In our first "Meet the Aesthetic Expert" column, Will Kirby, DO, FAOCD, talks with board-certified OB/GYN Jessica Shepherd, MD, MBA, FACOG, about her journey to implementing aesthetic treatments in her practice, the role of educational media, and how she approaches aesthetic gynecology.
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.
Jessica Shepherd, MD, MBA, FACOG, is a board-certified OB/GYN, women's health expert, minimally invasive surgeon, and the founder and CEO of Sanctum Med + Wellness, a wellness concierge practice in Dallas, Texas.
In addition to notoriety for her medical acumen, Shepherd regularly makes appearances as an expert on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Talk, The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, MSNBC, and CBS News. She is on the advisory board for Women's Health, Healthline, Women's Health.org, and It's August, and has written in other various magazines including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Essence, and Self.
Kirby: Dr Shepherd, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. Can you please start off by telling us a little more about your backstory?
Shepherd: My journey as a gynecologist has given me the “backstage pass” to women and has allowed me to relate to their lives in so many ways and being able to provide aesthetic procedures makes that relationship even more exciting.
K: What led you to an aesthetic career path?
S: I started off on a traditional route but have slowly added more treatments to my patient population. See, aesthetic treatments were often thought of as only applicable in the facial area but I realized that I could offer women cosmesis in other areas as well. As an aesthetic gynecologist, I have the ability to address the pelvis in a cosmetic way to help rejuvenate women in that intimate, and important, part of their bodies.
K: Can we dive a little deeper on that concept? So many clinicians think of aesthetics as just facial aesthetics, but I saw you lecture recently and heard you make the fascinating statement that “Aesthetics don’t have to be limited to just the face. As an OB/GYN I start lower and move up.” Would you please elaborate on that concept?
S: We often think that the pelvic area and the region below the belt is not affected by time and age, however it most definitely is. Taking away the shame of aesthetic vaginal issues that occur will only help women live more comfortable lives and be able to transition through their journeys in life feeling empowered, confident, and beautiful.
K: What's the best piece of aesthetic career advice you have received?
S: That beauty can sometimes reside in the smallest and simplest changes and that a little goes a long way.
K: How do your television appearances help you educate patients about aesthetics?
S: Having a television platform has many benefits in that it has allowed me to discuss aesthetics in a setting that is comfortable and approachable. It allows me to educate many more potential patients than I could reach in my clinic. And a media presence can take away the anxiety of one-on-one meetings because the patients already have a relationship with me and my treatment philosophies.
K: What is the biggest myth in the aesthetic industry?
S: The biggest myth in the aesthetic industry is that it is not real medicine. However, the science behind aesthetic injectables and devices is scientifically compelling. Look how far we have come. Let's all recognize that aesthetic medicine is real medicine.
K: What resources—technology, human resources, staff education, marketing, etc—should aesthetic providers invest in?
S: Staff education is imperative to a successful venture as they are the face of your brand. If they don’t believe in your work and mission, no one will. Find ways to encourage and empower your team, teach them to see the strength in your personal practice. Also, having social media savvy staff is one of the best ways to get visibility and develop an aesthetic personality.
K: What professional partnerships are the most effective in making your life in aesthetics effective?
S: I have a great partnership with the energy-based device manufacturer, Cynosure. They have the most studied vaginal CO2 laser on the market, the Mona Lisa Touch. This strongly researched device, when used properly, helps women immensely. They also have the radiofrequency energy device called, TempSure, which has the vaginal application with Vitalia but can also be used for the face and the body. Even better, it has a surgical feature and creates a fine, precise cut for my in-office labiaplasties and also vaginal lesion removals. Technology is meant to improve our professional lives and the right partners help accomplish that.
K: Is telehealth here to stay? What role will it have in aesthetics moving forward?
S: Telehealth is absolutely here to stay and is only expanding. We now have the ability to create convenience for patients, reach patients that may not have been able to see us in-person, connect with patients faster, and also minimize unnecessary exposure for those quarantining during this pandemic.
K: What steps should the aesthetic industry take to increase market penetration?
S: The aesthetic industry can definitely gain market share by doing a better job with the BIPOC [Black, indigenous, and people of color] demographic. Advancements in products and treatments for POC [people of color] are making strides and I hope to see much more creation and innovation in that regard.
K: What advice do you have for aesthetic providers to avoid burnout?
S: Set boundaries for yourself and making sure you take time to step away from the business. Burnout is more common than we think and can reveal itself in so many ways. By discussing mental wellness more openly, we will allow more vulnerability.
K: If you weren’t an aesthetic expert, what would you do for a living?
S: I think the love of the operating room would have me hostage so I would simply be doing surgery more days of the week if I didn’t offer aesthetic treatments.
K: What is your personal favorite aesthetic treatment to implement?
S: PRP [platelet-rich plasma] is a wonderful addition to my practice because of my focus on sexual health and goal of helping women achieve improvement in the pelvic area with new, innovative therapies. PRP treatment increases neovascularization and collagen formation through the high concentration of growth factors that are delivered to the tissue.
See, sexual dysfunction is all-too common and PRP is amazing as it is minimally invasive, easy to implement, and has no downtime. It is also applicable for women who are peri- and postmenopausal and best of all, it uses natural ingredients to provide beautiful, lasting results.
K: What is your favorite aesthetic treatment to personally receive?
S: The first aesthetic treatment I ever received was Botox Cosmetic and, I still think to this day, I feel instantly youthful when I get it done.
K: What is your favorite quote, mantra, etc, that is applicable to the aesthetic industry?
S: I have 2: “Be open to the natural beauty we all hold,” and “The art of aesthetics is experiencing the extension of our own natural beauty.”
K: What will the aesthetic industry look like 10 years from now?
S: Great question! The world of aesthetics is ever evolving. I believe there will be many more innovative products and devices launched in the next decade, some with regenerative properties such as stem cells and others with reductive options, like better adipose treatments.
K: What advice do you have for someone just entering the field of aesthetics?
S: Just like Malcolm Gladwell implies in [his book] Outliers, repetition will refine a skill which will lead to mastery of that skill… so practice, practice, practice!
K: Dr Shepherd, thanks so much for your time. I’m lucky because I get to see you in person and we all see you on television, but how else can readers get more aesthetic expert information from you?
S: Please follow me on Instagram: @jessicashepherdmd.