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Staff Spotlight: Q&A with Debbie Wallace, Physician Assistant

Posted on October 09, 2015

Staff Spotlight: Q&A with Debbie Wallace, Physician Assistant

What inspired you to pursue a career as a PA?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been interested in anything medical. For one reason or another, I did not choose medicine initially – I chose computer programming. While I made a lot of money in Information Technology (IT), it was not a career in which I thrived or enjoyed.

Years ago, while living in southern California and working in IT, I was working for a company who mandated all employees be trained in CPR and Basic First Aid. After 3 weeks of becoming certified in CPR/BLS, I was driving down the 405 freeway in southern California and noticed there was an auto accident. Apparently, a man had been ejected from his vehicle and was lying on the side of the road. I was the first responder and immediately assessed the man who had no pulse and was not breathing. Even though I had only been recently certified in CPR, it seemed like I had been born to do this, and I began performing one-rescuer CPR. Just as the EMT’s arrived, the man began breathing, his pulse was regained, and he began mumbling to me!! And as they were loading him into the ambulance, I decided at that very moment, that THIS is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives – not just a company’s bottom line.

I continued home that night and when I told my husband what had just happened, he encouraged me to go back to school to follow my dream of being in medicine. And this is exactly what I did…..

In retrospect, I don’t feel that I really saved that man’s life – I think he actually saved my life!! He saved me from being in a career in which I was unhappy, and he was the catalyst who helped to set me on the right path to medicine. I will be forever grateful to him, even though I do not even know his name….

What are your specialties?
I really love doing full body skin examinations. These exams are critical in the prevention and early detection of skin cancers including melanoma. While I am performing them, I always educate patients on the types of lesions I see on their skin, what constitutes a “good” sunscreen, and ways to improve their skin (e.g., moisturizing daily on damp skin).

I also enjoy hand rejuvenation, which includes lasers and fillers. Many people are cognizant of rejuvenation of the face and neck, but most people do not realize that the hands are an easy way to tell someone’s age. How do YOUR hands look? Could they use some rejuvenation? Ask me more about it!!

What are some of the highlights of my career?
Certainly, the event mentioned above was the pivotal point to begin my career. Since then, it’s very rewarding to see a patient with rosacea, who struggled with facial redness for years, then have a series of IPL laser treatments, and be simply amazed at the significant reduction in redness on their cheeks and nose. Additionally, there are the patients who come in with acne scarring and are suffering from low self esteem due to the scarring. I counsel them on different ways to treat acne scarring including laser resurfacing with Pixel, microneedling, and chemical peels. After such treatments, the patients are delighted at the reduction in amount and severity of acne scarring.

What are three things a patient can do to maintain healthy skin?
A. A sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater, with either zinc or titanium as active ingredients (products like Elta MD sunscreens are EXCELLENT!! I use Elta MD Daily (tinted) every day.
B. Sun protective clothing, including wide brimmed hats and SPF shirts like Bloq UV.
C. Moisturize skin daily but always on damp skin (i.e. after your shower, apply a moisturizing cream like CeraVe). ALWAYS moisturize on damp skin – NEVER on dry skin!!

Do you have advice for preventing the signs of aging without spending a fortune?
Yes!! A “good” sunscreen as mentioned above. Any of the Elta MD sunscreens are amazing…just ask me about them!!

What are your most common procedures you perform? Which ones do you most commonly recommend?
I perform full body skin exams on a daily basis. I also do a lot of laser treatments using IPL (for freckles and rosacea redness), Pixel (for laser resurfacing to treat wrinkles, crepy skin around the eyelids, laser resurfacing, stretch marks and scars), laser hair removal, and Clear Lift for skin tightening of the face and neck. Additionally, I do a lot of cosmetic injections including the neurotoxins Botox and Dysport, and facial fillers including Restylane Lyft, Restylane-L, Restylane Silk, Voluma, Juvederm Ultra, and Juvederm Ultra Plus. I also perform hand injections using Radiesse, for hand rejuvenation.

I commonly recommend any of the above depending on what bothers you!

What inspires you most in life?
My life long hobbies have been scuba diving and underwater photography, and I’ve been blessed to have traveled to many remote parts of the world. Since I have no children, my underwater photos are my “kids” so when you show me photos of your kids/grandkids, I’ll show you my “kids!!”

What do you like to do for fun?
My work is really fun for me! I have wonderful patients to care for, and I also have a great staff here at the Woodruff Institute who help me care for them!! It’s really fun (and NOT work) if you do what you love…

What do you like most about working at The Woodruff Institute?
The wonderful patients we care for, and our amazing staff who works so cohesively as a team to achieve a common goal of excellent patient care.

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