Expanding Your Career

Physicians share their paths to clinical research, teaching and product development.
Expanding Your Career

If you’re like most people, you harbor a secret goal. Perhaps you think to yourself, “I’d really like to start publishing,” or you have an idea for a product that would improve patient care and think, “How do I get this made?”

Expanding your career beyond patient care can help combat burnout, bring in additional revenue and add prestige to your credentials. The challenge is determining how to take those first steps down a new career path. 

Product development, conducting clinical trials, publishing in scientific or trade journals, and lecturing at meetings are just a few of the directions in which practitioners may take their careers. Those who have pursued such additional roles stress that, although it takes time and effort, expanding your career to include multiple roles within your specialty is well worth the effort.

Taking Part in Clinical Trials

Michael Gold, MD, founder and medical director of Gold Skin Care Center in Nashville, Tennessee, first got involved in conducting clinical trials 25 years ago when he contacted a company cited in an article he had read. He had used the company’s products, and the facility was nearby in Memphis, Tennessee. The company offered Dr. Gold a chance to conduct his first clinical trial. “It was luck on my part,” he says of that fortuitous phone call. Today, conducting clinical research is a significant part of his practice. 

When he first started, clinical trials were not as controlled or organized as they are today, says Dr. Gold. Physicians who get involved in this area of medicine will need to hire or redirect staff to follow strict protocols and deal with the ample paperwork required for clinical trials.

“Everything has to be done in a certain way. There are no shortcuts,” he says. Dr. Gold’s center now employs a director of research whose job is to oversee this aspect of the business. “You have to do that paperwork and you, as a physician, have to sign off on everything. You have to have a person you trust,” he says.

As the medical aesthetic industry has grown and clinical trials have become more regulated, it can be more challenging to move into this area of research. The best place to start is with a manufacturer you admire or their sales representatives. “They will go back and champion your desire to be involved in research,” says Dr. Gold. “Or you can get in touch with regional managers. They may have a little more sway in getting you involved.” He also suggests seeking out mentors who will advise you along the way.

“I had a lot of role models I talked with,” he says. “It’s a learning experience—not everything is going to go perfectly all the time.”

Facial plastic surgeon Steven Pearlman, MD, past president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), says that being acquainted with a manufacturer’s products is helpful, but far from all that is needed to become involved in a manufacturer’s clinical trial. “Definitive knowledge of HIPAA regulations and IRB protocols (that govern human trials) for patient protection is extremely important,” he says.

Geoffrey Gurtner, MD, a plastic and cosmetic surgeon and professor of plastic surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine, recommends that physicians target areas in which they have expertise for clinical trials. “You should focus on things you do a lot of,” he says. “You need a lot of patients for a clinical trial and you need to have a practice in an area where that technology is being brought to bear.”

Image copyright Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.