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Member Spotlight - An Interview with Sami N. Alsuwaidan, MD


Sami N. Alsuwaidan, MD



Associate Professor, King Saud University, College of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Please share your background. How did your interest in lasers develop?

Laser treatment has been fascinating to me for a long time. I was fortunate to be trained by world laser leaders, Richard Fitzpatrick, MD; Victor Ross, MD; Mitchell Goldman, MD and others during my fellowship training at the University of California San Diego almost 20 years ago. Obviously, this was such a wonderful opportunity to see the beauty and glorious effects of lasers on a diversity of medical and cosmetic conditions. I was honored to work with those figures and feel the progressive advancement of lasers and their reactions at the cutaneous level. After the major advancement in the understanding of laser tissue interactions in 1983, by applying the principle of selective photothermolysis by Rox Anderson, MD and John Parrish, MD, I was into the era of extended and variable pulse durations of pulsed dye laser, the applications of new long-wavelength vascular and hair removal lasers, the emergence of the excimer laser, early advancement of intense pulsed light therapy, the variable applications of pigmentary laser and others. Working with the inventors and developers of CO2 laser and intense pulsed light was tremendous. It was so exciting to me to explore laser advances and challenges on a daily basis. No doubt this made laser a part of my life and my professional career.

Over the years, laser has evolved enormously. Nevertheless, laser treatments were initially difficult to put into practice since patients were hesitant and wondering what the use of laser devices was for. Interestingly medical laser treatment increased the demand for laser procedures in many areas of medicine due to its non-invasive feature and intense light amplification that provides a highly selective therapy with increased safety profile. Laser treatments become increasingly popular when patients are getting the desired results. Therefore, further engagement in technology progress in laser treatment is indispensable.

What led you to research and development for energy-based treatments in dermatology? Why is this research important to the field?

Unlike traditional treatment, energy-based treatment in dermatology has a glorious design for its continuous research of effectiveness and efficiency through technology advancement. The area of lasers and energy-based devices is very dynamic and mandates a significant amount of research work. There are medical conditions in dermatology that cannot be managed by medical treatments and yet are responsive to laser. Some conditions will be managed and controlled by a combination of energy-based devices and medical treatment. So, defining these indications and the appropriate manner to utilize these devices necessitates continuous research and clinical trials. Moreover, existing laser responsive conditions and new energy-based device indications require continuous evaluation and refinement of parameters to enhance efficacy and improve the safety profile. This cannot be accomplished without continuous research in the field.

Conducting research gives optimal learning not only for students but also amongst professionals. Laser aesthetic treatment is targeting the millennial world, which requires deep serious study of modern dermatology. Efficacy, safety, complication avoidance, and reasonable downtime can be enhanced through persistent research.

What are some key developments in this field in your country?

The two major key developments in this field in Saudi Arabia are the acceptance of medical laser treatment by the community and having the support and recognition of the Saudi government for laser practice and specialty.

Way back in the ’90s, there were various misconceptions about using laser treatments and patients were not excited by laser therapy. As president of the Saudi Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, I can tell you that, in the past two decades the Society, in addition to other efforts, was able to increase the level of laser knowledge, awareness and practice among local professionals. Laser nowadays in Saudi Arabia is well recognized as a defined specialty with a significant amount of research and progressive growth.

The practice of laser and energy-based devices in dermatology in Saudi Arabia is growing progressively in both medical and cosmetic aspects. One of the big challenges in Saudi Arabia when it comes to laser is the environmental factor of heavy sun exposure in the context of dark skin complexion. This is a huge challenge where we need to deliver optimal laser treatment yet with acceptable safety margin. So, this area was a focus of investigations and research. We were able to recommend guidelines on how to approach dark skin specifically for Middle Eastern skin and publish them in respected international journals such as the journal of Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, the official journal of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. Also, we focused on describing new phenomena such as the melasma-like phenomenon after fractional laser in skin of color. Treatment of surgical and burn scars in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region is a big deal! More aggressive approach with high energy is required while the safety outcome must be preserved to avoid unwanted complications. We were able to set approaches to enhance efficacy with appropriate safety profiles. Dealing with a dark-skinned population is very complex and we were able to elucidate possible ways to accommodate such complexity.

The Saudi Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) managed the efficacy of laser devices and observed the safety and its impact on public health. As international medical equipment companies launch the latest laser devices in the kingdom, laser treatment speeds up exponentially over time in our region.

You are an ASLMS International Ambassador. Can you explain your role and how this impacts ASLMS?

An ASLMS International Ambassador’s position requires vast understanding acquired from combined education and experience, with active participation in a reputable organization and community. The International ambassador role is to be visible with strong presence on social platforms to represent the association. We continually seek to improve the ways we reach our members, while contributing to more sustainable growth by means of advancing study of laser technology in the medical field. Organizing national scientific events and workshops in cooperation with the ASLMS will significantly highlight the vision, mission, professional objectives and achievements of ASLMS to the Saudi professionals. Collaborative ventures with ASLMS through member guest speakers, as an example, would be a unique introduction of ASLMS to the local scientific community.

How has your involvement in ASLMS contributed to your career?

Joining a professional organization is a great addition to career progression. Being involved in the ASLMS association expands my network and increases exposure. Moreover, through frequent seminars and training, I’ve gained solid experience that led to professional growth. In fact, the success isn’t really about me alone but other medical practitioners as well that were influenced to leverage their skills and explore other open opportunities in the field of medical lasers.

Being part of the ASLMS opens the avenue for more solid international cooperation and knowledge exchange. In 2010 the first international laser conference took place in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with ASLMS. The meeting was a great success with major contributions by renowned laser figures like Christopher Zachary, MD; Victor Ross, MD; Stuart Nelson, MD; Jill Waibel, MD and others. Another collaborative work with ASLMS took place again in Saudi Arabia in 2013 and preparations are underway for another unique meeting with ASLMS in 2020. Such collaboration and exchange in knowledge with a leading laser society will definitely take all of us to the next level. 

You are our top Member-Get-A-Member referrer to date in 2019. Thank you for your efforts! Many of your referrals are just starting out in their careers. Why should early career clinicians become involved with ASLMS?

Feeling humbled to be the top member-get-a-member referrer to date for the year 2019 and overjoyed at the same time. Self-sourcing and acquisition of new members for ASLMS was driven by my advocacy and passion to lead the new generation of health care providers in promoting excellence in laser technologies, not only to our country but worldwide. Clinicians nowadays have intrinsic motivations. The dramatic reshaping on how they do their work, due to the influx of new technologies, makes them more passionate. They become more determined to be involved in an organization like ASLMS to get access to a wealth of information. 

Learn more about becoming a member of ASLMS.

The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery is the world’s largest scientific organization dedicated to promoting research, education and high standards of clinical care in the field of medical laser applications. It provides a forum for the exchange of scientific information and participation in communicating the latest developments in laser medicine and surgery to clinicians, research investigators, government and regulatory agencies, and the public.

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