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Promoting Healthy Skin And Good Looks

30 March 2017 Written by  By Jay Zimmerman, M.D.
Published in April 2017 Articles

For the past five years I’ve been a dermatologist with Dr. Ed Becker at our Walnut Creek Skin and Laser (WCSL) clinic.

Last year we opened a state-of-the art clinic in Brentwood. Christine Conner-Gould, a talented PA who has been working with us for four years, is a Brentwood resident. A number of local people followed Christine from Brentwood to our Walnut Creek clinic where she worked. She soon realized that it would be convenient for herself as well as her local patients to see them in Brentwood, so three years ago we opened a small clinic off John Muir Parkway. The practice gained traction, we outgrew the small facility, and last fall opened a spacious new venue at 1200 Central Boulevard. The building is newly remodeled with dedicated rooms for specific procedures including photo-therapy, photo-dynamic therapy, photo-facial, and laser hair removal.

WHAT WE DO

At our Brentwood location we treat skin diseases and traumatic injuries to the skin. Variety is a quality that I appreciate about my work. Parents might bring in a toddler with a rash, followed by a centenarian seeking treatment for liver spots. At the end of the school day, a few young patients might come in with acne.

In addition, we deal with cosmetic-related skin problems including blemishes, sags, scales, wrinkles, and folds. Our work also involves applying a variety of treatments to remove unwanted growths, such as cancers and warts. Young people bring us their issues with acne, which is actually a catchall term referring to blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, greasy shine, boils, or scars.

At Walnut Creek Skin and Laser we obviously use lasers in treating some skin conditions. Excimer lasers, for example, provide effective treatment for mild-to-moderate psoriasis. The lasers aim a high intensity light dose directly at psoriasis plaques. The tight focused laser light has no effect on the surrounding healthy skin, eliminating the danger of collateral damage and dramatically reducing recovery time.

We perform a number of other minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. One such treatment that customers are particularly pleased with is CosmoPen, which is a high-speed micro-needling system, offering a painless and convenient alternative to chemical peeling and fractional laser treatments in treating a variety of skin conditions such as acne, surgical scars, as well as effectively treating pigmentation, wrinkles, stretch marks, and blemishes caused by aging. The procedure begins by applying a topical numbing cream, letting it set for an hour, and then using the CosmoPen to drive tiny needles in and out at high speed, effectively creating a number of micro-size wounds, causing the skin to produce collagen, a natural healing agent, that tightens up the skin. The procedure creates tiny crusted dots that heal in two days, so a person can get this done on Friday and be back to work on Monday.

Another effective treatment is a device called Ulthera. Ultherapy uses perfectly safe ultrasound technology as a natural nonsurgical process for lifting, toning, and tightening skin. The procedure is brilliant because the sound penetrates harmlessly beneath the upper layers of the epidermis and heats the deeper regions. The underlying tissue tightens up, smoothing wrinkles from the skin above the treated areas. You can picture the process by imagining how tightening an underlying sheet would serve to smooth out wrinkles in a bedspread.

Kybella, which is another innovative product in our array of dermatological tools, employs a series of 2-3 monthly injections to reduce fat underlying the chin — sometimes referred to as submental fat — without risky, uncomfortable, and costly surgery.

Kybella injections produce a minor and very temporary swelling condition, but result in a remarkable reduction of fat in the affected area. The procedure is perfectly safe because it uses a bio-salt, called deoxycholic acid, which the liver produces as a natural process. When injected into the skin, the bio-salt creates a chemical reaction that melts away body fat. FDA only approved the procedure in April 2015, so we are still one of the few early adopters of the procedure. Patients sometimes wish we could perform injections in other problem areas, such as bellies, thighs and love handles, but at this point, the FDA has approved it only for the double-chin area.

BACK STORY

I was raised in a cornfield in Springfield, Illinois. My folks worked for the state. I attended Northwestern and then attended the University of Chicago Medical School, which has the unmelodic title of Pritzker School of Medicine. I was doing Ear, Nose, and Throat rotation and thought about declaring that as my specialty. Everything changed when I sat at a table with some dermatologists at an event. By the end of the meal they had talked me into becoming a dermatologist by describing the advantages of working in the field including the fact that patients are actually happy to come see you, for the most part. I have a surgical mindset and was also attracted by the opportunity of performing numerous small procedures on the skin for such small things as removing moles, skin tags, and warts. So when it came time to declare my specialty, I gave up my inclination to do Ear, Nose, and Throat and chose Dermatology.

I completed my residency in dermatology at UCLA. Two area demographics became wonderful resources for gaining experience in treating skin. One came from the area’s beautiful Hollywood people who would go to any length to ensure that no pimple, mole, or blemish of any kind would mar their perfect complexions. They regarded signs of aging as an enemy force and we dermatologists were enlisted as front line warriors in doing battle against the growing invasion of wrinkles, liver spots, and varicose veins.

Another demographic in the area provided a steady supply of dermatolog­ical challenges to practice on. The area’s beach bum and surfer population produced a steady flow of patients seeking relief from the burns and rashes caused by overexposure to the region’s merciless sunshine as well as treatment for incidents from the skin cancer epidemic that was beginning to take hold at that time. I moved readily among these people because I was spending time with them on the beaches at Santa Monica, Zuma, and Malibu. I took surfing lessons, swam, and rode my bike along the coast.

As we grow nearer to summer, people will come in seeking attention to blemishes on parts of their bodies formerly concealed by sweaters and jeans that their Speedos and bikinis will soon reveal to the world. Of course, APRIL 2017 110MAG.COM 17

when the summer sunshine fades into fall, they will be returning to us for treatments of the burns, rashes, and skin cancers that exposure to the sun has created.

In spite of my water sports, I was chief resident by the time I completed my residency in 2006. I took my board exam, became board certified, and began to look for work. A single winter in California cured me of ever buying a ticket back to Illinois. I followed up some leads in the Bay Area, got a position at WCSL with Doctor Becker, and after two years was invited to be a partner in the business. I was the first person he took on as a partner. The business is growing and now there are six of us.

Working with the other people in the clinic, with our patients, and especially with Dr. Becker has proved to be continu­ally interesting and enjoyable. Dr. Becker is one of the nicest guys I know. When I tell people that I work with Dr. Ed Becker, a typical response is for them to say, “I love Dr. Becker!”

I’m a long way from those Southern California beaches, but I still haven’t given up my love for water sports. I enjoy sailing on the Bay and am certified to handle sailboats up to 40 feet. I regularly go kite boarding on the Sacramento river while our two daughters, aged 8 & 10, enjoy splashing in the waves on their foam surfboards. In the winter we exchange kite boards and foam boards for snowboards at North Star.

Life is best when you learn to derive happiness, satisfaction, and a sense of fulfillment from both work and play. Catching some air with my kite while upwind from a supertanker heading past Sherman Island bound for the Port of Sacramento is amazing, of course. But seeing the happy relieved smile on a face that is finally clean and smooth following a psoriasis flare up is wonderful too. Perhaps even better!

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