How to Build a Successful Community-Based Medical Aesthetics Career
Dr. Bradley Calobrace, MD-FACS, keeps people top of mind.
As the owner of 3 medical spas and a plastic surgery center—and with more locations on the way—Dr. Bradley Calobrace, MD-FACS, has a wealth of experience and enjoys sharing it with others on the international and domestic lecture circuits.
From general surgery to Medical Aesthetics.
During his third year of medical school, Dr. Calobrace did a surgery rotation, as he puts it, “just to get it out of the way.” But, to his surprise, he realized that he actually enjoyed working as a surgeon. His next rotation was as a plastic surgeon, and he discovered a passion for the field that stuck with him. What appealed to him most was the opportunity to unite surgical precision with aesthetics and variety.
“There’s only so many ways to take a gallbladder out or to do an appendectomy. But, with aesthetics, you can use your skill set to be artistic and differentiate yourself,” he explains.
He was fortunate to find a mentor who helped to shape his career into what it is today.
A mentor with a shared vision.
“I met a very well-known plastic surgeon in the U.S., especially focused on breast surgery and aesthetic procedures,” Dr. Calobrace said. “I was lucky to be the one person in the country who was selected to do his fellowship, back in 1996.”
His fellowship developed into a long-term mentorship that cemented Dr. Calobrace’s career path. His mentor influenced how he developed his private practice and eventually inspired him to become an educator and lecturer for other aspiring surgeons, especially for breast procedures.
He also points out other factors that led him to plastic surgery. “It became very clear, even in medical school, that the plastic surgeons I worked with were very happy, enjoying their careers and enjoying life. They were approachable with me, like they were approachable with their patients. It was something I wanted to emulate.”
His emotional connection to his work.
Another reason Dr. Calobrace feels so strongly connected to Medical Aesthetics is the ability to impact the quality of his patients’ lives as opposed to more quantitative outcomes from general surgery. “In plastic surgery, my experience has been that I can affect the ability to make a patient feel more comfortable in their own skin through achieving their aesthetic goals.”
The nature of Medical Aesthetics sometimes means helping patients address vulnerabilities, so building a supportive relationship with his patients is something Dr. Calobrace prioritizes. “At the end, when they want to give me a hug, it’s my opportunity to be vulnerable with them and honor that we went through an important experience together,” he says.
Becoming a breast specialist.
Although Dr. Calobrace performs a variety of aesthetic surgical procedures, he is well known as a breast surgeon for publishing innumerable articles and a textbook on the subject. When he’s not running his Louisville-based plastic surgery center, he is often traveling as a lecturer and educator.
“I think when you have studied a long time, and you write about a procedure a lot, and you think about it a lot, you just become better at it,” he said modestly.
Dr. Calobrace travels both domestically and internationally. He feels that international engagements are an important part of his career, both for learning and networking opportunities. “They’re doing really important things around the world, and there’s a lot to learn. It broadens our perspective as surgeons. But also, you gain a lot of new friends.”
Growing and adapting his practices.
Dr. Calobrace’s first practice was a plastic surgery center in Louisville, Kentucky. The state-of-the-art facility, which includes a large med spa, is 16,000 square feet with around 70 employees. He realized that, for less intensive procedures, it would be more convenient for his patients to have a med spa located closer to their homes, so he opened two additional locations in Lexington, Kentucky, and Floyds Knobs, Indiana.
“I call it a boutique spa experience. It’s important for us to have locations closer to where our patients are with our same brand and the same level of care but also in a more convenient location,” he explains.
Making patients feel comfortable is central to how Dr. Calobrace runs his practices, and that extends to what he looks for in a potential employee.
“It’s definitely a patient-centric atmosphere; it’s definitely about connectivity. We want to give our patients the highest level of service.”
Hiring for success.
Having multiple practices also provides more opportunities to bring on additional employees, especially aesthetic injectors and aestheticians. Rather than having an open role and looking for someone to fill it, Dr. Calobrace is proactive about staffing.
“We’ve learned when we are interviewing somebody, it probably means they’re looking around. So if we meet someone fantastic, we just hire them. We know they will get busy. Basically, I make myself available to hire them when they need a job and not the other way around,” he explains.
This approach allows Dr. Calobrace to expand his service offerings to patients while also expanding his geographic reach. Investing in new employees means investing in growth for both his current and future practices and his staff.
He will find a place for a prospective employee who wants to get a foot in the door, usually as a med spa coordinator at the front desk. This allows for the opportunity to eventually transition and grow into a role within the practice that aligns with their personal career goals. It also gives his employees hands-on experience in multiple areas and functions.
“I've never said practice makes perfect. I've always said perfect practice makes perfect. Which means that you're always working hard to make everything more perfect.”
Helping others grow professionally in many ways.
In addition to giving lectures and creating educational materials, Dr. Calobrace is the director of a fellowship program; he also mentors others and provides opportunities for shadowing or preceptorships. He explains the distinction between the three.
“A fellowship is part of a training program and the formal education of a plastic surgeon to move forward. It is a one-year fellowship endorsed by the Aesthetic Society for surgeons wanting to focus on aesthetic surgery. The fellowship is an extremely important part of the education process. We have a new fellow every year, but we also enjoy training the plastic surgery residents from both the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.”
As a mentor (and also a mentee), Dr. Calobrace describes it as a vitally important but looser relationship. “A mentor is a resource that someone can look up to, learn from, ask questions, get career inspiration and direction.”
He shares, “We host from 30 to 50 plastic surgeons each year, often through individual visits or more structured preceptorships.” Preceptorships are when a practitioner attends a few days of surgeries, lectures, patient consultations, and postoperative follow-ups. These experiences are formalized, but in a shorter time frame and are not ongoing. However, they can be very effective learning opportunities. “It’s amazing how formidable a couple of days can be for energizing somebody. It can give them a new direction, a way to do things a little differently, and the confidence to do the new things that they learned themselves,” he says.
Another way Dr. Calobrace wants to help move the medical field forward is by valuing inclusion. As a gay man, he was underrepresented among other residents in medical school. Today as a recognized key opinion leader in his field, Dr. Calobrace uses his platform to bring awareness to his experience and the ongoing need for social change. “We want to be more inclusive, and we want to do better and be better,” he says.
A few parting words.
Dr. Calobrace’s experience as an educator and a practitioner truly illustrates the continuous feedback loop that makes Medical Aesthetics an exciting field that continues to grow, shift, and innovate.
He says, “For those who want to get into Medical Aesthetics, your learning starts today. It continues on, and you keep learning.”
About Dr. Bradley Calobrace, MD-FACS
Dr. Calobrace is a graduate of Indiana University Medical School and completed residencies in both general surgery and plastic surgery at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Subsequently, he completed an aesthetic and breast surgery fellowship and began practice in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1997. He has dual clinical faculty appointments with the departments of plastic surgery at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky and received teaching honors in 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Dr. Calobrace also is the director of his aesthetic surgery fellowship endorsed by the Aesthetic Society. Dr. Calobrace is a board-certified plastic surgeon and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Aesthetic Society, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and the Kentucky Society of Plastic Surgeons. In addition, he has received numerous Top Doc awards and recognition from patients, peers, and many professional organizations and publications. Dr. Calobrace also serves as a clinical editor for the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.