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New dermatology clinic in the Twin Ports aims to ease doctor shortage

April Seys, an esthetician at Twin Ports Dermatology, uses her fingers to loosen and remove numbing cream from patient Gloria Smith’s face before beginning the Eclipse MicroPen procedure last week. The numbing cream takes effect in 30 minutes for a painless procedure.( Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com) 1 / 8
Heather and Anthony Smith are co-owners of Twin Ports Dermatology in Duluth. They moved to Duluth and opened the clinic because of the shortage of dermatologists in the Twin Ports area. The clinic will have two part-time dermatologists on staff; Heather is the clinic’s medical practitioner, Anthony is its manager. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)2 / 8
The waiting room for the medical spa on the second floor of Twin Ports Dermatology and throughout the building sports has a pleasant, contemporary decor. “We wanted it to be modern so when people come in, it looks different than most medical clinics,” said co-owner Heather Smith. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com) 3 / 8
April Seys dabs a soothing solution on Gloria Smith’s face after the MicroPen procedure. Lindsey Fistler, a certified laser technician, watches. The clinic is the only one offering the treatment in the Twin Ports. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)4 / 8
April Seys gives Gloria Smith an Eclipse MicroPen treatment at Twin Ports Dermatology last week. The pen contains a tip studded with very tiny needle tips that can penetrate the skin at varying depths, depending on the thickness of the skin and desired results. A series of treatments can reduce fine lines, soften the skin texture and even skin color, which Smith hoped to accomplish. But it also can reduce acne scars and stretch marks. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)5 / 8
A dozen tiny needles are mounted inside the tip of the MicroPen device that can penetrate the skin at different depths to encourage collagen production. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)6 / 8
Landscaping and other work remains to be done outside the newly built Twin Ports Dermatology, at 1414 Woodland Ave. in Duluth. Its dermatology clinic will open June 1, while its medical spa has been open since early May. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)7 / 8
The exam rooms are larger than usual at Twin Ports Dermatology to accommodate handicapped patients, but the procedure room for minor surgeries is the largest. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)8 / 8

A sleek new dermatology clinic opening June 1 in Duluth is aiming to reduce the long waits to see doctors.

But Twin Ports Dermatology, founded by Heather and Anthony Smith, will be more than a modern medical clinic at 1414 Woodland Ave., staffed by two dermatologists and a support staff.

 It’s also a medical spa, offering cosmetic procedures such as botox injections, fillers, laser work and chemical peels, as well as cutting-edge techniques that have been shown on TV shows like “The Doctors.”

While such cosmetic procedures don’t typically involve long waits in Duluth and elsewhere, getting in to see a dermatologist for medical matters is another matter.

In the Twin Ports, patients can wait months to see a dermatologist, with a referral from a primary doctor often necessary. A call to St. Luke’s Dermatology Associates last week found a six-month wait for a general consultation, with the earliest opening in December. A call to Essentia Dermatology found a two- to three-month wait. But if the problem is serious, they will get them in as soon as possible.

“It’s just a shortage of providers,” Heather Smith said. “ It’s no one’s fault.”

Seeing the need

Heather was a dermatology physician assistant at a busy Burnsville, Minn., clinic in 2013 when she became aware of the shortage of dermatologists in Duluth.

She began seeing patients with Duluth addresses coming to the clinic. But she didn’t think much of it until her mother-in-law, Gloria Smith, wanted a suspicious mole checked out but couldn’t get an appointment with a dermatologist in Duluth for at least nine months.

Concerned, Heather told her to come to the Twin Cities as soon as possible, and she would check it out right away.

 “Thank God I did,” Gloria said.

A biopsy showed it was melanoma.

Heather surgically removed the mole. Follow-up visits discovered a few more spots that were precancerous, one of which also has been removed.

Gloria, a Duluth Realtor, said she is glad she didn’t wait that long to see a doctor in Duluth.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. If not caught early, it can spread through the body quickly and be fatal.

The scare convinced Heather and her husband, Anthony, that more dermatology services were needed in his hometown of Duluth.

Moved to action

That shortage led to the couple’s move to Duluth to open Twin Ports Dermatology, just east of the University of Minnesota Duluth.

“When it affects your family, it makes you think twice,” Heather said. “There’s probably hundreds of others who have melanoma and are not being diagnosed. If we can save one life by coming here and doing this, that’s our goal.”

The couple, who are in their early 30s, chose the site on the northeast corner of Woodland Avenue and Elizabeth Street that is owned by Anthony’s father, Jay Smith, and Mike and Ron Edmunds. Its location near St. Luke’s Mount Royal clinic, a new dental office and the growing BlueStone Commons development made the site appealing.

They worked with the property owners to build the modern, two-story clinic.

“They were looking to do something with this land,” Heather said of the owners.  “It was built to spec.”

The couple’s savings, smart financial decisions, a loan from North Shore Bank and the ability to rent rather than buy the building, helped make it a reality.

The 6,600-square-foot handicapped-accessible building has an inviting waiting room and six spacious exam rooms on the first floor, including a surgical room for minor procedures. The medical spa for cosmetic procedures is on the second floor with three patient rooms, including a laser room. The spa, which opened May 1, also has a waiting room with a side exit available for added privacy.

The dermatology clinic and medical spa have a clean, modern look with an abundance of natural light and a calming decor.

 “We wanted a blue color scheme,” Heather said. “A lot of people are uneasy when they come, but this is a nice, calming environment.”

Spa sets it apart

Heather serves as the clinic’s medical practitioner while her husband, who has a background in business, is the clinic manager. They have recruited Dr. Jeffrey Samuelson, a Minneapolis dermatologist and Mohs surgeon who will serve as medical director, and Dr. Grant Bishop, a dermatologist from Bountiful, Utah. Bishop will be there two weeks a month, Samuelson one week a month for surgeries.  The staff also includes a nurse practitioner, registered nurse and two estheticians, with one also a certified laser technician.

So far Blue Cross/Blue Shield will accept claims for the clinic’s medical care, with more insurance companies coming on board in the next few months. Cosmetic treatments aren’t usually covered.

But what sets Twin Ports Dermatology apart from others is the added medical spa, making it a one-stop shop for skin care.

The spa’s offerings include laser hair removal, waxing, facials and skin procedures such as skin resurfacing, using the latest techniques. Prices are comparable to other providers of cosmetic treatments in Duluth, Heather said.

It will be the only clinic in the Twin Ports offering Sculptra and Restylane Silk injectible fillers and some new lasers for hair removal, brown spots and broken blood vessels. Then there’s the Eclipse MicroPen, a micro-needling procedure that increases collagen production to reduce fine lines, even skin color and soften texture and improve acne scars and stretch marks. The recommended three treatments over five months cost $625.

Gloria Smith tried MicroPen last week.

“My skin has a nice natural glow,” she said three days later. “It lessened the fine lines, and I think it will even out the color. It’s only been one treatment. By three, I expect it to be even better.”

For more information on Twin Ports Dermatology, visit twinportsderm.com or call at (218) 302-1000.

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