Congratulations, Dr. Lupo. You are the first recipient of New Orleans Doctors’ Choice Awards in Dermatology 2014! What are your thoughts on being the first winner?
Well it is always nice to be the first. I think what’s more important is that you’re chosen by your peers around the country and that’s always a very nice thing.
Dr. Lupo, how significant or how essential is it for dermatologists to belong to a professional association or organization as they continue to practice?
Well, being a member of organizations such as the American Academy of Dermatology or the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery means that it gives you access to your peers; that you can go to meetings and learn more about the advances in your practice and in your specialty.
You have received great reviews from other leaders in the medical industry. What would you like to tell them?
Well, thank you. I think that a lot of the people who reviewed me are people that are equally impressive, and we know each other because we’ve shared the podium over the years at various meetings or we’ve been on clinical studies together for FDA approval of new materials and drugs, or they’ve actually spent time in my office in the form of doing mentorships or Pre-sector ships which I do quite a bit of through the WDS and the ASDS.
Is there anything you’ve actually like to tell them?
It motivates me to continue to do more and better things. It always keeps you engaged in your profession when you interact with other people who keep you doing your best.
I understand that you teach medical students and other training practitioners while also participating in clinical research on new products in your field. How do you think these dual roles help set you apart?
Well I spent quite a bit of time training residents, and through a CME meeting called the cosmetic boot camp, of which I am founding co-director, I had the opportunity to meet literally hundreds of other physicians around the country and around the world. I really feel that when you teach it forces you to stay at the very top of your game, and it keeps me stimulated. It allows me to do the very best for my own patients as I’m training the next generation.
How did you get into the field of dermatology?
I was interested in dermatology since I was a 16 year old. I had to go to a dermatologist and I thought it was a very intriguing field. Once I got into medical school, what drew me to dermatology was the variety. I’m a person that really needs variety. I love the fact that I can take care of all age groups in dermatology, that my practice for years was a blended practice of medical and aesthetic, and although I’m mostly aesthetic and cosmetic these days, I still had to deal with acne, rosacea, and pigmentation problems. So it’s variety that I crave and constant stimulation. Dermatology has been so ever evolving and we really have been at the forefront of the non-surgical skin rejuvenation. And since 1983, as a chief resident I’ve been very much a part of that transition and evolution.
Was there a specific moment that you wanted to be a dermatologist?
Well when I decided to go and really take the branch of cosmetic dermatology was really in 1983. I was a chief resident at Tulane and we were learning how to do dermabrasion. Dermabrasion is a very aggressive technique to resurface severely acne scarred skin. And I learned at a meeting about a newly FDA approved product called Zyderm and ZyPlast, which were the very first FDA approved dermal fillers and they were injected underneath the skin to improve the contours. And I went to the acting chief at dermatology at Tulane, Dr. Larry Milikan, and I said, you know Dr. Milikan I really want to learn how to do these injectable fillers while I’m a resident, because I really think this is going to be a trend. And I want Tulane to be at the forefront. So I actually started a clinic when I was chief resident where we did Zyderm and ZyPlast, we did light chemical peels and we were doing sclerotheraphy for leg vein injections. So we really began to do these non-invasive procedures very early on. And then when I finished in 1984, I continued on for 30 years I was the director at the clinic for the residents. And then in 2005 Dr. Vic Narurkar, Dr. Kenneth Beer, and I started the cosmetic boot camp and we basically bought their tradition of injectable teachings, because by that time we had a number of other fillers and we had neuromodulation with Botox products, and we had very interesting lasers. So we began to have more tools that we could really make meaningful differences in people’s appearance non-surgically. So we started cosmetic boot camp in order to advocate for non- surgical rejuvenation, and begin to teach another generation of younger doctors the techniques.
I love your commitment to continuing education. What postgraduate programs do you work with, and what advice do you have for other dermatologists with regard to continuing education?
