New dermatology clinic in the Twin Ports aims to ease doctor shortage
A sleek new dermatology clinic opening June 1 in Duluth is aiming to reduce the long waits to see doctors.
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.