Dr. Tim Ioannides On: Dermatology, Preventative Care, and Medical Entrepreneurship

October 3, 2019 - By 

Within the broad scope of the general medical field, countless dedicated professionals save lives, develop cures for otherwise fatal diseases, increase the quality of life for affected individuals, and perform preventative care to ensure that individuals can lead healthy, happy, and well-rounded lives. In their respective roles, these highly trained medical professionals spearhead innovative thought, dedicate their time and energy toward the betterment of society, partake in boundary-pushing research, and advance their fields with passion, vigor, and dedication. For many, however, boundaries and limitations can exist as a result of practicing under a large-scale conglomerate, or being reliant on corporate funding for research dedications. For others, perhaps they are unable to specialize in a particular niche due to demand issues, funding, or other factors outside of their control.

While some professionals remain comfortable working under the scope of those limitations, a few highly trained and dedicated medical professionals seek to parlay their passion for a niche medical practice on their own terms. With an entrepreneurial spirit in tow, these revolutionary medical professionals manifest their dreams via opening independently operated namesake practices, where they can not only provide the highest level of medical care, but do so on their own terms, specializing in procedures and disciplines that fuel their professional passions. In the case of Dr. Tim Ioannides, CEO and Founder of the thriving multi-location Treasure Coast Dermatology, developing his practice allowed the Medical Dermatologist to focus on medically driven dermatological procedures, in lieu of the more popular cosmetically driven procedures.

Tell us a little bit about your background, and education. What initially got you interested in dermatology?

Early within my undergraduate education, I knew that I wanted to go to medical school, and pursue Medical Dermatology specifically. I was always interested in the field of dermatology, specific skin conditions, and the continued prevalence of skin cancer on a global scale. Recognizing the vast advancements within the fields of medicine, combined with the integration of groundbreaking technology within the scope of medicine, I was excited to play a part in the ever-changing medical world. In the case of skin cancer, there are so many preventive and educational aspects related to reducing incident rates, and I knew I wanted to play a role in educating the general public about preventative care, empowering the local communities to protect their skin.

Thus, I completed my doctoral internship program at the University of Florida School of Medicine Health Science Center, and subsequently received my doctoral degree from the  University of Miami School of Medicine. From there, I completed my residency program via the University of Miami School of Medicine in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital. I became Board Certified in dermatology by the American Board of Dermatology, and became a fellow member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, the American Society for Mohs Surgery, the American Medical Association, and the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery. These accreditations have allowed me to spearhead my career in Medical Dermatology, and to remain proactively involved in the field through continued accreditation, educational endeavors, and professional growth events.

You’re certified to perform specialized skin cancer surgery procedures, correct?

Yes, I perform Mohs Micrographic Surgery, which is considered the most effective surgical tool for successfully removing skin cancers. Essentially, this procedure is highly localized, and involves removing not only the cancerous tissue itself, but surrounding tissue that contains the “root” of the cancer. Sometimes, through the mere removal of only the skin cancer itself, “roots” of the cancer are left behind, and those remaining unhealthy cells can manifest themselves as recurring skin cancer. Thus, through removing the additional “root” area, we are able to provide a more comprehensive removal, until only healthy tissue is left. Additionally, this procedure allows licensed Medical Dermatologists to examine all of the tissue under a microscope, which is not the case with traditional skin cancer removal, where possibly affected surrounding tissue cannot be microscopically examined without removal. The effect, in turn, is the most effective skin cancer removal technique, which takes the least amount of skin to create the most fruitful outcome.

Obviously, this procedure is highly specialized, and requires practitioners to fulfill various criteria in order to be able to administer the procedure. Not only is specialized training required, but the procedure must be completed at a location properly equipped with the needed surgical, and laboratory equipment, as well as nursing staff trained in the procedure. As a firm believer in the efficacy of this procedure, especially on areas of the body where a recurrence of skin cancer would be devastating, I am proud to be certified in Mohs Surgery, and utilize the procedure for the benefit of my patients.

 After you completed your formal education, you entered the workforce for an established Dermatological practice before developing your own practice. What was that experience like? What led you to spearhead your own venture?

Post-matriculation, I did initially work for an already-established Dermatological practice. As a part of the team, I did gain vastly valuable insights regarding the field, and the ways in which offices are internally operated. Not only did my technical skills grow within this position, but I also gained the practical confidence that comes from routinely administering procedures, and actively being involved in the field. In addition to these technical skills, I did gain valuable soft skills in terms of effective office leadership, client interaction, and general understanding of best practices within the world of Dermatology.

