Bio-identical hormone therapies, cosmetic surgery, aerospace medicine and battling insurance policies with Dr. Kevin Light.
After meeting Dr. Light at the Medical Fusion Conference last year, we decided that we wanted to know more about this former vet turned cosmetic doc.
Name: Kevin D. Light, DO, MBA
Location: Dallas, TX
That's interesting: As a board certified General Surgeon, he practiced internationally with the US Air Force for 8 years. He was also lucky enough to be selected to attend the USAF Aerospace Medicine program early in his Air Force career, so he also served as a flight surgeon, that put him in the back seat of T-38, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets for 8 years. He was one of the first medical teams placed in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm and has received two Air Force Commendation Medals. He was Chief of Surgery during extended assignments in Germany, the Kingdom of Jordan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
As a US Air Force veteran, your surgery career included tours that were probably not focused on cosmetic or anti-aging medicine. How did you end up with in cosmetic medicine?
I became weary of the practice of general surgery…….the insurance game, the demanding call schedule, high risk patients, and the politics of primary care physician referrals. I wanted to deal with a healthier, more upbeat patient population and I wanted to be able to market them directly, which you can’t do in a totally referral based practice. I had always considered doing a plastic surgery fellowship but due to my Air Force commitment, I didn’t have time for the training. In 1997 I discovered the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and attended a training seminar in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the well known surgeon Dr. Jose Juri. I was hooked. I attended several training events internationally and had several surgeons travel to Dallas to proctor me in my practice as I developed the skill set needed for a successful cosmetic surgery practice. I am very active in this organization and attend several meetings every year – which are always excellent.
Your clinic offers bio-identical hormone replacement therapies. I'm very curious about how you've integrated this into your clinic. Is it a primary revenue generator or more to round out our offering? I'm under the impression that you're unable to mark up the actual hormones and can only charge for your time, making it difficult to make money with. Is that so or am I wrong?
That’s correct. However, bio-identical hormones are a small part of an age-management practice. It would be difficult to make much profit just offering bio-identical hormones. Revenue centers include nutritional IV’s, supplements (which is significant) and testing, which we bundle and price as a package. Just like a medical spa, the cosmetic surgery and age management side complement each other and serve as a great cross referral source.
It looks like you're also the medical director for an outside medical spa. Can you tell us what kind of legal entities you needed in order to make that happen and what have been your experiences as the medical director for another business? How have you protected yourself from liability or risk?
We executed a standard contract with a detailed description of what is expected of each party and several clauses included to allow dissolution of the agreement if desired. It’s critical to know the skills and capabilities of the personnel and to take an active involvement in quality control. Now is not the time to just collect a monthly fee to have your name on the door. The medical spa is also required to have a malpractice insurance policy. My association with them has been very rewarding and it has been a great referral source and a valuable adjunct in marketing my practice.
You're offering a number of treatments like buttock augmentation and labiaplasty. Do you see any trends with these less common or fashion driven treatments? Are they steady, increasing, or decreasing in popularity?
I have been doing facial fat transfers since 1999. Back then it was considered heresy in many circles. Now it’s on fire. Fat grafting to the face, hands, breasts, and buttocks is in high demand and growing. Yesterdays less common procedures can be all the rage tomorrow. These left-of-center procedures, if executed effectively and safely, can become your niche offering and separate you from the herd. You want to make sure that your ‘new’ procedure is based on real science and has a proven benefit. The trick is to be able to look down the road and see what is going to be ‘sticky’ to the public. It’s all about forecasting demand.
Do you see a time when cosmetic surgery is going to be replaced at least in part by nonsurgical technologies? Is this an opportunity or threat for surgeons?
I think that time has already arrived. The growth of non-invasive and minimally invasive procedures is well documented. The public is demanding more bang for their time – and are willing to settle for an improved, although attenuated result to avoid huge costs and significant down time. I think that prevention (age management medicine again) will also play a bigger role in the process. This is clearly a great opportunity for surgeons. Who is the better one to master these technologies and integrate them into total patient care than a well trained cosmetic surgeon. We have the audience and the platform. Of course, more non-surgical practitioners continue to enter the arena of cosmetic medicine every year. I don’t think this is a zero sum game – the pie is getting bigger and the physicians practicing high quality medicine with stellar results will always be busy.
You've got a blog on your site, you're on Facebook and Youtube... you seem to be comfortable with social media and reaching out to patients online. How much of your marketing efforts are now online? Are you seeing successes? Are there marketing efforts that you've found to be better than others?
The jury is still out on Twitter. Facebook is also intangible and has some indirect marketing value yet still difficult to quantitate. I feel that it can’t hurt to use these tools. I have done radio talk shows and that has been successful. I don’t use print media very often. Print media for cosmetic surgery is more of a ‘push’ marketing technique and I think that ‘pull’ marketing is the way to go for most of our patients who tend to be internet savvy and live on Google Search. Clearly, the most effective marketing modality for us is a well optimized web site with quality content. Blogs are also very powerful and are a close second. Videos put a face to the practice and connect the patient to the doctor unlike anything else available. It is a pre-consult trust builder and we are in the process of producing many more.
Where do you see the most competition from other physicians in your area? How do you run your business in order to compete with them?
I live in Dallas, Texas. I have competition on every corner. I try to be a specialist in a few procedures and strive to be to go-to physician in my area for those procedures. You can’t realistically be all things to all people in this competitive environment. I serve a niche market in these procedures and let everyone else battle over the breast augmentations and face lifts.
What is the best advice you've ever received as an entrepreneur and physician?
Probably to get out of insurance based medicine and learn how to run a medical practice like a business. It’s great to have a cash based practice at a time when insurance reimbursements progressively circle the drain. Getting an MBA after 17 years of practice was a huge eye-opener. I was shocked at how much I didn’t know about markets, marketing, and finance. It helped get me off the traditional medical practice wheel and helped to diversify and seize many other parallel opportunities in health care. It also helped my practice to become more patient (customer) centric. Concierge level service and delivery of a wow experience is a paradigm shift for many practices but is the secret sauce for success.
About: Dr. Kevin Light attended Michigan State University earning his Bachelors of Science degree with honors in Biochemistry. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Osteopathic Surgery in General Surgery. He is an expert in his field and has over 28 years of surgical experience. After he left the Air Force, he practiced General Surgery. In 1997, he saw the writing on the wall and transitioned his practice to exclusively cosmetic surgery. In 2005, he began the MBA program at the University of Texas. He practiced ‘part time’ during this period as the medical director of an ‘age management clinic’. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise– it exposed him to a very powerful alternative to traditional medicine that fit quite well with his cosmetic surgical practice.
Dr. Kevin Light is a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS). He is an active member of the Texas Cosmetic Surgical Society, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) and the Age Management Medical Group.
This interview is part of a series of interviews of physicians running medical spas, laser clinics and cosmetic surgery centers. If you'd like to be interviewed, just contact us.