be the luckiest person! It is amazingly gratifying and joyous work indeed to solve patients’ skin problems and to help them achieve their cosmetic goals and feel better about themselves and how they look. In cosmetic work, I am often described as an artist, and I think the best feeling is for the artist to see the gratification in their work immediately in the happiness patients have after cosmetic procedures.
How do you try to maintain a balanced life outside of work?
I have hobbies that I pursue and a network of friends that I adore and admire. I have dogs I love and a very supportive and proud husband who really spoils me.
If you were not practicing medicine, what other profession do you think you would have chosen?
Civil engineering on really big projects like bridges or skyscraper buildings. I mean, how is someone so smart that they can build that? It is truly amazing and just like my career now, they can see the fruits of their labor. A true joy.
What would you like to communicate to primary care and referring physicians?
Care at Charlotte Skin & Laser is truly personalized and detailed. We focus on fixing patient’s problems in an efficient and economical way. Cosmetic care at Charlotte Skin & Laser is very individualized and expert level with solutions for a variety of cosmetic concerns – all delivered in a modern, comfortable, convenient setting. We aim to be full-service dermatologic care.
If you could offer any advice to younger physicians, what would it be?
Always keep the patient in mind and remember we are in a place of special honor to have the privilege of taking care of their health and well-being. I am humbled by the trust patients place in me and the gratitude they extend to me for their care. There are difficult cases and even more difficult patients but we are truly blessed as physicians to use our knowledge, training, and experience to help people. I cannot imagine a more challenging yet more rewarding career.
What does your family think about what you do for a living?
I am not sure my parents or my husband could be prouder. Ironically, my father-in-law, before he retired, was a highly revered and beloved dermatologist in Pinehurst, NC, so it is “in the family.”
What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of work?
Dogs! I love dogs and have been engaged in dog rescue for quite a while. Currently, I only have four dogs and one horse. I am on a foundation board that gives grants to animal-related non-profit organizations, very rewarding work. My passion has always been in equestrian sports and if I give up medicine, it will only be for the pursuit of equestrian happiness daily. I am not playing golf right now because of work and horses but I can become obsessed with golf. A well-struck golf ball is the best feeling. This might go back to my civil engineering desires. We have a home on Lake James and I love the lake and hiking and skiing and just being there and looking at the mountains. A true treasure of North Carolina. Now, many that know me would say I would not be telling the truth if I didn’t mention that I love shoes although age has tempered my enthusiasm a bit. You can still find me in heels on some clinic days for at least a half-day.
Tell me about your family.
I have a very patient husband, Robert, as you might guess from the four dogs (has been as many as five) and only one horse. He has guided me in business decisions about my practice as well as helped me with personnel or other decisions and conflicts and has been a real partner in life as well as my practice. He is well-liked and respected among his friends and colleagues and I continue to aspire to be more like him as well as to continue to make him proud. Everyone should have as an inspiring figure in their life as I do in my husband. We see my parents regularly as they also have a home on Lake James and clearly they were instrumental in me becoming a physician. Today we just hang out and enjoy dinners together and swap recipes!