Dermatologist and Practice Owner Dr. Stetler’s Journey in Medical Aesthetics
These examples are intended to provide information and inspiration for your journey and are not a recommendation or endorsement.
Lori Stetler, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who never planned to go into Medical Aesthetics.
After graduating summa cum laude from Baylor University in Texas and earning a medical degree at UT Southwestern Medical School, she intended to pursue a career in medical dermatology. That was 28 years ago.
Today her Dallas, Texas practice has 23 employees and a wide range of treatment offerings that include medical and aesthetic dermatology as well as surgical procedures and skincare consultations. She has been named one of the “Best Doctors in Dallas” by D Magazine every year since 2001.
See how Dr. Stetler grew her specialty and her practice over time and through major shifts in the industry, and how she works every day to create a warm, safe working environment where patients feel welcome and at home.
A career that began before the Medical Aesthetics industry took off.
When Dr. Stetler wrapped up her residency at UT Southwestern Medical School, where she had been chief resident, aesthetic dermatology had not yet made its mark.
She went into practice initially with a Mohs surgeon and a pediatric dermatologist, and for three years, she got to learn from them. “The best part was that the Mohs surgeon loved devices and techy stuff,” Dr. Stetler says. “So I got to do a lot of that and then as the aesthetic stuff came out, I got to ride that wave, which was really nice.”
A practice that grew alongside patient interest and industry innovation.
Dr. Stetler had a lot of female patients, and as interest in aesthetic procedures grew, she began doing more of them. Soon, several breakthrough skincare treatments would change the face of aesthetic dermatology, and her career.
It wasn’t by design that Dr. Stetler chose an aesthetic practice—she fell into it. “And then I found that I really loved it,” Dr. Stetler says. “I loved doing procedures, I loved taking care of women, I loved aesthetics and skincare, and it kind of evolved from there.”
“When I first went into practice, we had one choice of filler, plus a handful of lasers,” Dr. Stetler says. That filler was bovine collagen, for which you had to do a skin test, and to which there were a fair number of allergic reactions.1 “Then came neurotoxins, followed by hyaluronic acid fillers, and that’s when the trajectory of my practice shifted. I went from probably 90% medical dermatology to almost 100% aesthetic dermatology,” she says.
The freedom of being one’s own boss.
Three years into practicing dermatology, Dr. Stetler made the decision to strike out on her own. “I like controlling my environment,” she says. “I can manage employees, and I can do the procedures that I want to do.”
She found the process intimidating, but not impossible. “What I would say to anybody: You can do it,” Dr. Stetler says. “Even if you have high student loans and you’re taking out a practice loan, it can all be done, and there are resources and people to help you.”
The hardest part for Dr. Stetler was managing the business and human resources. “Like most of my dermatology peers, I went to medical school, not to business school,” she explains. “I always say I went to Hard Knocks University and I’m still a student, because there’s so much to master.”
Having a plan in place first.
Creating a business plan and setting goals means answering the hard questions up front. How would she get a loan? How many patients would she see per day, and how much revenue would she generate? What’s her ideal location? “I had been in a hospital-professional building, and as a dermatologist, I didn’t need that,” Dr. Stetler says.
She ultimately chose an office a reasonable and convenient distance from her house, and more importantly, in a neighborhood where people can afford the aesthetic services she offers.
“I think you need to know your demographic,” Dr. Stetler says. Knowing the population she was going to serve has helped her make major purchases, such as lasers and devices, that will best serve that population.
Cultivating a culture by embodying it.
The warm family environment in our practice starts at the top. “It’s how we invest in our employees, how we handle ourselves in the office, and how we treat patients,” Dr. Stetler states. “Your employees will model after you, so if they see you being kind and listening to patients, they’re more likely to do that.”
Ultimately, focusing on open communication and customer service are Dr. Stetler’s top priorities. “We want to be the best aesthetic dermatology practice in Dallas,” she states, “so we have high standards, and we want to treat our patients like they are gold.” And it’s all patients, she adds. “I don’t treat a medical patient any differently than I do an aesthetic patient—I value every single one.”
The importance of investing in future generations.
When Dr. Stetler completed her residency in 1993, she and a co-resident started a teaching clinic to train residents and she’s been teaching there ever since. “It’s fun, it keeps me engaged,” she says. “It keeps me inspired.”
It’s also a way for Dr. Stetler to give back to UT Southwestern, her alma mater. “I got so much from my medical school and residency training, so it’s a way to give back and also pay it forward to future generations,” she explains. Dr. Stetler goes to the clinic monthly to train residents, and then has them shadow her in the office. Even after the residents get jobs, they’ll still email her for advice, including how to find an office manager and how she’d handle a certain situation. “I love mentoring younger physicians,” she says.
Dr. Lori Stetler continues to lead by example and strive for excellence across her practice. Feeling inspired by her journey? Explore other SPARK content to learn more about the versatility of Medical Aesthetics.
About Lori Stetler, MD
Lori Stetler, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who served as the chief resident at the UT Southwestern Medical School during her residency. In the 1990s, with advances of technology, she decided to expand her knowledge and become a leader in the aesthetic dermatology industry. Since then, Dr. Stetler has founded her own dermatology practice.