Dermatologist Dr. Sabrina Fabi’s Suggestions for Getting Your Foot in the Door
As demand continues to grow for aesthetic injectables, lasers, skin tightening and other aesthetic treatments, many students and soon-to-be residents find themselves interested in entering the Medical Aesthetics industry but they are unsure what the practice entails or how to get started. Spark caught up with double board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic cosmetic surgeon Sabrina G. Fabi, MD, to discover how she became an aesthetic dermatologist and her best tips for entering the field of medical aesthetics.
Her journey started at age 12, when Dr. Fabi noticed the importance of taking care of our skin. “What you see affects your overall aesthetic,” says Dr. Fabi, who is also an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego. “I wanted to be able to do procedures on patients that would give them a result immediately or at least shortly thereafter, versus having to wait for a prescription to take three or four months to take effect. I wanted to have a little more control over the outcomes on my patients.”
A desire to truly help patients was one of Dr. Fabi’s main motivations in becoming a dermatologist. “I loved dermatology because there are a lot of conditions on the skin that people consider cosmetic but often have greater, more systemic implications,” she explains. “I need to understand why this person is presenting with these symptoms. If you don’t know the background,” she adds, “you can make it worse. Not everything is cosmetic.” Dr. Fabi went on to pursue an additional year of fellowship to become an expert in lasers, injectables, sclerotherapy and liposuction. “This is a field that’s growing today,” she says. “There are a lot more devices, injectables, and procedures than 10 years ago. It’s becoming its own specialty.”
Here are her best tips for entering the aesthetics industry:
Tip 1: Pursue a fellowship that’s right for you
Back when Dr. Fabi was getting started, there were only a handful of training programs in the country and you had to learn about them through word of mouth. Today there are many more resources and options for furthering your education, including a cosmetic procedural fellowship for dermatologists through the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. People who are in medicine but not dermatology can consider a “preceptorship,” like an apprenticeship, through the American Society of Laser Surgery and Medicine (ASLMS). “You can spend a week or month to gain more experience, or you can ask about setting up a year-long research fellowship or however much time works for you,” Dr. Fabi says. “Be creative—don’t expect positions to be made for you. You have to make them yourself,” she adds.
Tip 2: Get experience any way you can
If you’re a medical school student or even a college student interested in entering the field of medical aesthetics, Dr. Fabi recommends getting yourself into an office. “Whether you’re a file clerk, an assistant, or someone running coffee—you get the opportunity to meet physicians, nurse-practitioners and PA’s who may be able to mentor you and even give you a letter of recommendation,” Dr. Fabi says. “That person knows people who can connect you and help you advance in your journey.” Humility helps here, she says, adding: “You’re never too important to take any type of role or get any type of experience if this is something you’re serious about.” Dr. Fabi continues to gain new experience by attending professional meetings around the world, where she enjoys learning from experts in multiple specialties and with diverse opinions. “Diversity helps me to be a better doctor,” she says. So do research and writing, which help keep Dr. Fabi informed of the latest theories, practices and products, which she then uses to directly benefit her patients.
Tip 3: Having a mentor makes all the difference
Dr. Fabi credits her success to several mentors. “They coached me all along the way—about career decisions, how to manage patients and everything in between,” she says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have those four people to constantly look up to, see how they approached things and learn from that.” But if you’d like a mentor, she adds, it’s on you to find one, and let the relationship develop organically. You might ask a practitioner you admire, “Can I come spend time with you,” or say “I’d like to run something by you; can I email you or call you?” Humility helps here as well. “Of the people I’ve mentored, those who have remained humble, kind and grateful have gotten the most from me,” Dr. Fabi adds. “I don’t have time to seek out mentees but those who come to me from that place—I will make time for them.”
Tip 4: Use every resource at your disposal
According to Dr. Fabi, resources like Spark are so useful because they help you jumpstart your career. “It is a competitive landscape, so having this information well ahead of time allows you to start making decisions early on, like about working in a dermatology practice—even as a file clerk, and getting started writing papers,” she says, “so you can make yourself as competitive as possible when you apply.”