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Joel Schlessinger, MD: Priorities and Passion

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: January 29, 2010, from the January 2010 issue of
Dr. Schlessinger holds a chart in the hallway of his practice

Physician's assistant Jacqueline Clegg is Schlessinger's right-hand woman, offering her energy and intelligence to staff and patients alike. Photography by Ophir Palmon, Artistic Visions

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Schlessinger next moved to Omaha, Nebraska. “My wife’s family is in St. Louis, and I was born in Ohio, so I knew the benefits of the Midwest and its values. Omaha was close to Nancy’s family, and my family moved there when I did, so that made it possible,” says Schlessinger. In Omaha, he started up his practice in 1992 and has since been named one of America’s Top Physicians by the Consumers’ Research Council of America and is continuously voted Best Cosmetic Surgeon in Omaha by Omaha magazine. Schlessinger was a past president and one of the founders of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery, and is also affiliated with the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, American Academy of Dermatology, American Board of Dermatology, American Board of Pediatrics and American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

In spite of being one of his field’s brightest stars, Schlessinger stays close to the Midwestern sensibilities that drive his personal and business decisions, working late into the night and exercising early in the morning to maintain the hours of the day for his patients and the hours of the evening for his family, consisting of wife Nancy; 18-year-old daughter Claire, a Brown University freshman; and 15-year-old son Daniel, a high-schooler at the top of his class.

Excelling at efficiency

Since the start of his practice, Schlessinger works to excel in efficiency, looking carefully at how his practice runs and making decisions to manage it effectively, even if that means sometimes bucking popular trends and sometimes adopting them.

When he opened his practice, Schlessinger also opened three satellite offices in smaller locations outside of Omaha. “Satellite offices were a great idea initially. A lot of physicians have them, and I thought maybe I should do it, too, but I realized the efficiency of satellite offices is awful, because you took your most important people, traveled 30 minutes or an hour, set up a place that wasn’t optimal and you tried to see patients in a suboptimal manner without your supporting cast or your best instruments or your lasers or any number of other things that make perfect sense to use on a daily basis,” explains Schlessinger. “Although many doctors felt it was a good idea because they could gain clientele in an additional town, I felt I was losing money by going to the small areas and not having my full cadre of instruments and staff to make the experience one the patients wanted.”

Schlessinger made the decision in 2002 to close his satellite offices, encouraging the patients he had acquired throughout the years to come to his Omaha office instead. “I decided it wasn’t in my best interest and that was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made. Many followed us and throughout time, most of the others who didn’t initially follow us have come back. It eventually turned out to be a wise decision, and our strength was being in one area and improving that rather than diluting our reach and our strengths by going to several different areas,” says Schlessinger.