Michelle Dubois didn’t grow up with a master plan to ensure that one day she’d be a Medical Esthetician at a prestigious dermatology clinic like Pacific Derm. Far from it. She’d already carved a life for herself, waitressing in various cities around Western Canada for nearly 12 years, when a handful of conversations with friends opened her mind to a new career and a radical change.
“I’d always struggled with acne,” she explains, “so I was interested in skincare, even though I never pictured myself as a Medical Esthetician or doing this for a career. I had friends who were Estheticians in spas, so I would ask them about my skin and they would give me tidbits about treatments like microdermabrasion. One of those friends had started her own business. I thought that sounded cool, so I started looking at schools.”
Every journey begins with a single step. For Michelle, searching for the perfect Esthetics School was the start of an adventure that began at Blanche Macdonald, ended at Vancouver’s Pacific Derm and continues to inspire her and her patients on a daily basis.
“I’m a Clinician so I assist the
doctors and perform device-based treatments. I do photodynamic therapy [PDT],
Intense Pulsed Light [IPL] treatments, vascular and Fraxel treatments, as well
as Thermage, which is a skin-tightening procedure. Everything we do is
physician-directed. The doctor will define the laser settings and then I’ll
perform the treatment. I work very closely with the doctors daily.”
Education and research are key components at Pacific Derm. Supported by a skilled team of dermatologists, dedicated research team, and clinical team leader, their guidance and expertise has helped Michelle develop into a key member of the Pacific Derm team. Along with providing the actual treatments, it’s her job to ensure that patients gain an essential understanding of the treatment they receive, pre and post care, including how professional-grade skincare products can help to maintain skin health and treatment results.
“One of my most important responsibilities is to educate my patients about their skincare. Whatever their concerns, I love explaining the treatments and the skincare products that I know will help them.”
It’s not surprising that Michelle has a passion for education. It’s been a constant theme in her life since her first visit to Blanche Macdonald.
“Blanche has a solid reputation and when I first visited the school I could tell there were good vibes. Everything felt right. I instantly became excited about learning and new possibilities.”
“I wasn’t a science nerd at all. I didn’t do that well in high school. I was always distracted. But I made a 180-degree turn and did really well at Blanche. I realized my passion and found the experience so interesting and fulfilling. I wasn’t planning on entering the medical side of the industry at first, but a guest speaker came in to talk about lasers and I became excited. Then we started learning about the science of skin, and that’s when my passion was sparked.”
Inspired by the science she was discovering, Michelle decided that her ideal future career would be as a Medical Esthetician working in a bustling clinic. She didn’t have to wait long after graduation before her opportunity arrived.
“I was looking on-line and applying for jobs. I went to see [Blanche Macdonald Esthetics Director] Simona Gozner and explained what I was looking for. A few days later she wrote to me with good news. Pacific Derm had contacted Simona looking for someone and she had recommended me. I did an interview and a shadow shift and it took off from there. I’m doing exactly what I envisioned. I love it. I couldn’t be in a better place.”
Michelle has been a vital member of the Pacific Derm team for over a year now. Starting as an assistant – taking patients’ photos, cleansing their skin and preparing them for the doctor’s arrival – now she’s providing a range of medical esthetic treatments. It sounds like a steep learning curve, but, of course, Michelle has received extensive training and mentoring at Pacific Derm. She also insists that she was well prepared before stepping through Pacific Derm’s doors.
“My education at Blanche Macdonald covered many of the skin conditions we encounter here. When I started at Pacific Derm my first task was to shadow the doctors’ and clinicians’ appointments. It was exciting because I was hearing the terms and skin conditions I’d learned at Blanche. Of course, there’s always more to learn but I definitely had a good foundation. I’d been taught what’s happening on a cellular level, and I need to understand that here. I talk about it every day. Everything we learned about the science of the skin is what I’m doing on a daily basis. I wouldn’t know what the doctors were talking about unless I’d been to Blanche. The program definitely gave solid fundamental knowledge to enter the medical field. When I was in class I didn’t really believe that I was going to use all the stuff I learned. But I use that information every day! I still look at my old notes sometimes.”
That scientific knowledge is accompanied by another skill set Michelle picked up at Esthetics School: the ability to create a safe and serene space for patients.
“Simona and instructors like Cristina Cesa do more than make people feel comfortable. They’re mindful of their energy and the effect that has on people. As a Medical Esthetician it’s important to develop a trusting and comfortable relationship with people. A successful therapeutic relationship needs to include being sensitive to a patient’s feelings about their individual concerns, including both physical and emotional aspects.
“We strive to really get to know our patients. It’s important to make genuine connections. Once a rapport is established and I’ve earned their confidence, patients frequently request repeat treatments with me. It’s so cool to participate in a patient’s journey. It’s professionally satisfying when they come back and are happy with the results. I credit Simona and Cristina for instilling in me the importance of harnessing calmness and confidence as key elements of optimizing patients’ results and experiences.”
“It’s essential, especially when I’m doing a laser treatment, that my patients trust me. Although we provide the treatments here, our patients always have homework. It’s important that they feel we’re working together. The skincare products we sell at Pacific Derm are carefully selected based on science behind the active ingredients and reputation of the manufacturers, and they aren’t cheap. The value of these products is beyond monetary. We consider them to be part of a long-term investment in maintaining skin health. Patients need to trust us and be comfortable with our recommendations. We talk about their concerns and it’s my job to educate them. When they see results from the recommendations come true, they start believing.”
Remarkably, Pacific Derm is Michelle’s first position as a Medical Esthetician. For now, she’s enjoying herself too much to even think about a change. “I’m going to stay here for the foreseeable future,” she smiles. “I want to build my career here. I feel blessed. Dr Rivers, our Head Dermatologist, is so patient and loves to educate. Sara Kawamura, our Lead Technician, is the best person I could have asked for to continue my education with. It’s incredible working here. I love what I do and there’s so much more to learn.”