In this special edition of our "Meet the Aesthetic Expert" column, Will Kirby, DO, FAOCD, talks with board-certified, fellowship-trained dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, about her just announced role as chief medical officer of Ideal Image, the struggles regarding BDD patients, and the expanding role of allied healthcare providers.
Welcome to “Meet the Aesthetic Expert,” where, each month, dermatologist Will Kirby, DO, FAOCD, of LaserAway, will connect with select industry leaders to get their expert opinion on the aesthetic specialty. With an emphasis on straightforward, candid questions, Kirby will focus on the best in aesthetics and get the experts’ frank thoughts on where the field is headed.
Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained dermatologist based in Connecticut. Already an authoritative voice in aesthetics via her clinical research, speaking, and teaching, she now furthers her reach in the industry as the just announced chief medical officer of Ideal Image, the nation’s leading medical spa.
Kirby: Dr Mraz Robinson, please let me be one of the first to congratulate you on your new title. Can you please tell us a little more about your backstory and how you got this coveted role?
Mraz Robinson: Thank you so much. Becoming the chief medical officer of Ideal Image is a huge honor, and I cannot wait to help mold the landscape of aesthetics on a larger level. I have taken a little bit of a circuitous route to end up here. As an undergrad, I started off in a physician assistant program but realized that while I loved the autonomy and medical acumen it afforded me, it wasn’t the right fit for me. I went to medical school, matched at a dermatology residency, and completed a cosmetic and procedural fellowship. I stayed on at my fellowship practice for a few years before leaving and eventually opened my own clinic with my former co-resident and friend. Through the years, I have always stayed active in education through either teaching residents, training sessions with clinicians, and lecturing. What I have found in practice is that while I love building relationships with my patients and helping them achieve their aesthetic goals, I am not scalable. When the opportunity to become CMO of Ideal Image presented itself, it afforded me the perfect synergy of dedication to aesthetic education on a large scale in an environment focused on providing quality personalized care.
K: Fair points. I know you are humble but let’s be honest, this is an immensely powerful position. What do you hope to accomplish in this position?
MR: What I am most excited about is the ability to help sculpt the future of aesthetics on a larger scale. Supporting the aesthetic space entails appropriate education, delegation, and supervision of clinicians to provide excellent quality, and appropriate level care. I realized this first in my fellowship program. There, registered nurses were trained to perform and execute laser hair removal, radiofrequency treatments, and non-invasive body contouring procedures. They were so excellent at their job given their high level of education, training, and skill. The opportunity to now support clinicians in this larger educational capacity excites me.
K: Let’s get granular. Walk me through your goals in your first few months at Ideal Image.
MR: I am a huge proponent of medical-grade skincare and look forward to partnering with respected and trusted brands to pair with procedures to give our patients the best results possible. Additionally, while lecturing, serving as a consultant to aesthetic companies, and being a primary investigator on many cosmetic trials, I keep a close eye on the up-and-coming players, products, and indications in our space. I will critically evaluate new potential devices and procedures to bring aboard.
K: In your new chief medical officer role, you are going to have to play politics with our industry. I can attest to this fact because in my own CMO role I find myself playing politics nearly every day. Politics can be dirty. Are you ready for that challenge?
MR: Absolutely. I have been interfacing with industry, colleagues, and media in varying degrees for many years. Serving as CMO affords me more visibility but does not change my beliefs nor the way I conduct business. I am a straightforward person and expect the same from my industry counterparts.
K: What's the best piece of aesthetic career advice you have received?
MR: Trust your gut. I have never regretted following these words of advice. I know this is general life advice, but I find it very applicable especially in the world of aesthetics.
K: What resources are the most effective in making your life in aesthetics easier?
MR: I have found that using an electronic medical record system that interfaces with billing and practice management systems is invaluable. Time is my most valuable resource and having a multitude of systems that do not integrate are a waste of time, and I hate wasting time.
K: What assets (technology, human resources, staff education, marketing, etc.) should aesthetic providers and practices invest in?
MR: My most important practice resources are the people and staff I work with every day. They are my work family who keep me moving, know what I need before I need it and make me happy when I am seeing patients. Investing in my staff in terms of education and human resources to keep them engaged, stimulated, and motivated is paramount to me.
K: What aesthetic patient population do you find the most challenging and why?
MR: Patients with body dysmorphic dysmorphia [BDD] can be challenging. Based on data, we know that BDD prevalence can be up to 14% in our aesthetic patients seeking treatment. Recognizing BDD and referring the patient for appropriate therapy is imperative. I have a low threshold for telling patients that I will not treat them, and I think this is critical.
