This is a repost from the SDPA October 2016 Newsletter featuring Suzanne Bruce and Associates PA – April Harrison.
April Harrison has been a practicing physician assistant since 2000 and has worked in dermatology since 2001. She received her Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and her Master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. She is certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and is a Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA) Diplomate. In fact, April was the first PA to ever receive SDPA Diplomate status. She is a member of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants, Texas Academy of Physician Assistants and American Academy of Physician Assistants.
Previously, she worked in the Department of Dermatology at MD Anderson Cancer Center from 2001-2005. There she worked closely with Madeleine Duvic MD, an internationally known and respected expert in cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma. In 2005, she joined Suzanne Bruce and Associates, Houston’s largest dermatology practice, where she specializes in cosmetic dermatology including neuromodulators, dermal fillers, lasers, skin tightening treatments, and sclerotherapy.
What part of your work gives you the most pleasure? I enjoy all cosmetic procedures but what gives me most joy is dermal fillers. I like being able to take years off a patient’s face in a matter of minutes and it is especially gratifying when the patient is able to appreciate that too. We have so many versatile fillers now in dermatology that the possibilities are endless – from filling under eye hollows, to lifting the brows and filling in temples, replacing lost volume, and redefining the lower face and jawline due to aging.
Which patient had the most effect on your work? I had a patient who had just gotten through a terrible divorce and was feeling badly about herself. During consultation, we developed a game plan to ‘get herself back’. We started with Ultherapy for skin tightening, then a series of fractional resurfacing for lentigines and texture improvement. Lastly, we injected fillers for mid-face enhancement, under eye hollowing, temple hollowing, nasolabial folds and marionette lines, and revolumized her lips. She looked in the mirror afterward and started crying because she thought she would “never see that face again”. She was so happy to recognize her former, happy self again and I was happy to be a part of that.
What made you decide on a career in dermatology? In PA school, I was always the one student identifying skin rashes and skin cancers. It was an area that has always interested me. Initially, I thought I wanted to work in plastic surgery but eventually realized that dermatology was my true calling. I especially enjoy the visual nature of the field and being able to see improvement in our patients.
What is a typical day like for you? I have the best of both worlds – I get to spend time with my family and have a gratifying career. The day starts for my by dropping my kids off at school at 7:45am then going to the office and seeing my first patient by 8am. I have a mix of neuromodulator and/or filler appointments, IPL, Thermage or Ulthera patients scheduled. Some appointments like neuromodulators, take 15 minutes, others can take hours, such as Ulthera or fractionated CO2 laser resurfacing. I may have a study patient or two as I am involved in the clinical research arm of our practice too. My day ends at 3 pm when I leave to pick up my kids from school and start my second job – Mom!
My ultimate skin-care advice: Wear sunscreen SPF 30+ everyday, use a retinoid as many times a week as possible, and avoid the sun. I have been applying sunscreen to my children since they were babies, then I taught them how to apply it themselves when they were toddlers. I hope they will appreciate their beautiful skin when they are older.
Learn more about the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA) visit their website here.