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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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This judgment also comes into play in situations that involve being influenced by others in the industry. Schlessinger admits that it can be challenging to trust your own instincts when making decisions that could end up being crucial to your practice and patients. “We all have our inner voice and many times it is the right voice that we have to listen to, but unfortunately, all too often, we don’t listen to that voice and are able to go down a wrong path because it is easier to follow everyone else,” warns Schlessinger. He recalls trusting his instincts when approached about using questionable lasers and fillers in his practice. “Had we injected those fillers into patients, it would’ve been a terrible mistake and potentially would have led to lawsuits and other unfortunate occurrences. Sometimes it makes more sense to do something that is contrary to popular opinion,” he says.

Marketing is another aspect of the business that requires diligence, says Schlessinger, who personally writes and reviews all marketing and advertising campaigns before they are released to the public. “That’s something that’s so overwhelmingly important, you can’t afford to delegate it, in my mind. There is a fine line when advertising becomes obnoxious or untrue. A physician risks presenting an unrealistic vision of what the patient is going to have done to them,” says Schlessinger.

Through it all, he remains steadfast in his own evaluation of his performance. “I don’t always look at myself as doing things right; I actually look at myself as doing things wrong and ask how I can improve them. I’m doing well because I constantly critique myself and have that nagging doubt that I’m not doing well. It’s important for people to look at themselves critically and welcome that criticism to improve themselves,” he says.


This type of advice and education is something Schlessinger sought to share with other physicians through his conference, Cosmetic Surgery Forum, which was held in December 2009 in Las Vegas. “It is something I have always dreamed of doing because I have strong ideas about how education can be entertaining and informative in dermatology and cosmetic surgery,” he says, explaining how he works on offering education in a more spontaneous way, allowing physicians and cosmetic surgeons to interact and really see what others are going through.

Education has always played an important role in Schlessinger’s life, stemming from the influence of his top mentors, his parents, who are both retired college professors. He credits them for their parenting skills and their role in helping him realize the importance of his practice. Both play an active part in editing Schlessinger’s research articles, of which he has written more than 60, as well as his marketing efforts, and offer guidance for all aspects of his practice. He also has worked for more than 12 years interviewing potential students for Brown University, one of his alma maters, and has served on the local public school education foundation for six years, continuing on an honors committee for that organization to this day.