In this month’s "Meet the Aesthetic Expert" column, Will Kirby, DO, FAOCD, talks with Morgan Wolf, DNP, FNP-BC, AGNP, vice president of clinical operations at LaserAway, about the increased role of allied health care professionals, the importance of continued education, and expanding diversity and inclusion in aesthetics.
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.
Morgan Wolf, DNP, FNP-BC, AGNP, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. She then went on to earn her doctorate in nursing practice at the University of San Diego where she completed a dual program for family nurse practitioner and adult/geriatric nurse practitioner. She has over nine years of experience working in aesthetic dermatology with advanced skills in facial rejuvenation, laser and light-based treatments, body contouring, and aesthetic injectable education. In 2018, she was selected as an Allergan medical institute trainer and speaker for Facial Aesthetics. She is also a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the American Nurses Association & ANA/California, and the California Association for Nurse Practitioners (CANP). Wolf proudly serves as the vice president of clinical operations at LaserAway.
Kirby: Can you please tell us a little about your backstory?
Wolf: I grew up in a small town in rural eastern Pennsylvania, Oley Valley. My parents always instilled a hard work ethic in my sister and I and encouraged us to follow our dreams. As a young child, I loved fashion and all things beauty. I guess you could say I had expensive taste! I remember a particular conversation with my parents when discussing my love for the finer things in life and my mother had said “well you better marry someone with money.” I replied without a blink “no mom, I’m going to make it on my own.”
K: So, what initially led you to an aesthetic career path?
W: I started my career in aesthetics in early 2012 when I took a part-time registered nurse position at LaserAway. At that time, I was a full-time student at the University of San Diego pursuing my doctorate to become a nurse practitioner. I have always loved dermatology and aesthetics and knew that it was my ultimate goal to be working as a NP in that field. What I didn’t know at the time was that LaserAway would be a part of my life for the long haul. I started with the company when we had just 11 locations and have been able to be a part of the huge success story and national expansion occurring at LaserAway!
K: What's the best piece of aesthetic career advice you have received?
W: Trust yourself and know your craft, be honest, and stay in your lane. Unfortunately, there are a lot of clinics that provide every treatment under the sun. In all honesty, too many options only makes things confusing for patients and can prevent a practitioner from mastering certain skills. An athlete will be good at most sports and activities they attempt but they will really excel at a select few. I am honest with my patients and make sure the treatment I can offer is not only the right treatment for them, but one that will be safe and effective. We offer the best minimally invasive treatment options and if a patient needs a more intense treatment or surgical procedure I cannot offer to them, I have no problem referring them out to someone who can!
K: What resources (technology, human resources, staff education, marketing, etc.) should aesthetic providers invest in?
W: ALL OF IT. But if I were to choose one, it would be clinical staff education. Knowledge is power and medical training is the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to providing safe and effective aesthetic treatments.
K: What aesthetic patient demographic do you believe is the most coveted?
W: Millennials! This group of patients are highly interested in aesthetics and preventative care. They seem to understand the concept of investing in their future self and they will be our patients for life. If you start on a skin care regimen at a young age, wear sunscreen, and prevent wrinkles and sagging skin from developing in the first place, you are far better off than trying to work in the reverse.
K: Has this always been the case?
W: I am a young practitioner and a millennial myself, but I have seen the shift during my 9 plus years in the industry from focusing on marketing to soccer moms and women in their 40s, 50s and even 60s, to a much younger demographic.
K: Is this shifting?
W: Perhaps. I believe we will continue to see younger and younger patients request aesthetic treatments as the movement toward preventative practice and non-invasive/non-surgical treatment options grow.
K: What aesthetic patient population is the most challenging and why?
W: For me, it’s the patients in their 50s and 60s who are just starting to dabble into aesthetics. They want the noninvasive/nonsurgical treatments but are often seeking facelift or surgical results and it's not always realistic. Skin tightening, laser facials, neuromodulators, and fillers are fantastic but it is a process that takes time and multiple appointments to get the wow factor. Realistic expectations are key with this group.
K: Telehealth exploded during the pandemic. Is it here to stay?
W: 100% Telehealth is here to stay.
K: I completely agree. But what role will telehealth have in aesthetics moving forward?
W: Well for starters...who doesn’t want to have a consultation from the comfort of their home without spending the afternoon dodging through traffic? Telehealth allows us to assess our patients virtually, provide recommendations virtually, medically clear them virtually, and set up their appointments. The only time we need to see the patient in person is to implement the actual treatment!
