5 Things I Learned: Avon & Women’s Dermatologic Society Mentorship Program
In December, dermatologists Dr. Sabrina Fabi of San Diego and Dr. Kimberly Jerdan of Chicago teamed up with Avon and the Women’s Dermatologic Society (WDS) for an exciting two-day program. After being carefully selected as leaders in their field, the doctors visited Avon’s Global Research & Development Facility in Suffern, New York, and headquarters in New York City, to collaborate on advancements in cosmetic dermatology.
The goals of this inaugural program were to promote the concept of mentorship (with internationally recognized dermatologic cosmetic surgeon Dr. Fabi as mentor and dermatology resident Dr. Jerdan as mentee) while also providing hands-on experience and education related to the science behind product development, better understanding consumers and clinical testing of cosmetics.
During the program, Beauty for a Purpose sat down with Drs. Fabi and Jerdan, who shared insight on the top five takeaways from their experience together.
1. It’s important for women to mentor other women, in any field.
Dr. Fabi: The women involved in the Women’s Dermatologic Society are probably the strongest mentors in our field. It’s all about supporting and empowering each other, and these women inspire me to pay it forward. Being able to mentor someone like Kimberly and empower her so she can be the best expression of herself is not only in line with my professional goal, but ensures the future of our specialty will ultimately be molded and advanced by motivated self-starters like her.
Dr. Jerdan: It’s nice from a resident’s point of view to be able to partake in training with more senior mentors — so often they are not as accessible as Dr. Fabi has been. I was a first-year medical student when Dr. Fabi was a graduating resident, and although I only briefly met her at the time, I have since been able to connect with her at cosmetic dermatology conferences and work with her on research papers. Her excitement for cosmetic dermatology is infectious. She’s helped me open so many doors already.
2. Confidence, passion and kindness go a long way.
Dr. Fabi: I think the most significant barrier to leadership is a failure to believe in oneself. A quote I like by Drew Brees is something to the effect of, “sometimes all you need is for somebody to believe in you in order for you to accomplish what you may have thought you never could.” I try to empower women the way others empowered me, by inviting them to collaborate on research projects, shadowing me, working on papers together, inviting them to speak at meetings so their voice is heard and they’re recognized for their work, and giving them advice as they make career decisions. When young female residents say they want to be like me, I tell them, you want to be more than me – you want to be better than me. What drew me to Kimberly was her passion, follow through, and work ethic.
Dr. Jerdan: I am now a mentor for first-year medical students. You can see yourself in their shoes. Dermatology is one of the most competitive fields to get into, so they’re afraid when they first step in to shadow. You need to instill confidence in them and say, if you’re passionate enough about it, it will show in your work and it will happen. There’s an understanding that someone taught you, so pay it forward to teach and guide. Appreciation is important too, so I make sure to send my mentors, past and present, hand-written letters with updates and pictures from time to time.
Dr. Fabi: I have my mentors, too – I ask to collaborate with them on things so it’s an opportunity for me to showcase my passion. But like with any relationship, mentorship isn’t one-sided. Mentees have an opportunity to give back as well, through collaboration or appreciation. Write a letter. I take all of the thank-you cards I receive and hang them in my office.
3. Always keep an attainable work-life balance in focus.
Dr. Fabi: Our field is a one of the few that is more female dominated, so one sees more of a focus on work-life balance than you might find in other medical specialties. Even so, I recall early on in medical school it being ingrained in us that to have the privilege of being a doctor, medicine should always be our number one priority. Today I would say that for one to be a great doctor, one should make time for the other things they love, whether it is family, friends, or traveling. In living a more well-balanced life and doing the other things you love to do, you are able to be the best expression of yourself as a doctor and for your patients. There will always be another deadline, the next goal, the next paper. It’s important not to lose focus of what makes you happy, and it’s OK if that means that dermatology is not always number one; it doesn’t make you any less of doctor. For me, other passions include spending time with family and friends, and traveling. In order to maintain your passion, you have to be well balanced.
Dr. Jerdan: When I entered medical school, many of my peers put so much of their emphasis on education that other parts of their lives faltered. I’m close with my family and that has always remained a priority, and has kept me balanced and sane to not lose sight of the larger picture in life. I try to work hard both at work and in my own free time, so I have dedicated time for those close to me.
4. Education is an ongoing goal, at every stage of your career.
Dr. Fabi: As dermatologists, we are ultimately the skin experts. That is why I like to diversify my practice through seeking educational opportunities – and that includes educating others and myself. Avon is very research-focused, which is what was alluring to me about this particular program. I am actively involved in clinical research, so gaining insight from both a research and development and corporate perspective was invaluable. I place an emphasis on the caliber of a product and the science behind anything I recommend to my patients.
Dr. Jerdan: Growing up I was familiar with Avon and wanted to learn more about it. By attending the program at Avon Research and Development, I learned so much more about the business aspect of cosmetic dermatology and the science behind the products. It was fun learning from the passionate scientists who made what they do understandable and relatable. Most importantly, I now better understand a company with such a strong force in the dermatology field and its impact on patients worldwide. Dr. Fabi and I both have global interests for expanding cosmetic dermatology.
5. A global truth: When women look their best, they feel their best.
Dr. Fabi: Beauty really does come from within. Patients look to us to validate that, and as dermatologists we have to recognize that we are in a privileged position – both men and women come to us with their insecurities and may just need a confidence boost, not a syringe. Aesthetic concerns are never just skin deep, and having a personal understanding of that led me to want make a positive difference in helping others look and feel their best.
Dr. Jerdan: Strong, confident women surrounded me my whole life, and I have carried that mission in my dermatology pursuits to help a woman’s beauty shine through. I have three sisters and a Peruvian mother who have varying skin types and issues. Coming from a multi-cultural family and having done a medical rotation in India, I hope to empower women worldwide with quality, affordable products that help them be the best they can be.