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New institute to provide 'comfort zone' for male cosmetic surgery patients

Article-New institute to provide 'comfort zone' for male cosmetic surgery patients

Key iconKey Points

  • To attract more male patients, make it a 'front-burner issue,' surgeon says
  • Having male employees on staff may make male patients feel more comfortable

Dr. Alster
A new male-only aesthetic institute will aim to offer the masculine touches necessary for succeeding with male patients, says Tina S. Alster, M.D., director, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, Washington.

In January 2013, Dr. Alster plans to open the Skin & Laser Institute for Men as an offshoot of her existing practice. To her knowledge, she says, the new institute will be the first dermatologic surgery institute designed exclusively for men.

Dr. Keaney
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX Dr. Alster says the idea for the male-only institute came from Terrence Keaney, M.D., a fourth-year dermatology resident at the University of Miami whom Dr. Alster will be training in a laser surgery fellowship this summer and fall.After spending significant time shadowing various doctors and attending cosmetic surgery conferences during his training, Dr. Keaney says he was struck by the scarcity of male patients being treated in clinics and featured in conference presentations or studies. Seminars and publications regarding concepts of beauty invariably focused on female beauty.

"Men tend to have different concerns as they age than women do," he says. "And I was surprised that on the academic side, there hasn't been much study regarding the gender differences in aging and cosmetic enhancement."

Dr. Keaney says he proposed the strategy of appealing to and studying male patients to Dr. Alster in summer 2011, when he worked with her as part of an American Society for Dermatologic Surgery mentorship program.

"She was very interested in the idea and had me flesh it out on paper to try to figure out how the male institute could attract those men who might otherwise be reluctant, or not even consider cosmetic procedures," he says.

Dr. Alster says that on the clinical side, "On a day-to-day basis, only about 10 to 15 percent of my patients are men." According to 2010 American Society of Plastic Surgeons data, men account for 9 percent of all cosmetic procedures performed by members. This represents a 2 percent increase over the number of cosmetic procedures men underwent in 2009.

Strategically, Dr. Alster says, male patients have always been important. But in the past, "We had to start where the market was strongest. Women were already coming in asking for cosmetic procedures."

SPREADING THE WORD Presently, Dr. Alster says, mass-media marketing of aesthetic treatments tends to target women. Men's magazines represent an exception, "But it's not as much related to cosmetic services as bulking up at the gym — looking good by working out rather than through cosmetic procedures."

To attract more male patients, "You must make it a front-burner issue. It's not enough just to offer the services and say, 'Of course we treat men,' which is how I've been doing it the past 21 years," she says.

Man in the mirror
Dr. Alster says she's been promoting male treatments with signs in her practice's men's restroom and with waiting-room brochures. However, "You need to make men feel comfortable in your space. Most general dermatology offices do that, but cosmetic dermatologists veer much more toward women — not on purpose. It's just how most of the brochures, videos and articles are written."

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