“Pretty Is As Pretty Does” and Other Mantras Derm Dr. Susan Weinkle Lives By

Dr. Weinkle

While many people dream of warm weather year-round, Susan Weinkle, MD, was not one of those individuals. When the board-certified dermatologist moved back to the Sunshine State 35 years ago, she was reluctant. “I married my husband, who was being recruited to join an ophthalmology practice,” says Dr. Weinkle.

The 67-year-old New Jersey native spent most of her childhood in Gainesville, Florida, and started her medical education as an early admission in the Junior Honors Program at the University of Florida College of Medicine℠. “I got into medical school without an undergraduate degree,” says Dr. Weinkle, who graduated in 1978. She went on to complete her dermatology training at Stanford University as Chief Resident in 1982, and held academic appointments at the University of California Irvine® Medical Center and Stanford® University Hospital, before trekking back to the southeast coast.

Upon returning to Florida in 1984, she recalls, “I didn’t know a single person.” Because no one was looking for a business partner, she decided to open her own private practice in Bradenton, Florida. “Nobody wanted me, so I had to put out a shingle,” she quips.

Flash forward 35 years, and Dr. Weinkle is going to have company in the office after all: her daughter Allison, who is currently in medical school at the University of South Florida®. While this mother-daughter work arrangement will be new for the two of them, having family around isn’t a novel concept for Dr. Weinkle. “My husband is right next door to me in my office,” she notes.

When she isn’t at work, Dr. Weinkle loves fly fishing and gardening. She’s fond of flora — specifically orchids — and says if it weren’t for medicine, she would have pursued a career arranging flowers. “Whenever we have parties, I always do all the flowers,” she says. 

From past times to hard times and everything in between, Dr. Weinkle sat down with us to share it all. Keep reading to learn how she overcame adversity, who does her injectables, treatments she gets, and the mantras she loves most.

Spotlyte: Did you always know you were going to be a dermatologist or is that something that came later on in medical school?

SW: No, I wanted to be a cardiac surgeon. When I was in medical school, that was my total dream: to be a heart surgeon. Back in the day, there were very few women [in cardiac surgery]. While I was in medical school, they were not nice to the women. After some soul searching, I decided that I couldn't deal with those people.

Spotlyte: You’re a dermatologist and also a surgeon. What makes you great at your job?

SW: My whole mentality is [that] I make decisions quickly, and I have good dexterity and hand-eye coordination. I don't have to ruminate. I can assess a problem, decide what to do, and do it. You can't be a ruminator and be a surgeon. 

Spotlyte: What is the most common question that you’re asked in the office?

SW: [Patients ask] “Will it leave a scar?” all day long, when I'm doing a surgery. I tell them that we're going to cut the skin, and I'm going to make the very best possible scar I can.

Spotlyte: What does a day in your shoes entail?

SW: I do Mohs surgery [to treat skin cancer] in the morning Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and some [other] patients in between. Then, in the afternoon, I could do injectable wrinkle reducers and fillers. [My daily activities are] very balanced. 

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. 

Spotlyte: Do you get any injectables?

SW: I’ve had fillers. My dear friend [and dermatologist] Kimberly Butterwick, who is just adorable, comes to my house in Aspen in the summer and does [the injections] for me. I get injectable wrinkle reducers in my forehead, elevens, and crow's feet. I started getting injectables [in my elevens almost] 20 years ago. I was in my late forties when I started. I've been doing it for a long time!

Spotlyte: What other treatments do you get?

SW: I recently did a superficial chemical peel on my neck, because I'm aiming to rejuvenate my neck without a knife. I've had two chemical peels. I don't get facials very often — every couple of years. A facial feels good, but I'd rather have a massage.

Editor's Note

As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.

Spotlyte: What products are in your skincare routine?

SW: I have been using retinoic acid since 1984. I put retinoic acid on my face, neck, decolletage, arms, and hands every night. You apply it at night because it works more effectively. In the morning, I use SkinMedica® TNS products and ISDIN® Eryfotona Actinica® sunscreen. Even though I'm coming to my office, I do put on sunscreen.

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: What’s in your makeup bag?

SW: I wear a lot of makeup. I wear La Prairie® Skin Caviar®. Then I put on a setting powder and two colors of Chanel® blush. I put on Laura Mercier® highlighter and Laura Mercier powder around my eyes. It takes me 20 minutes every morning to put it all on.

Spotlyte: What do you use to take off all the makeup?

SW: I sometimes use Chanel makeup remover, but lately, quite frankly, I've been using Neutrogena® Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes. They’re very gentle. I was at some meeting and somebody gave me a sample. I was like, “OK, I'll try them.” I really like them. 

Spotlyte: What do you like to do in your spare time when you're not in the office? 

SW: My husband and I like to bike ride. I rode my bike 25 or 30 miles yesterday. I like to work in my garden. 

We have a home out in Aspen, so I like to go fly fishing out there. I like to fly fish for trout: brown trout, rainbow trout. We catch and release. I've probably caught the same fish 10 times.

I used to snow ski a lot, but I hurt my knee two years ago, so I'm kind of backing off on snow skiing right now. It's kind of a bummer, but I like to snowshoe. I can still do that.

Spotlyte: Do you have any mantras that you live by?

SW: My grandmother used to remind me, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It’s about how you're going to handle a situation. You need to say, "OK, what if this were me?" 

And, my grandmother always said, "Pretty is as pretty does." I don't care how beautiful you are on the outside. If you don't have that beauty inside, you're just missing the boat.

“You get more bees with honey” is another. That's one that's important, because when we have a patient who's really aggravating, we also say you have to “kill them with kindness.” It's totally disarming if you kill them with kindness.

Also, "You get what you give tenfold over." I really try to raise my children [to live by that], and focus on not asking what you can do for me, but what I could do to help you. Those are really important things.

Spotlyte: Speaking of children, you have two.

SW: My son Justin is 34 years old, and he is in wealth management. He's the CFO of a company called Dynasty℠. The company just opened a satellite office from New York [in St. Petersburg, Florida], and he's just moved down from New York to St. Pete, which is 45 minutes from me, thank goodness. 

Allison is 30 years old. She went to Emory® undergrad, then she went to UCSD® Medical School in San Diego, and now she's at the University of South Florida. She's applying for Mohs fellowships. So, she has to do that extra year. She has to do a Mohs fellowship, then a year and a half from now, she'll join me in practice.

Spotlyte: Your daughter is following in your footsteps.

SW: It's so funny. I'm a surgically-oriented entity. My daughter's exactly the same. My daughter did a general surgery internship. She really wanted to be a general surgeon, but now she's a third-year dermatology resident. 

Spotlyte: What do you think is the biggest misconception about your job?

SW: That I'm not really a doctor. We did go through a time where people were shocked to know that dermatologists were real doctors. And people have no conception of how long we go to school. My daughter will be 32 when she finishes.

Spotlyte: What’s the best part about being a dermatologist?

SW: Mine is a joy, not a job. I love coming to work. I started my practice in 1984, and it's a labor of love.

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