> Becoming a Thought Leader

Spotlight On: Tina S. Alster, M.D.

What is the mission of your company?

At the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, our mission is to be top innovators and leaders in the field of cosmetic laser surgery. We are dedicated to delivering effective, results-oriented, minimally invasive treatments with the highest quality of customer service. It is our passion to help people realize their full potential through a positive self-image.

What made you decide to start the world’s first private practice exclusively devoted to laser skin treatments?

When I completed my fellowship in 1990, there were no freestanding laser centers anywhere. Lasers were exclusively used within medical centers and research laboratories. My decision to move to Washington, DC was a personal one (I was born and raised in Washington). Regrettably, there were no medical centers that wanted to hire a laser surgeon at that time. So, I started with one laser (a pulsed dye laser) and have been adding at least one laser or device annually ever since. Fortunately, I was literally at the forefront of what would become an explosive field (with the advent of skin resurfacing lasers in the mid-1990s). While these systems were highly effective and expanded our ability to deliver innovative skin rejuvenation treatments, the field has progressed even further with the advent of fractionated lasers and other devices utilizing radiofrequency, microfocused ultrasound, and cryolipolysis techniques. It’s been a natural progression to add these non-laser as well as injectable treatments to the mix. In fact, I routinely perform “megacombination” treatments, which include lasers, injectables, and other energy-based devices in a single treatment session for transformative clinical results.

What has been the greatest difficulty you’ve encountered while starting and maintaining your own dermatology practice? In the skin care business?

I faced multiple challenges: I had no contacts or mentors to whom I could turn, I had no money (I was still paying off student loans), and I was bucking the industry norm when I opened a cosmetic dermatology practice built around the nontraditional use of lasers. I basically had to bootstrap the practice and convince patients and referring physicians to trust me and believe in my vision. My skin care line emerged from my passion for providing patients with products that have active ingredients that benefit the skin and complement the treatments we provide. Everyone who is seen in the practice not only receives a complete skin exam, but also a comprehensive analysis of his or her skin care routine.

How do you acquire new patients?

Relationship building is a huge part of what makes the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery so successful. Developing relationships with our patients—really listening to their concerns and crafting a treatment plan that fits into their lifestyle—is the cornerstone of what we do. New patients come to us largely through patient and physician referrals – the latter because of our reputation for being leaders in the field. Achieving and maintaining leadership status has been nothing short of hard work. I have spent countless hours conducting studies, writing manuscripts for publication, developing treatment protocols, teaching students/residents/visiting physicians, lecturing nationally and internationally, as well as serving on a wide range of professional boards.

How do you market your practice?

I have always been a firm believer in grass roots marketing; I have never been one for paid advertising. In addition to promoting our services on our website and social media channels, I write for (and get interviewed by) a number of professional and consumer publications. Nothing is better, however, than getting in front of people and sharing your passion and dedication for what you do. While this can be accomplished on a large scale (at public forums and social gatherings), I believe that the best marketing technique is treating each and every patient as a VIP.