When opportunity comes knocking, it’s hard to resist the call. That’s what these physicians found out a decade ago, when one door closed and a new possibility emerged.
It’s been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet looking in the mirror, we’re our own harshest critics. For the past decade, InnovaMed Aesthetic Care, 2601 N. Main St., in Rockford, has helped women and men to look healthier and younger.
Combining a practice of internal medicine with noninvasive cosmetic procedures, InnovaMed offers a range of applications, from injectables like Botox and filler, to laser removal of hair and age spots. Think of it as a medical spa, says licensed aesthetician Sarah Ramirez.
“We don’t just treat wrinkles, we also do spa services here, where we help patients to relax,” she says. “They come out and go, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ I’ve heard over and over again that our facials are out of this world. I’ve had people say that they’ve gone to resorts and other countries, and those don’t compare to my facial.”
The secret, perhaps, is in the technology. Among other services, Ramirez performs HydraFacial, a procedure that uses a powerful pen tool to cleanse, exfoliate and hydrate the skin, thus reducing the appearance of wrinkles, age spots and pores. She also performs chemical peels, which remove layers of dead skin, and microdermabrasion, which can treat acne scarring, wrinkles and sun damage. Many procedures are simple and require little to no recovery time.
More complex procedures are handled by the three internal medicine specialists who share ownership of InnovaMed: Dr. Tracy Brito, Dr. Susan DeGuide and Dr. Linda Razbadouski.
“In many practices, it would be either the nurse practitioner or the medical assistant providing the service, whereas we do the Botox, the fillers and most of the lasers ourselves,” says Razbadouski, who’s practiced medicine for 20 years. “The aestheticians do peels, microderm and HydraFacial – those are less invasive procedures – but the things that are more involved are overseen by our experienced physicians.”
Razbadouski and DeGuide focus primarily on aesthetic procedures, while Brito provides advanced nonsurgical treatments to varicose veins, spider veins and hemorrhoids, inside InnovaMed’s in-house vein clinic.
“Venous deficiencies cause swelling, discomfort, ulcerations, so this is mostly a medical practice,” explains Razbadouski. “Dr. Brito does a little bit of cosmetic vein work, but she’s also a certified ultrasonographer, and she’s received more training than most anyone else in town.”
At the core of InnovaMed’s mission is a desire to help people, a philosophy that first formed when Brito and Razbadouski worked at the private health clinic of Ingersoll manufacturing.
“It was a company that valued you spending time with the patients,” says Razbadouski. “We enjoyed doing that, and felt it gave the best service possible.”
When Ingersoll was sold and its clinic shut down, the two physicians considered their options for entering private practice. About the same time, they met DeGuide, who had recently left Rockford Health System. The trio soon realized a way to practice internal medicine while filling a growing health care demand.
“Our training was in internal medicine, but 10 years ago Botox was just starting to take off,” says DeGuide. “We decided it was something that we could learn to do, was interesting, and, as I joke, I was 40 at the time and thought it was something we might need ourselves.”
The physicians attribute much of their success to word-of-mouth from happy patients. It also helps that their staff of seven shares extensive training and experience. Ramirez and her fellow aesthetician, Tina Gipson, undergo constant training in new procedures and products. Brito and Razbadouski have trained in Toronto with Botox manufacturer Allergan. In a field with so many complex products and treatments, it’s important to have an educated consumer.
“I’ll recommend a product to them, and explain what’s in it, and what it’s doing to their skin,” says Ramirez, who earned her degree at Rockford’s Tricoci University of Beauty Culture. “I might say, ‘You need a firming agent, to help firm and lift the skin,’ or, ‘You need this moisturizer, because it’s not oil-based, so it’s good for your oily skin.’ I tell them the key ingredients that will help their skin, and try not to overwhelm them.”
The team at InnovaMed is keen on providing quality service to every patient. Available on the company’s website and in each patient room is a simple menu, showing services available, associated costs and recommended treatments. Everything is upfront – no crafty sales pitches here.
“When you come in for a free consultation, we will give you information, and you can take it, digest it, and you won’t need to sign up for anything that day,” says DeGuide. “Don’t feel bad if you don’t sign up for anything or buy anything, because I don’t like pushy salespeople, and I will not let anybody here be a pushy salesperson.”
In fact, DeGuide sometimes turns away customers, if their skin condition is too damaged for a noninvasive procedure. “We do have people who come in here, and what they really need is beyond what we can do,” she says. “They really need something surgical, and we won’t try to sell them something that isn’t going to work for them.”
Since its start, InnovaMed’s services have grown and evolved along with new technologies and products. With each new service, team members ask themselves: Can this procedure be done safely, and can we do it well?
“There’s a lot that we could add, and a lot of it is lasers and machines,” says DeGuide. “But we’re not going to leap into the next machine until we’re sure it’s worth the money and will deliver good results to the customer.”
While some machines, such as the laser hair remover, have worked reliably for years, DeGuide jokes that she has a “laser graveyard” of tools that never panned out. That goes for services, too. Tattoo removal, it turns out, is a tough sell.
“We’ve found that the population of people who would like tattoo removal doesn’t necessarily want to endure the number of treatments it takes,” says DeGuide. “It takes a very specialized machine to get rid of blue and green ink, so we no longer felt it was a good service for us to offer.”
DeGuide has grown more particular about technology.
“Just as a consumer would, you need to ask, ‘How well does this work, what’s the research behind it, and how long has it been around,’” she says. “Talk to other people who’ve used it. I think when you’re buying equipment, because it’s a bigger investment, you need to do some more in-depth research.”
As InnovaMed prepares to launch an electronic medical records system this summer, DeGuide is taking a measured approach, dedicating a new staff member to the project.
“It’s an added expense, but there’s no way we could do that on our own,” she says. “There’s a lot to consider as far as hardware, and connections and workflow, and how it’s all going to fit together.”
No matter the technical innovation, it all goes back to customer service and relationship building. In some cases, those relationships have existed since InnovaMed’s early days.
“Our assistant, Deb Marks, always says that we’re like a family, when it comes to the relationships we’ve built with our patients,” says Razbadouski. “We’ve built these relationships as people who care about doing their best to serve others, both in our internal medicine practice and in aesthetics. It might not seem as important, but we help people feel better about themselves. Hair removal, especially facial hair on women – that’s a big service. It’s nice to be able to serve others.”
Good service comes down to one thing: The Golden Rule.
“I always tell my kids, treat people how you want to be treated,” says Razbadouski. “That’s a hard rule, but it’s so important. There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t get complements, about how the aestheticians are wonderful, the nurses are wonderful. It reinforces what we do.”