Q. What inspired you to pursue a career as a physician? I grew up in a family of doctors, but despite (or perhaps because of) their encouragement, I resisted becoming a physician until the very end of college. When the reality of picking a career finally set in, I knew that I not only wanted to be intellectually stimulated, but needed to feel that I was making a significant contribution to society as well. I thought back to the most meaningful experiences of my life to that point and kept going to my sixteenth summer when I assisted my ophthalmologist father with cataract surgery at a rural bush hospital in Maua, Kenya. The difference we made in the lives of dozens of people in one short week was significant. I realized what a privilege it would be to be able to help people in that way every day for my entire professional career.
Q. What are your specialties? I stumbled on the field of dermatology almost by accident as it is not an area that gets a lot of attention in medical school. At Columbia University, where I attended medical school, we were required to do one week of dermatology in our third year. By lunch time of the first day of my dermatology rotation I knew I had found the specialty meant for me. I will not ever forget that “aha” moment and the feeling of excitement I had on that day. Until that point, I had been focused on general surgery, so pursuing a fellowship in Mohs surgery after my dermatology residency was an obvious choice.
Q. What are some of the highlights of your career? When I think of the highlights of my career lots of faces pass through my mind, faces of patients, patients I have helped and patients who have helped me become a better physician. I wonder if these patients know what an impression they have made on me and my career. I remember the father of a friend that we squeezed in for a squamous cell carcinoma on the scalp, that ended up being much larger than anyone expected. We got it out and put him back together so that today you can hardly see a scar. I remember the young mother with the funny pink spot on her arm that turned out to be a melanoma that had already spread to her lymph nodes, but with excellent care and prompt treatment she is alive and well twelve years later. I think of the gentleman I saw today, who has had more basal cell carcinomas in the ten years I have known him than anyone else I have met. We have caught his skin cancers early and treated them in the least invasive ways possible so that you have to look hard to see a single scar. It is patients like these that make me love my career.
Q. What are three things a patient can do to maintain healthy skin? Sunscreen, hat, and a sun shirt. We all know we should wear sunscreen, but never leaving the house without it, even on a rainy day, will really make a difference. When you have too much hair that you can’t put sunscreen on your scalp, but not enough hair to adequately protect your scalp, a hat is the only answer. And this certainly applies to women as well (visors don’t count). There is no better way to protect your shoulders and chest than a physical barrier like a sun shirt. My favorite is the BloqUV shirt that we sell in our Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers offices. There are men and women styles and they come in a variety of colors.
Q: Do you have advice for preventing the signs of aging without spending a fortune? A yearly intense pulse light (IPL) treatment has done wonders for my skin. Each treatment is around $450, so although not inexpensive, it is money well spent.
Q. What do you include in your own skin care regimen? I never go without Elta MD Clear, a zinc based sun screen that does not contain parabens or fragrance. It also contains lots of wonderful things for you skin like niacinamide, lactic acid, and hyaluronic acid, but is still light enough to wear under makeup without feeling greasy.
Q. What are the most common procedures you perform? What are the ones you most commonly recommend? My practice is focused on Mohs surgery. Mohs is the most effective way to remove basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas with minimized scarring. I do Mohs surgery in conjunction my husband Dr. Jonathan Sonne, a facial plastic surgeon, so our patients benefit from the expertise of a fellowship trained Mohs surgeon to remove the tumor as well as a fellowship trained plastic surgeon to repair the wound.
Q. What inspires you most in life? I am inspired by the desire to do good. I have been blessed in so many ways throughout my life and try to show my gratitude by helping others.
Q. What do you like to do for fun? I love to hang out with my kids. They make me laugh and we all need to laugh a little more.
Q. What do you like most about working at The Woodruff Institute for Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery? Definitely the people. I work with the most amazing team at The Woodruff Institute. They make coming to work a pleasure. Their smiles are contagious. I know our patients can sense what a warm and caring group of people make up the Woodruff Institute.