While I was happy within this role, I recognized that I was not entirely professionally satisfied with my daily scope of work. Specifically, I wanted to provide medically driven Dermatological services, including the medical care of various skin conditions, and medical care for skin cancers. At the time, my days were spent predominantly engaging in cosmetically driven procedures, including administering fillers, implants, and facials. Though these procedures certainly have an impact on individuals, they just didn’t satisfy what I felt to be my professional calling in life. However, in the realm of dermatology, medically driven procedures were also stable sources of valuable income, which is integral to successfully operating a practice. Thus, I completely understood the delicate balance between garnering satisfactory income to keep the proverbial doors open, and being able to engage in meaningful medical driven dermatological work. I recognized my passions, and decided to pursue them to their fullest potential, resounding to open Treasure Coast Dermatology, and swiftly pivot to a medical model that only includes medically based services.

You opened Treasure Coast Dermatology with a single brick-and-mortar location that swiftly expanded to multiple locations. What was the initial process like? Did you have any hesitations?

I opened Treasure Coast Dermatology over fifteen years ago, with a concise vision for a practice that focused on specific skin concerns, and was dedicated to empowering patients, building long-term relationships with patients, and developing the type of communication that would allow patients to parlay their fears, changes in skin conditions, and other self-reporting that is crucial within the realm of Medical Dermatology. As with most other disciplines within the medical field, practitioners are highly skilled, but patients themselves can sometimes be the first ones to recognize small changes that can be indicative of potential concerns. Yet, many patients find it difficult to spearhead their medical inquiries, and advocate for their needs. Thus, I wanted Treasure Coast Dermatology to embody this spirit of personal empowerment.

In the beginning, I recognized the importance of garnering positive cash flow, and ensuring that the business side of things was flourishing, prior to fully specializing in only medically driven procedures. Thus, I did perform some cosmetically driven procedures within the initial stages of business development, and as soon as Treasure Coast Dermatology was financially stable, I pivoted to offering solely medically driven procedures.

Like every other entrepreneur who delves into business ownership, I sometimes fell victim to doubting my choices, especially early in the process of developing Treasure Coast Dermatology. After all, I was a licensed Medical Dermatologist, not a professional businessman! However, I trusted my instincts, followed my professional passions, relied on common sense practices, and believed that my dedication to patients would create an environment that would be conducive to overall health, wellness, and a positive patient experience. With this in mind, I forged full steam ahead, and the rest followed.

What practices set Treasure Coast Dermatology apart from other medical practices? How important are these practices toward the overall success of your practice?

I’m a firm believer in the power of face-to-face interaction within the process of building a lasting patient-prescriber relationship. For that reason, even within a fast-paced practice, I make sure to physically see each patient personally, rather than utilizing support staff throughout patient appointments. Many times, this becomes standard procedure for various bustling practices, but certainly takes away from the ideal atmosphere for creating long-term relationships with patients. Thus, I truly believe that providing face-to-face interaction is crucial in differentiating Treasure Coast Dermatology from other medical practices.

Additionally, within the scope of our multiple offices, the need for vastly effective communication is vital to the success of the business as a whole. Though each practice is independently operational, there is obviously cross-over at times, and being able to seamlessly communicate between offices allows all staff to be on the same page, a key for success within this type of medical atmosphere. Given these parameters, I have learned to create an optimal team environment, and lead the charge in maintaining highly motivated staff, with team goals that align with the overall company goals.

Along with these practices, you also implemented a strict “no electronics” policy during patient visits. What was your reasoning behind this move? How does it impact your company?

In the spirit of dedicating face-to-face time to patients, I considered it a great disservice to then spend half of that time peering into a monitor, rather than providing my undivided attention to the patient. In a thoroughly modern scenario, patients often describe a physician visit as being less than satisfactory as a result of feeling “unheard”, or otherwise undervalued. This can be grossly attributed to medical practitioners often typing away at a keyboard for several minutes, or seemingly remaining focused on completing patient notes throughout the appointment itself. While I understand the immense need for proactive time management tactics in order to see multiple patients daily, I truly believe that this practice of being constantly attached to the computer is more detrimental than it is positive.

For these reasons, I have implemented the policy wherein all staff does not utilize the assistance of computers during patient visits. Collectively, we feel confident that this lessens distractions throughout the visit, and increases patient confidence in their appointment, the medical professionals involved in their care, and the efficacy of their appointment. In our practice, small changes in moles can signify potential life-threatening cancers, and thus, patient self-reporting can be a very proactive tool in identifying these concerns early in their development, and effectively treating skin cancers. In order for patients to feel confident self-reporting minute changes, however, a proactively positive patient-prescriber relationship must exist. Having unbridled face-to-face communication with patients helps to foster this type of relationship, which plays a pivotal role in patient care.

From a streamlining and time-management perspective, many people believe that being electronically active throughout a patient appointment is the only way to effectively conduct the day without falling behind. However, this is certainly not the case, and Treasure Coast Dermatology acts as an active example of utilizing alternative practices without sacrificing appropriate time management. Throughout each patient visit, we utilize audio recording for note taking purposes, which is later transcribed into effective nursing notes. This allows us to parlay the desired face-to-face interaction, whilst still maintaining effective nursing notes to provide patients with the highest level of care. In a way, this “retro” method can be considered new and revolutionary again, as it certainly is not the norm within today’s tech-prominent medical practices.

