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Steven H. Dayan, MD, FACS: A Difference-maker

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: January 28, 2010, from the November 2009 issue of
Dr. Steven H. Dayan and a student practice injections.

As the father of three daughters, Dayan believes many of the lessons he has learned in his practice have made him a better parent. Photography by Michelle CD Mueller, Michelle CD Mueller Photography

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So, what’s the secret of Dayan’s success? He says that, although communication is key, understanding and meeting the needs of your patients and staff are crucial, and none of that can be done unless you are an outstanding leader. “Nothing compares with you doing the work,” he says. “If the leadership’s not there, the practice doesn’t succeed. You lead by example. If you work hard and treat people great, your staff will, too. That comes from you. You’ve got to be ethical and honest; if you’re dishonest, you’ll lose them in a heartbeat.”

And ethics is a word Dayan knows well, as he was recently awarded the 2008 Leadership Award from the American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation. The 56 recipients of this award have been recognized for demonstrating outstanding nonclinical leadership skills in advocacy, community service and education.

Dayan isn’t one to keep the lessons he has learned to himself. He is the author of four books, including Keys to Success: Marketing & Practice Management (College of Cosmetic Medicine Press, 2007); Instant Beauty: The Complete Consumer’s Guide to the Best Nonsurgical Cosmetic Procedures (Hatherleigh Press, 2008); Thrive: Pearls to Prosper in Any Economy (College of Cosmetic Medicine Press, 2009); and his newest book, Mastering Medical Esthetics (College of Cosmetic Medicine Press, 2009).

Of course, not only is Dayan an author, he also is an avid reader, often finishing two books a week and favoring nonfiction titles related to the people who inspire him, including Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln. “I’m inspired by some of the great men who inspire everyone. I do think all the great people who make a difference and are remembered in history have to be criticized. Those people stuck with what they believed was right and true, and history has remembered them for it. Had Einstein been so involved in the establishment, he probably wouldn’t have made all of his advances,” explains Dayan.

Failure is mandatory

In spite of all his successes, Dayan also insists that failure is mandatory. He shares this philosophy with everyone in his life, from his staff of 22 to his three daughters at home. He does admit, however, that this isn’t an easy concept for physicians to accept. “Surgical training and medical training are not consistent with growing and building a practice mostly because, as a surgeon in training, you are not allowed to fail. If you fail, someone dies or you get sued. You are not allowed to admit you failed. Nothing could be further from the truth in real life,” he says. “Progress doesn’t occur without failure first. It has to be controlled, but you have to fail. Everyone who works with me knows you have to fail 25% of the time or you can’t work for me. We have to talk about failures and figure out solutions, but it is clear to me that it is beneficial.”