Bernice Yan, MD shares her experience with Tina S. Alster, MD
As part of the ASLMS Preceptorship program, I had the privilege of working with Dr. Tina Alster at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington D.C. Dr. Alster is a woman who needs no introduction; she is a pioneer and internationally-renowned expert in the field of lasers and energy-based devices. She is also a woman who goes by many names to her patients: Dr. All Star, Michelangelo, “T”, and my personal favorite, laser queen.
My week-long rotation with Dr. Alster was truly a pivotal experience in my residency training; it offered me a rare glimpse into the world of cosmetic dermatology in a flourishing private practice. From fractional laser resurfacing to cryolipolysis, Dr. Alster’s practice contains an impressive armamentarium of injectables, lasers, and energy-based devices at its disposal, ready to address any and all concerns that her patients may have. A few highlights from the week for me included observing the use of a picosecond laser for tattoo removal, chemical peels to treat dyspigmentation of burn scars, and platelet rich plasma for dark under-eye circles. I also had the invaluable opportunity to learn her algorithmic and combination treatment approaches to different cosmetic concerns, including pulsed dye laser and intralesional injections for hypertrophic and keloid scars, microneedling and fractional laser resurfacing for perioral rhytids, and Nd:YAG laser for facial telangiectasias.
Throughout the week, Dr. Alster maximized my learning opportunities whenever she had the chance. She would ensure that I knew when other members of the practice were performing less common procedures so that I could observe the use of these devices that I previously did not have any exposure to, such as CoolSculpting and Ultherapy. A testament to her nature as an educator and mentor, Dr. Alster routinely highlighted clinical treatment pearls during patient encounters and despite the busy pace of her practice, always made herself available to answer questions. One of the most fascinating and inspirational parts of my preceptorship was also witnessing the application of Dr. Alster’s own published clinical trial findings in the treatment of her patients. For example, every patient who receives fractional laser skin treatment at her practice receives light-emitting diode (LED) photomodulation subsequently, given Dr. Alster’s previously published findings that LED treatment decreases the intensity and duration of postfractional erythema. It was truly inspiring to see how Dr. Alster’s research and contributions to the field directly impact patient care.
Above all, the most impressive and inspiring part of my experience was witnessing the relationship between Dr. Alster and her patients. Dr. Alster’s empathetic nature and genuine compassion for her patients shined brightly throughout every encounter, and it was not a surprise to learn that many of her longtime patients consider her as not only their go-to cosmetic dermatologist, but also as their friend. As an internationally-renowned cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Alster manages to remain approachable and warmly welcomes patients and mentees alike
into her practice. Apart from providing an unparalleled educational experience, Dr. Alster also invariably provides mentorship and inspiration to all those in her presence. From my week with Dr. Alster, I left Washington D.C. more knowledgeable, more cultured, and a whole lot more inspired.
Many thanks to Dr. Alster, the ASLMS Preceptorship program, and its sponsors for this invaluable and memorable experience.