How do you build long-term relationships with clients?

As I’ve previously mentioned, we strive to provide patients with our undivided attention, bespoke care, and an overall experience conducive to building trust. In addition to providing valuable facetime for all patients, we also aim to provide empowering educational tools for all patients, providing them with the knowledge to not only self-advocate, but engage in best practices to retain happy, healthy, and active. We spend a great amount of time educating patients toward recognizing specific identifiable symptoms, practicing various methods of care, and taking otherwise tangible actions toward maintaining wellness.

Additionally, we take patient feedback very seriously, and act on specific patient feedback to create an atmosphere that patients request, enjoy, and expect. From things that can be easily changed, like switching television programming in waiting rooms, to complicated feats, like offering new procedures that patients request, we take great measures to ensure that patient feedback is implemented to the best of our abilities. Not only does this allow patients to feel heard, it somewhat helps us to customize the experience in a manner that is obviously desired by patients.

How important is team morale? How do you build it? What factors are important when working with large teams?

Staff morale is integral toward overall success within a multi-location practice, as various team members must effectively interact to ensure successful operations on a daily basis. Each team member plays an integral role in the overall success of the business as a whole, and each team member is vastly valued. We build a positive team morale by valuing each staff member, and reiterating ways in which their individual talents are integral to operations. We all work hard, and maintain a patient-first approach, which helps to keep staff in the right frame of mind. Often, it can be easy to be swept up in the fast-moving realm of medicine, and overwhelmed by the constant stream of work. Thus, we constantly remind ourselves of the innate motivation that led us to this field in the first place, and our collective desire to truly help people in need.

Early on, I also learned the importance of placing the wellbeing of the entire team above the personal wellbeing of an individual. For example, one talented individual may be an asset to the team by providing exceptional service, but can also be vastly detrimental to the entire team by maintaining a generally poor attitude, or by lacking motivation to work together with the remainder of the team. In this case, succumbing to the desires of this one particular individual to not work in tandem with the team can cause greater damage to the entirety of the team, versus the potential short-term damage caused by the need to replace said individual. By pivoting the approach to a team-first methodology, we were able to effectively staff a team of talented individuals that thrive independently, but also work beautifully together as a team. Since these initial growing pains, I was able to successfully develop, and maintain, an amazing team that lends itself perfectly to the overall mission statement at Treasure Coast Dermatology.

Apart from your daily duties at Treasure Coast Dermatology, what other industry related aspects are you involved in?

In an earnest effort to “pay it forward”, I lend my time to teach future generations of Medical Dermatologists at my alma mater. As a Voluntary Associate Professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine, I teach courses related to the specialty of dermatological surgery, reconstructive surgery, and other niche topics related directly to Medical Dermatology. As I work in a highly specialized field, I am honored to be able to bestow pertinent insights onto the next generation of professionals.

Additionally, I like to lend my professional experiences for the good of propelling the field of Medical Dermatology into the future. Recently, I was fortunate to provide research associated with a prospective skin cancer vaccine. Within the research stages, the vaccine was proven effective, and could be a revolutionary game changer in the realm of skin cancer. Easily, taking this vaccine to market would be the biggest breakthrough in the world of dermatology throughout my lifetime. In a forward-thinking manner, the vaccine treats skin cancer cells as though they were a virus, and works by providing a similar approach to eradicating a virus. With successes in the trial phase, the implementation of this vaccine within the general market could be somewhat imminent, and would undoubtedly provide a life-saving service for countless individuals. On a worldwide scale, skin cancer continues to be an epidemic, and remains deadly in many cases, especially when discovered at a late stage. Thus, an effective vaccine will be revolutionary!

Where do you think the future of dermatology is headed?

As globalization continues to change the manner in which humans interact in every aspect, I am confident that the realm of Medical Dermatology will benefit from the increased human connection that occurs through globalization. With increased communication, sharing of ideas on a global scale, and ability to combine forces for the betterment of all individuals, the field will amass worldwide usable data collections, and medical professionals will be able to utilize global resources to propel the field forward.

Additionally, the increased utilization of technology will continue to dictate the field, and propel things that were previously considered impossible. As technology continues to become increasingly intuitive, its implementation within the medical field becomes useful in many different applications. Thus, utilizing technology for the purpose of garnering fruitful results will continue to drive innovation within the realm of Medical Dermatology. By being able to manipulate outcomes on a cellular level, many skin conditions can potentially become eradicated, or treated in a highly effective manner previously unseen. Personally, I’m enthralled to play a professional part throughout this very exciting time in the medical field, and am looking forward to the continued growth of the Medical Dermatology field.

Follow Dr. Tim Ioannides on Twitter and Medium today.

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