Wendy W. Lee, M.D., M.S., says creativity is what drove her to specialize in oculoplastic surgery, completing a two-year oculoplastic fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, after her residency in ophthalmology at Tulane University Medical Center, New Orleans.
“Oculoplastic surgery fits my personality because of the creativity involved, interesting surgeries, wide variation of disease processes and pathology. I never get bored,” she says.
Today, Dr. Lee is associate professor of clinical ophthalmology and dermatology, and director of the Bascom Palmer Aesthetics Center, which is part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Fla.
About one-third of her academically-based practice is aesthetics, while the rest is functional.
“I’m passionate about the field, and I believe it’s an important part of an ophthalmology practice,” says Dr. Lee, who trains providers from ophthalmology, dermatology, plastic surgery and ENT, among other specialties, and helps guide them in adding aesthetics to their practices.
Dr. Lee shares her insight about ophthalmology and aesthetics with The Aesthetic Channel.
The Aesthetic Channel: What kinds of facial aesthetic challenges do you address with your patients?
Dr. Lee: We do an entire comprehensive cosmetic consultation to include everything from topical skin care, to injectables, including botulinum toxins and dermal fillers, to neck injectables. Then, we get into devices, such as laser and light therapy, as well as surgical options. Each consultation is tailored to the individual patient.
The Aesthetic Channel: What types of surgery?
Blepharoplasty (upper and lower lids) and brow lifts are the most common cosmetic surgeries that we do.
The Aesthetic Channel: Your practice—the entire group—ranges from general to aesthetic ophthalmology, correct?
Dr. Lee: Bascom Palmer Eye Institute offers services covering the gamut of ophthalmic subspecialties and even includes optometry and contact lens services.
Aesthetic Channel: How does aesthetics fit into the practice philosophy?
Dr. Lee: Aesthetics fits into my practice philosophy as an oculoplastic surgeon because it completes the package of comprehensive care for my patients. Although not every patient will be interested in this part of my practice, I find it valuable to have for those patients who are interested and would benefit from this type of care.
Oculoplastic surgery is the primary department within the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute that offers cosmetic services. But aesthetics is becoming very popular across multiple specialties within ophthalmology and outside. Within ophthalmology, I am aware of many corneal specialists and general ophthalmologists who are incorporating aesthetics into their practice. Outside of ophthalmology, I train dentists, nurse practitioners, pediatricians, neurologists, OB/GYNs, etc.
The Aesthetic Channel: What challenges have you run into when incorporating aesthetics?
Dr. Lee: Unique to my practice at a large, multi-specialty eye institute, patients are not aware that there are aesthetic services offered here when they come for their eye care.
There are also barriers associated with being at an academic institution as far as getting started and outfitting an aesthetic office. When I saw that there was a void in cosmetic medicine at the institute, I made the decision to incorporate this aspect of care. I sought out training in this area on my own during my fellowship by rotating with cosmetic dermatology. I reached out to aesthetic companies to learn about their products and devices, then brought what I believe were the best products for my patients into the practice. Many of the devices are expensive and need to be approved by the university, which takes time, patience and persistence, unlike in a private practice where there may be more autonomy.
The Aesthetic Channel: For the general ophthalmologist who is reading this, what does he or she need to do to incorporate cosmetics into practice?
Dr. Lee: What I recommend is when they decide they want to incorporate aesthetics, number one, they have to learn about it and be passionate about it. There are many resources in the literature. Meetings offer other great learning opportunities and hands-on experience is available both through CME-offered courses and through trainings set up through the aesthetic companies. We are also developing a website for aesthetic medicine that will offer online CME courses, videos and lectures by well-known aesthetic providers.
Once one has a solid knowledge base they can set up accounts with the aesthetic companies. Then, start to build your patient clientele through marketing, social media, etc. The aesthetic companies are very helpful when it comes to marketing and practice building.
At the beginning, it may be necessary to integrate aesthetic patients into functional clinics. But as the aesthetic practice grows, these patients can be separated into a cosmetic clinic on a given day, depending on the practice’s setup.
As for the interior design, most of the offices I’ve visited to train are beautiful already, so you don’t necessarily need a separate aesthetics waiting room. But some providers design a private area for numbing and check in/check out to make their patients more comfortable.
The Aesthetic Channel: When purchasing devices, how do you decide what to buy or rent?
Dr. Lee: Technology is constantly changing, so it’s important to be knowledgeable and learn about each one and decide what fits your patient profile best and what’s most appropriate for your practice. That takes visiting exhibit floors, going to lectures on the different products and reading the literature. For example, we have a device lecture and lab at the American Academy of Ophthalmology [annual meeting], where people can come in and demo the different devices.
So, I think it’s important to get a good education and a good knowledge base about the different products. See what fits your practice and your patient profile; then, make an educated decision.
The Aesthetic Channel: How has aesthetics affected your bottom line?
Dr. Lee: Aesthetic medicine has the potential to add a lot to any practice’s bottom line. In an academic setting it is more of a challenge to filter out these details, but my bottom line is that I have incorporated and grown aesthetics into my practice because I’m truly passionate about it.