From Family Practice to Aesthetics: Dr. Sherly Soleiman’s Journey
Sherly Soleiman, MD, was a practicing family physician when a filler procedure changed her career forever.
Dr. Soleiman had gone in for a filler procedure to a local doctor, but the treatment didn’t go as planned. “I thought I was bruised and that the bruise wasn't going away,” says Dr. Soleiman, of Sherman Oaks, California. “And it wasn't until months later that someone told me it could have been caused by the product that was injected and that it should be reversed.” Once it was reversed, she wanted to understand for herself how to properly inject the product, so she started digging into aesthetics. “The more I learned, the more intrigued I got,” Dr. Soleiman mentions. "And the more I felt like, 'I could do this better and I want to do it better, not just for myself but for other people too.'"
So, when Dr. Soleiman opened her medical office in 2008, she started offering both medical and aesthetic services. And then the aesthetic side “just grew and grew,” as the patient demand for that side of the practice was greater. The aesthetics schedule suited her lifestyle better too, as a mom of three children. “I didn't have to be on call as much, and the hours weren't as demanding,” she says. There were also fewer dealings with insurance companies, which was a welcome change for her solo practice.
Fast forward to 2021, and Dr. Soleiman is the founder, provider, and medical director of an established aesthetics practice, specializing in minimally invasive aesthetic treatments including filler, neurotoxins, lasers, threads, microneedling, radiofrequency, and more for patients in the southern California area, especially Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. She is also a medical facial aesthetic trainer for large pharmaceutical companies and is actively involved in clinical research on multiple injectables studies.
See how Dr. Soleiman transitioned from family practice to a career in Medical Aesthetics, and how her experience can guide you along your journey in your aesthetics career, no matter where you’re starting out.
Family medicine can be a great foundation for aesthetics.
An aesthetic treatment is still a medical procedure, so her background in family practice helps her as an aesthetic injector.
With a BA in Biology from California State University, Northridge and an MD degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Dr. Soleiman understands patients’ various medical backgrounds—whether they’re immune deficient, have multiple allergies, have a history of keloid scarring, have hypersensitivity, or delayed onset hypersensitivity—and knows how to avoid risks. “Just understanding medicine in general makes me more comfortable and more able to handle any complications that may arise,” she explains.
Consider dabbling in the arts to hone your eye for Medical Aesthetics.
Dr. Soleiman bought DVDs, books, and attended trainings in injectables to learn techniques specific to Medical Aesthetics; she knew she could have a deeper understanding of facial dynamics and the proportions of the face.
In one of her training classes, she remembers an instructor asking if she “appreciated the deficiency in an area of the face.” “I kept staring and I could not appreciate anything,” Dr. Soleiman recalls. “And I thought to myself, ‘I really need to appreciate the face a little bit better.’” That's when she decided to take sculpting classes. “Just trying to create sculptures where you have to make both sides symmetric, and add and remove as needed, forced me to see the proportions of the face—and the deficiencies—better,” she says.
Dr. Soleiman, always an art lover, spent a year following her medical residency taking a full load of art courses, from sculpture to yoga to piano to dance— even swimming. All of those courses helped her grow that part of her interest, balancing her background in science with an education in the arts.
Some of the best training comes from connections.
With fewer Medical Aesthetics resources available at the time than there are now, Dr. Soleiman tried to research the field online but ended up getting her best education from other injectors. One beginner training course in injectables featured a renowned injector, who is now one of Dr. Soleiman’s partners. “It was at that meeting that he evaluated my face and explained what had happened to me,” she says. “And ever since then, he’s been my mentor. He really helped pave the way for me in a lot of ways.”
It was through aesthetics manufacturers that Dr. Soleiman expanded her connections in the industry. She took hands-on trainings offered by pharmaceutical companies and paid to shadow various injectors so she could watch and learn from their techniques. “I still have my notebook where I recorded how much neurotoxin to use in each area,” she recalls.
Consider the perks of Medical Aesthetics vs general medicine for you personally.
After residency training at the University of California, Irvine, Dr. Soleiman took shifts at large hospitals as an urgent medical and surgical care physician. “The urgent care shifts gave me the opportunity to choose how many hours I wanted to work and how many days a week I wanted to work in order to not miss my children's performances, to get involved with their schools, and to really enjoy that stage of my life as a mom,” she recalls.
As her kids got older and her youngest went off to school, she then opened her own practice, offering both medicine and aesthetics in a space that she rented from her brother’s medical office, which helped her save on overhead costs. She did that for four to five years, but it was never easy—and it wasn’t necessarily a great fit for her logistically or professionally.
“It was very difficult to be a single physician practicing in my own office because the overhead of a medical practice for a single practitioner is difficult to take on, especially as a part-time physician and with being on call all the time,” Dr. Soleiman explains. “So, at some point I had to either join a medical group or just let the family practice go all together. I could not keep up with all of the requirements for a medical office by myself.”
