Interviews

Motherhood, Medical Dermatology, and More — According to Dermatologist Dr. Tiffany Jow Libby

Motherhood, Medical Dermatology, and More — According to Dermatologist Dr. Tiffany Jow Libby

You’ve heard it before: doctors are busy people. Many of them spend their careers seeing hundreds of patients a week, regularly traveling to conferences for their specialty, all while balancing their lives with their families. However, Tiffany Jow Libby, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City, has a more jam-packed schedule than most.

In fact, every week on Dr. Libby’s calendar is split between responsibilities in two different states. She lives in New York and works at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery℠ on Mondays, where she treats a staggering 40 patients per day. But from Tuesday through Thursday, the trusted doctor works as a Mohs surgeon at Brown University® in Rhode Island, meaning she’s away from home — and her kids, three and 10 months — on those days. 

“When men travel for work, no one says anything about it,” says Dr. Libby. “But when women travel for work, people ask, “Why are you doing that? Don't you miss [your children]?” The dermatologist asserts that this kind of scheduling obviously makes her miss her kids more than a more traditional schedule would, but her career is extremely important to her. And, unsurprisingly, all her hard work has paid off.

At only 30 years old (she skipped a grade in school and completed an accelerated medical program!), Dr. Libby is also a teacher to other up-and-coming doctors. “I do a lot of cosmetic teaching with the residents [at Brown], so I typically have a resident or even a physician assistant student with me,” she explains. “I usually have two people with me per day, so it's a lot of one-on-one teaching.”

In addition to her time spent teaching, the Rutgers® Medical School graduate is heavily involved in women's dermatological societies and other outside endeavors. “I'm hosting a regional event in New York this October, and I'm attending a policy conference in a few weeks,” she says. “I'm also doing some work with media and some larger, branded companies.”

With so much on her plate (and a weekly travel schedule that would exhaust even the most seasoned jetsetter), it’s difficult to fathom how Dr. Libby has time to successfully do it all. Here, we learn all about her hectic schedule, her best advice to other career-driven moms, and the beauty routine that keeps her skin glowing.

Spotlyte: You don’t exactly have a typical work week. Walk us through it.

Dr. Tiffany Jow Libby: My week is sort of broken up. I have Monday mornings off. I typically get up at 7 a.m. and I get the kids ready. I take them to school, or camp in the summer, and spend my morning with them. I love that I get to start my week that way. Then, I go to the office in the city around 12 p.m. and I'm usually there until 6 p.m. I do a good split between general and cosmetic dermatology. So, it’s everything from whole body skin exams and acne patients to injectable wrinkle reducers, fillers, and lasers. I love the mix of that day. It's very fast-paced, and I find that I'm pretty exhausted by the end of that day.

[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.

Spotlyte: How many patients do you typically see a day? And, what percentage of your patients come to you for injectables versus medical skin requests? 

TL: It's really jampacked. I see around 30 to 40 patients, and it’s about 60 percent medical and 40 percent [injectables]. Monday is not as popular [of a day] for [injectables]. And, because I'm only there once a week, most of my patients who come to me for [injectables] are people that have been coming to me for years. 

Spotlyte: Tell us about your work at Brown University.

TL: I joined the faculty at Brown as a Mohs surgeon, and I have about 10 cases a day. I spend Tuesday through Thursday up there, which is hard to be away from the kids, but thankfully, I have my Fridays off. I get back home [on Thursday], I finish by midday and I'm home in the afternoon, so it's almost two-and-a-half days up there. 

For me, it's a really good balance. I got a lot of judgment at first, people were saying, “Why are you doing this? It’s crazy that you want to be away from your kids.” No — this met everything that I wanted in terms of my career.

Spotlyte: What do you do during your downtime while you’re up in Rhode Island?

TL: I've been filling that time with things that I can't normally do in the city. I'll do a tennis lesson, or I'll work on other projects that I'm doing. There's a lot of time up there for me to get work done so that when I'm home with the kids, I really focus on family time. For me, that's a good balance. 

Spotlyte: How many kids do you have?

TL: I have two. Sam is three years old and Charlie — short for Charlotte — is 10 months. They're so good together, so it's been such a fun adventure having them. After having my first child in residency, I had so much respect for residents before me who had one or multiple kids. I would always think, “How do they even have time to study?” It's amazing — women are amazing! The amount that women can devote to being so involved with their family and excel at their careers is incredible.

Spotlyte: What are the challenges you face as a working mom?

TL: It's been a struggle with me traveling. I get mom guilt, and it's easy to say you shouldn't have it because I spend the rest of the week with my kids, but it's still strange to finish my work up [at Brown] and not be home with them. That's why I've tried to distract myself with other activities and really take advantage of that time alone. I have this protected time for me to pursue other interests, like studying, reading up on journals — things that I normally wouldn't do when I'm home. 

Spotlyte: Do you have any advice for other working moms?

TL: You can't juggle everything. People, especially in this day and age, only show their best self. We have to realize that that's only what we see. It's our responsibility as a society to tell ourselves that happiness comes from within, and you need to do what's best for yourself. You have to realize that no one's perfect.

Spotlyte: How do you destress from such a hectic work week?

TL: I build a lot of exercise into my week. Typically, my Fridays are my day to do more exercise. I do a lot of cycling, and I really like SoulCycle®.

Spotlyte: What inspired you to become a doctor? 

TL: A lot of people are interested in what they're exposed to. My dad is a doctor. He's a urologist and a surgeon that specializes in infertility. When I was growing up, he had this small private practice five minutes from our home. He would take care of sons, fathers, and grandfathers. Patients would come to our house and drop off homegrown tomatoes [as a thank you]. I remember having such a fond feeling of seeing how happy my dad was taking care of these people, and how much they respected him and cared for him. I loved that.

Spotlyte: What was your path to medical school like? 

TL: I knew I wanted to go to medical school eventually, but I thought I also wanted a normal college experience. I applied to one seven-year medical program at the push of my father, but then told my dad I got into Cornell®. I was so excited — because my friend from camp also got in, and we were going to room together — but my father said, “That's great, but I already signed and mailed in your acceptance to the seven-year medical program.” At that time, I was angry, but I just thought, my parents have my best interests in mind. So, I went along with it and I actually really benefited from it.

Spotlyte: Tell me about your skincare routine. What is your regimen like in the morning? 

TL: I am more of a minimalist when it comes to my skincare routine. I have a sea of products on my bathroom counter, but I try to boil it down to just a few. In the mornings, I cleanse with Cetaphil® Extra Gentle Daily Scrub. I have sensitive skin, and I love that I get a great clean without any irritation. After that, I apply my antioxidants and alternate between Revision® Vitamin C 30% Lotion and SkinCeuticals® Phloretin CF®. I follow with either a hyaluronic acid serum for a light absorbent moisturizer, or a more hydrating option like the SkinBetter® InterFuse® Treatment Cream, which has given me visibly brighter and more radiant skin since I have started using it. Lastly, I use ZO SkinTM; Sunscreen + Primer SPF 30. I love the texture and tint, which doubles as my foundation.  

Spotlyte: What is your nighttime skincare routine like?  

TL: I alternate between Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser and an exfoliating cleanser like Epionce® Lytic Gel Cleanser. After my skin is clean, I apply a thin layer of the SkinBetter AlphaRet® Overnight Cream, which combines a powerful retinoid with lactic acid.  

[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]

Spotlyte: Do you get any in-office treatments? 

TL:  I have not [gotten injectables] yet. I am fortunate to be aging like my mom, who loves getting told we look like sisters. 

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