K: What will the aesthetic industry look like 10 years from now?
W: We already have technology in aesthetics that allows you to either take a photo or upload a photo of yourself and see skin abnormalities, underlying sun damage, and redness not yet visible on the surface and real time aesthetic outcomes or age progression. I’m excited to see new technologies and truly believe artificial intelligence will deliver virtual makeovers and body contouring. It will be inevitable and likely commonplace in our future.
K: What is the biggest myth in the aesthetic industry?
W: A big myth in aesthetic dermatology is that the newest device or therapy on the market will supersede what is already available. This just simply isn’t the case. Now don’t get me wrong, some newer devices do offer benefits when compared to older models but be diligent and do your research. Just because there is a fancy new device, an expensive new topical cream, or an exotic new injectable does not mean it will work better than an existing treatment with a similar mechanism of action.
K: What steps should the aesthetic industry take to increase market penetration?
W: This step may seem obvious but improving marketing effectiveness is by far the most important step and this best occurs through patient education. It is also important to know who the target audience is and/or should be. The majority of aesthetic marketing is still focused on Gen Y. The audience is changing and so must the content in order to reach the younger generation. There is a large untapped market there.
K: What role do allied healthcare professionals play now in aesthetics and what role will they play 5 years from now?
W: Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician associates, play a huge role in aesthetics. This is a passionate, skilled group of people who love what they do. We know that there is a pent-up demand for aesthetic treatments and when you think about access to care, it is no secret that there are far more allied healthcare professionals than there are physicians which is why we will continue to see more and more allied healthcare professionals thrive in aesthetics. Right now, approximately 70% of aesthetic treatments are implemented by allied healthcare professionals and it’s conceivable that the percentage will be even higher in 5 years’ time.
K: I couldn’t agree more. I’m of the strong opinion that the unsubstantiated mythology of physician superiority in aesthetics is disappearing. So, what changes would you like to see take place in the aesthetic industry?
W: I’d like to see more diversity and inclusivity when it comes to race, religion, beauty, age, sexual orientation, and gender. Every aesthetic practice and beauty brand should be looking for ways to illustrate a much broader representation of our society.
K: I don’t disagree in the slightest. Now, what advice do you have for aesthetic providers to avoid ‘burnout’?
W: Know your limits and understand that it's okay to say NO. I have learned over the years that it is perfectly fine to admit when your plate is full. Don’t be afraid to delegate and supervise. It’s also important to be aware of when you are beginning to feel burned out. Take a vacation or a few PTO days, it’s your right and everyone deserves it.
K: If you weren’t an aesthetic expert, what would you do for a living?
W: Gosh this is a tough one because at this point, I truly can’t see myself in another profession. I am a huge animal lover and so if I were to switch careers, I could see myself caring for animals whether that be as a veterinarian or zookeeper.
K: What is your personal favorite aesthetic treatment to implement?
W: This is an easy one for me. I LOVE injecting. There is an artistry to injectable filler and I’ve always been a creative person with meticulous attention to detail. The instant transformation you see following a treatment is so rewarding and I live for it.
K: What is your favorite aesthetic treatment to personally receive?
W: I have two: Clear + Brilliant Touch and neuromodulators. I’m obsessed with the results I’ve personally gotten. My skin has never been clearer, and I’m constantly told I look younger than my age.
K: What advice do you have for someone not in the industry who wants to enter the field of aesthetics?
W: Find an ethical group to join that values clinical education and standardized policies, procedures, and protocols that accompany training. Aesthetics is not nearly as easy as some may think. There are a lot of nuances to being a great aesthetic practitioner and it's not for everyone. You have to have good hand and eye coordination and the ability to see what many cannot when assessing the face and body. Some people are just not cut out for it. However, this field is fun, exciting, and incredibly rewarding but you have to be ready to put in the work and continue to practice and educate yourself every day.
K: As an expert in the aesthetic industry in a powerful position, people are looking at you to lead. If you could inspire a movement in our industry, what would it be?
W: I’d like to see industry-wide improvement in patient education specifically pertaining to safety, realistic expectations, and the goal of improving one's appearance (as opposed to chasing perfection). The days of the overfilled/overdone look is OUT. We should all emphasize conservatism, safety, and embrace a normalized and youthful aesthetic.
K: How can readers get more aesthetic expert information from you?
W: Please message me on LinkedIn and follow the LaserAway Instagram page.