Continuing medical education is essential in order to keep you at the forefront of your profession. It doesn’t matter what your specialty is, you must do continuing medical education because medicine is ever evolving. Regarding my other activities, besides training the residents in Tulane, I actually have preceptorships at my office and accept residents that apply for preceptor grants from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery as well as the Women’s Dermatological Society. And through notoriety, I’ve actually had practicing physicians from as far away as India come spend time in my office to learn my non-surgical injection techniques.
What skin conditions are commonly treated in your office?
Well, the vast majority of my patients come to me for injections. For dermal fillers, for global volumization, for improved skin texture, for improvement of dynamic wrinkles. I use a combination of injectable materials and laser energy devices such as radio frequency and ultrasound devices, as well as laser pulsed light devices, in order to make meaningful differences but natural differences in how people look. My goal is always to make patient feel better about how they look to give them a sense of empowerment and to make them feel active. I also want my patients to feel, when they look in the mirror that they just look like a better version of themselves. I don’t ever want a patient to look weird or different. So, I’m a poster child I think for understanding that the normal average woman just wants to look like the very best version that she can possibly look, and that’s what I try to deliver to my patients every day.
You are a master at testing the latest aesthetic procedures in skin rejuvenation. What skills do you think have been important to your success?
I think curiosity about things has been very important to my success. I think a constant desire to learn, a constant desire to get better every day, and I am never a person who would be comfortable resting on her laurels. I feel like every day is an opportunity for me to make a difference in a patient’s life. To make them feel better about themselves and how they look and feel about themselves and the face that they project to the world. So it is very gratifying to have patients come back and tell me how happy I made them when they went to that special event and they were glowing and looked good, and they feel better about themselves.
Running a highly successful and respected dermatology practice such as yours must take considerable leadership skills. What three leadership techniques do you think are most important in a medical practice?
I think the number one thing is to listen. I think you must listen to your patients, and you must listen to your employees. Communication is key! You know I think that without communication you can’t really deliver a good job for your patients. And the office in general will fall short of what you can achieve if there’s not good communication between the employees. I’d say listening is very, very important.
The second thing that I think is important is curiosity. A desire to constantly learn; to constantly advance. I think the third thing is to have an element of respect for your patients, and for your employees, and that they know that you have an open door. If a patient comes they know that I’m going to listen to their needs. I’m going to hopefully, adequately communicate what I see is how to achieve their goals. So, it’s a conversation. It’s not a one-way directive of me telling the patients what to do. I like to get feedback from my patients and I like to be able to have an open dialogue with my patients and with my employees.
Tell us about a time when you had to face a challenge as a leader.
Well I think the challenge you face as a leader is with your employees. You know sometimes there is dissent in an office. There are personality differences, and I think the most important thing that I do when I’m challenged is recognize that it’s a challenge with managing employees. If all I had to do is take care of patients, my life would be very easy. I think the challenge is more in the business and administration of medicine and unfortunately in order to look to deliver excellent care to my patients I need to support staff and sometimes the biggest challenge is making sure that everyone is on the same page at the same time.
Do you think collaboration and networking among physicians through services and programs such as Doctors’ Choice Awards plays an important role in the success of the modern medical professional?
Absolutely, I think that any time doctors can communicate with each other whether it be sharing trends, sharing thoughts and new innovations, or sharing strategies on how to deliver more efficient and excellent care to their patients, or how to manage a practice. I think all of these things we all learn from each other and again it’s constant. You know being a doctor these days is almost like being in a chess match. You do what you think is right but then life comes at you with a move and sometimes you’re kind of surprised and you need to make an adjustment. So you have to be very nimble. You have to have the ability to see a change. Hopefully ahead of when most people see a trend. I’ve consider myself very, very lucky and very proud of the fact that I saw the trend of non-surgical rejuvenation back in 1983 and it didn’t even become mainstream for another 20 years or so. So I’m very proud of that innovative directive that I took with my practice.