K: Telehealth exploded during the pandemic. Is it here to stay? What role will it have in aesthetics moving forward?
MR: Telehealth is absolutely here to stay. People love the ease and comfort of speaking to their provider from the comfort of their home or office. The ability to make an aesthetic treatment plan and perform follow-up visits remotely is convenient not only for the patients but also for providers and practices!
K: You touched on this briefly, but I want to address it again. What role do allied healthcare professionals (RNs, NPs, PAs, etc.) play now in aesthetics and what role will they play 5 years from now?
MR: I believe that allied healthcare providers have a quickly growing role. Estimates of aesthetic market penetration in the US are at 8 to 10% with anticipated growth in non-invasive procedures. Physician providers are simply not capable of providing all requested aesthetic services in the U.S. currently and with projected growth, the role of allied health professionals will only expand.
K: So many aesthetic pharmaceutical companies and aesthetic device manufacturers quietly whisper that the ‘traditional key opinion leader’ model is dead but they always end up dipping back into that antiquated well. And we keep seeing new product launches that fail using this paradigm. Why are industry insiders so scared to abandon this fatigued KOL model and make a pragmatic change?
MR: I have been hearing that there will be a paradigm shift away from key opinion leaders for as long as I have been practicing. But companies seem to continue to stay with hackneyed KOLs, who often speak for every company and in my opinion, have compromised credibility and thus minimal value. Apprehension remains and these companies erroneously fear that if they do not use these established KOLs and fail with a launch or a marketing campaign, it will be in part to the lack of the presence of the KOLs. That said, I do think that most aesthetic companies finally are starting to better appreciate the merit of working with a new, more diverse group of talented medical influencers who are being more selective with their industry relationships.
K: Very insightful and you know I agree! Moving forward, what advice do you have for aesthetic providers to avoid burnout?
MR: Make sure to make time and space for yourself. I have a very full and busy life, but I find I am most balanced, fulfilled, and productive when I take time for long walks to recenter.
K: I’d love to play in the NBA but I’m not good at shooting, rebounding, or passing. And I’m slow… also, lazy. So, if you weren’t an aesthetic expert, what would you do for a living?
MR: Oh, this one is easy, the 15 to 20 year ago me would have been a Rockette. I grew up dancing and always dreamed of dancing in The Christmas Spectacular! The current me is not up for high kicks anymore, but still loves movement and being active so I would be a yoga instructor!
K: What’s the funniest mistake you made in your aesthetic career?
MR: Luckily, I made this mistake on myself. I always tell my patients to NOT do any aesthetic procedure for 2 weeks before a big event, but did I follow my own advice? Of course not! I was going to Christie Brinkley’s 60th birthday and injected PRP around my eyes. My eyes were so swollen for the event, I could barely see. it looked terrible! But it was a great reminder to heed my own advice!
K: What is your favorite aesthetic treatment to personally receive?
MR: The Cynosure Picosure Focus laser treatment. It is best the best laser treatment to keep my skin looking fresh with little to no downtime, it is a win-win!
K: You have treated me with the Picosure so I believe you! As an expert in the aesthetic industry in a powerful role, people are looking at you to lead. If you could inspire a movement in our industry, what would it be?
MR: I want to be a strong leader, role model, and a positive female example for our industry. The vast majority of aesthetic patients and clinicians are women, yet the vast majority of aesthetic industry leaders are male. No personal offense to you of course.
K: No offense taken because I agree with you – our industry should put a bigger emphasis on women! Now, we are almost done, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room so I’m just going to float it right out there: You and I now serve as the Chief Medical Officers of the two biggest purveyors of aesthetic treatments in the nation. Where does that position us? And where does this position LaserAway and Ideal Image? One could argue that we are competitors, but I see it completely differently. To me, a rising tide lifts all boats and there is significant synergy in what our two groups are trying to accomplish. But maybe I’m wrong. Your thoughts?
MR: A rising tide definitely lifts all boats! I know that that you and I, both as representatives of our respective companies and as industry pioneers, are completely aligned in providing safe and effective aesthetic treatments nationwide. I look forward to forwarding our industry through the thorough mutual exploration of each and every future opportunity, including research, publications, speaking events, and educational outreach.
K: Smart answer, Dr Mraz Robinson. I was ready for a street fight! But seriously, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Our discourse makes me realize that the future of aesthetics is in good hands. How can readers get more aesthetic expert information from you?
MR: Please follow me on Instagram at @deannemrazrobinsonmd