Shooting for the Stars

How an astronaut, a legendary comedian, a hometown doctor and a cardiologist father helped guide H.L. Greenberg, MD, to a career in dermatology.

Shooting for the Stars

As a child, H.L. Greenberg, MD, lived next door to Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin, the eighth man to walk on the moon. His Colorado Springs, Colorado, neighbor motivated him to do something great with his life. “I always thought that if he could walk on the moon, I could do anything,” says Dr. Greenberg.

As the owner and founder of Las Vegas Dermatology in Las Vegas, Dr. Greenberg practices general and cosmetic dermatology, serving a patient base that includes some of Las Vegas’ biggest names. But the journey to private practice success was not paved with gold.

The Road to Dermatology

The son of a respected cardiologist, Dr. Greenberg always looked up to his father. “When I was in the seventh grade, my science class went to a cardiac cath lab and watched him perform an angioplasty on a patient. Afterwards, the patient turned to my father and, in front of all my little friends, said, ‘Thank you doctor for saving my life,’” he remembers. “I was in awe and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to save lives.”

After graduating with distinction from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Dr. Greenberg headed to medical school at Wayne State University in Detroit, not entirely certain what sort of doctor he would be.

“I went to medical school wanting to save lives, and I spent two weeks doing cardiology with my dad in my senior year,” says Dr. Greenberg. “My mom said I should try something different so I did another rotation with my hometown dermatologist—Dr. Nate Trookman—and I was hooked. I just fell in love with dermatology. I couldn’t believe you could do this many things in a specialty.”

Dr. Greenberg completed an internal medicine residency at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., then began his formal dermatology training as a cutaneous oncology fellow and first-year dermatology resident at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He continued his residency at Scott & White of the Texas A&M University Health System, where he took on the role of chief dermatology resident and gained specialized experience in Mohs micrographic surgery.

Viva Las Vegas

Though he lived in several regions as he completed his education, Dr. Greenberg always knew he wanted to wind up in Sin City. “We took a family trip here when I was 12 and went to Caesars Palace, where I met comedian Rodney Dangerfield, so I always felt like it was an exciting town,” says Dr. Greenberg. “I wanted to meet famous people, I wanted to eat at great restaurants and I wanted to see fantastic shows. A lot of famous people come to town, the restaurants are great and it’s easy to travel elsewhere. It’s a great home.”

He was recruited by the largest dermatology practice in the city and worked with them for a year. “But the whole time I knew what I really wanted to do was start my own practice here,” says Dr. Greenberg.

His first step in achieving that goal was a meeting with Keith Borglum, a medical management practice consultant out of Santa Clara, California, who taught him the basics of launching a successful medical practice.

Feeling he was ready to step out on his own, he left his position, took a part-time job at the VA Hospital, and forged ahead with fulfilling his dream. He rented a small space in Las Vegas and admits he nearly went bankrupt in those first few months.

Photo courtesy of Jim K. Decker.
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“Truth is, I definitely didn’t have enough cash on hand to start a practice. I had seen so many other practices—when I was a senior dermatology resident I did rotations in Denver, New York and Dallas—and I could envision what I wanted my own space to look like,” he says. “The problem is, I couldn’t do it all right away; it took eight years to achieve the vision I always imagined.”

For the past eight years, Dr. Greenberg has worked hard to establish himself as one of Las Vegas’ most recognized dermatologists. In the beginning, he was seeing five to seven patients a day—now he sees an average of 40 patients daily and has expanded his facility from 2,500 square feet of space to 5,000. The practice boasts a staff of 12, including two estheticians.

Making a Name for Himself

When he decided to open his own practice in 2007, Dr. Greenberg wanted a simple name that would alert patients to what he did and where he did it. Somewhat surprisingly, Las Vegas Dermatology wasn’t taken.

“I think physicians are somewhat an arrogant bunch, and they want to call a practice by their own name. But when you start out, people are going to look for the name of the city and what the practice is,” he says. “If you’re Michael Jordan and selling basketballs or Steve Wynn and selling hotels, it’s helpful, but really, who was going to know me by name?”