While there are aspects of a career in Medical Aesthetics that doctors might not deal with in other specialties, like handling patient expectations, marketing and PR, and business acumen, there are also numerous perks, including more family-friendly hours, not having to deal with insurance companies, and, for Dr. Soleiman, professional satisfaction.
“In family practice, I felt like a jack of all trades, but a master of none. Whereas with injectables,” she states, “I was able to focus and become extremely detail-oriented, which happens to be very congruent with my personality. I realized I really enjoy being super-specialized, and this field allowed me to achieve that.”
Keep training to stay current in this ever-evolving field.
“I don't think you can ever know too much,” says Dr. Soleiman, who took advantage of trainings led by pharmaceutical companies as well as all the seminars and conventions she could manage to get up to speed initially. “I attended every single lecture, took very detailed notes, and went over them like I did when I would take finals in medical school,” she says. “I took it very seriously.”
To this day, she still attends all the trainings that are offered. “I feel like there are always small tweaks that I can make, new things in the pipeline to learn about, and different gadgets that I can have in my office to help make the patient experience better,” Dr. Soleiman says.
For new practitioners, Dr. Soleiman recommends webinars with reputable injectors and in-person training whenever possible. “I think hands-on is always helpful,” she says. “If you can go watch someone inject—maybe a preceptorship or shadowing— do that, or request support from colleagues within your office or from the manufacturing companies that offer trainees hands-on training in their products.”
Be prepared for all the marketing demands.
You won’t get much experience with marketing in medical school, so get ready to take on new tasks—and call for backup as needed.
Up until just a few years ago, Dr. Soleiman was a one-woman show, building her own website (she used the template system from an online source) and developed her own social media channels, which is its own can of worms. That’s why Dr. Soleiman now has a manager, an in-house marketing person, as well as an SEO company and other specialists for that support. “I feel a little less weight on my shoulders having that support structure,” she says, “but there are just so many different platforms that you can never do it all. You have to just pick and choose.”
Consider sharing your expertise with your community.
Not just an injector, Dr. Soleiman is also a speaker, trainer, and researcher. “The aesthetics community helped me, and I like to pay back to the community,” she says. While teaching, she always learns a lot and meets experienced colleagues who have helped her hone her business or injection techniques.
She also does trainings—one-on-one or hands-on trainings with multiple people—from beginner level to advanced and believes it lifts the whole field. “If everyone in our community does a good job, then it will help us grow better,” she states. “When there's one bad injector getting bad results, patients get scared off from the industry, so it helps to try to help everyone achieve consistently good results.” It's also safer for patients when practitioners have a solid mastery of anatomy because it helps to achieve the patient’s goals.
Dr. Soleiman has gotten involved in clinical research, which helps her know upcoming trends in the field. Being part of manufacturers’ advisory boards has also helped her meet other experienced injectors and aesthetic key opinion leaders she looks up to.
Save time and boost patient education by adding information to your website.
Dr. Soleiman refers patients to videos on her site both before and after procedures. “I think video is a great way to show potential clients what the procedure is all about, so they know what to expect and they're not as scared,” she notes. Her practice also issues handouts, emails, and texts that go out to patients with additional information. “I'm very meticulous about making sure anything that gets published is in my words, is approved by me, and does not contain any information that I don't agree with,” she adds.
Cultivate role models for inspiration.
The doctor who first educated Dr. Soleiman about her filler experience is still a motivational figure for her today. “He’s someone I aspired to be like,” she says, adding that there are a lot of people she looks up to. “There are characteristics I find valuable in many different individuals, whether it be in the aesthetic industry, in business, or in the ways people balance their lives.”
Although Dr. Soleiman is certainly a mentor to many practitioners, including her staff, she doesn’t like the term. “Because it creates a hierarchy,” she explains. “I just feel like we're all friends. And we're all mentors for each other. I'm a mentor for the staff and they’re mentors for me.”
Keep in mind Dr. Soleiman’s key takeaways.
“Patient psychology and art are just as important as working on your injection skills,” she says.
“It is harder than you think. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. And just because it is an aesthetic treatment, doesn't mean that it's not a medical procedure, so each procedure has to be taken seriously. Do your learning and research before starting; you can never learn too much. It's an ever-changing industry and you have to be able to adapt and keep up.”
Lastly, pursue a career in Medical Aesthetics only if you believe in it. “Don't do it for financial reasons—because it will show and patients can pick up on that,” she says. “Do it because you love it.” From there, it will be easy to learn and do it right. “When you love it, it won’t feel like hard work.”
About Sherly Soleiman, MD
Sherly Soleiman, MD, is a board-certified physician and injectables expert as well as founder, provider, and medical director of her practice. A specialist in her field, she is an advisor to several manufacturers where she discusses her ideas to help improve the industry and is a sought-after aesthetics trainer.