The choice paid off as the practice immediately became the No. 1 search result on Google and Yahoo for patients seeking a dermatologist or dermatology treatment in Las Vegas. But search engine results alone are not enough to create sustained growth.

“The secret to growth is being accessible and asking for business,” says Dr. Greenberg. “I literally introduce myself to everyone I meet, be it a cocktail waitress, fitness owner, chef or someone I meet at a social event like the Vegas Young Professionals. When I introduce myself, I don’t say ‘Dr. Greenberg,’ I say ‘H.L.’ and when people ask what I do, I tell them. Often that leads to a discussion about medicine or dermatology, but not always. I am interested in a lot of fields, and a lot of the time I will do business with someone else and in turn, they will do business with me.”

In addition to social and professional networking, Dr. Greenberg has become a savvy social media marketer. He regularly creates videos for the practice’s YouTube channel, which has more than 1 million views to date; writes an online blog under the pseudonym “Dr. Vegas;” and he and his staff have an active presence on Twitter and Facebook.

“I’m very active in videography and I’ve done close to 90 YouTube videos. We have patients come in because they’ve seen a video of something like a microneedling procedure,” he says. “One of the videos won an award from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery—it was about why you should see a dermatologist for skin problems. That attracted some patients as well.”

Dr. Greenberg lectures at venues across the country—and often posts those lectures to his YouTube page. In addition, he has written multiple journal articles and book chapters on topics including: lasers in the treatment of scars and striae; cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma; and the use of imiquimod in the treatment of basal cell skin cancers.

“I think when patients see you perform a procedure or talk about a topic, it lends credibility, and they feel more comfortable when they come to see you in the office,” he says. “People have come in for Botox or fillers because they have seen me speak.

Photo courtesy of Jim K. Decker.
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“I posted a video of myself lasering a tattoo for Miss America and within three minutes of putting the post on Facebook, three people called wanting to come in for laser tattoo removal,” says Dr. Greenberg. “You never know what’s going to resonate on social media.”

In an effort to reciprocate the valuable training he received in medical school, Dr. Greenberg serves as clinical assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, where he lectures on dermatology, advises medical students interested in dermatology and has medical resident rotators in his office.

Building a Brand

When patients walk into Las Vegas Dermatology, they enter a neat and clean lobby with a display case featuring the specials of the month and a sign advertising the practice’s latest promotions. Front and center is the company’s logo.

“I am very big on branding. I think everything has to have the brand on it,” says Dr. Greenberg. “The brand is on all our cards and pens, and when someone comes in for a procedure, they wear a headband with our logo on it.”

Cosmetic patients are directed to the VIP room where a Keurig coffee maker is waiting in a warm, inviting green space. Music plays in every room and monitors positioned throughout the facility run images of the practice’s cosmetic offerings, including laser treatments, toxins and fillers.

The practice uses Smile Reminder to remind patients about upcoming appointments, and every patient receives a message on his or her birthday. As a treat to both new and returning patients, Las Vegas Dermatology offers “Filler Fridays,” where Botox and fillers are 10% off the normal price. There is also a multiple services discount.

The philosophy of the practice can be seen on all of its materials: “For a healthier and more beautiful life,” and that is Dr. Greenberg’s goal for both patients and staff. Every Wednesday, he and his staff gather to discuss the practice, and they each share at least one positive thing going on in their lives outside of the office.

“Staff recruitment can be a tricky thing. I look for people who are happy and positive, know how to use a computer and maybe know dermatology,” says Dr. Greenberg. He finds that he can train new employees in the use of the computer system and the practice’s treatment offerings. “But if someone is negative or isn’t happy in the job, we can’t use them,” he says. “What I love about my job is that it’s a happy environment and a place I want to come to every day.”

His practice continues to grow through repeat patients and referrals, and he credits his dad’s advice. “My dad taught me never to lie to people; to be straightforward and honest,” says Dr. Greenberg. “The secret to making a practice strong is to be accessible, answer questions and make sure people are taken care of. I always ask if there are any questions before I leave the room. I want patients to be comfortable. I want them to be happy.”

Keith Loria is a freelance writer based in Oaktown, VA.

Photo courtesy of Jim K. Decker.

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