The Magazine for Plastic Surgery Professionals
“Following the Gold”
by Rich Smith, contributing writer for Plastic Surgery Products
Alvin Glasgold, MD, FACS, is at an age when many of his plastic surgeon colleagues across the country are winding down their practices and preparing for retirement. However, for Glasgold, the opposite is occurring. After nearly 35 years of cutting and suturing, he is gathering steam and looking forward to taking his Highland Park, NJ, practice to new heights.
In 1994, his eldest son, Mark Glasgold, MD, came aboard as his practice partner, an addition followed not long thereafter by his esthetician daughter Ellen Lange Skin Care. Recently, a pair of associate cosmetic plastic surgeons from outside the family also joined the practice, and beginning in July, Glasgold’s youngest son, Robert Glasgold, MD, will also join the practice.
“Were it not for the participation of my children and the associates, I would have found it very difficult to move my practice into different and innovative areas of facial cosmetic plastic surgery,” confides Glasgold who, prior to this influx of helping hands, was a solo practitioner. “The have brought new vitality to the practice. They are keeping my practice young.”
They are also enabling the practice, know as The Glasgold Group, to engage in super-subspecialization. “To begin with, the group is subspecialized in facial cosmetic plastic surgery procedures, but beyond that, each of the doctors has one particular area of this subspecialty which he or she concentrates on,” says Mark Glasgold. “My dad’s super-subspecialty is rhinoplasties, Chin / Cheek Implants, and facial contouring. Mine is facelifts and facial rejuvenation. My sister operates a skin care clinic in conjunction with our practice.”
The Glasgold Group enjoys a reputation for producing an exceptionally natural look with its facial surgeries, facelifts in particular. “Mar, as our facelift super-subspecialist, made it a point soon after joining the practice to develop his knowledge of aging face procedures by attending as many symposia as possible and observing in person the surgical processes developed by renowned innovators in the field,” says Glasgold, who is also a clinical professor of surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ. “ Achieving a really natural look requires Mark to understand what it is about patients’ individual physiology that cause them to experience undesirable aging-skin conditions. Once he gains the necessary insight, he then looks at what he needs to do surgically to make them appear younger.”
Mark Glasgold – an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Scholl and resident instructor with the Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital, New York- says that he has an entire toolbox of innovative techniques to draw upon in addressing the problem or problems presented by each patient. The techniques allow for highly predictable results and little or no post surgical problems. “The technique I use on each patient is whichever one is the most appropriate under the circumstance.” He says. “I have never been a believer in the idea that a facelift is done just one way from patient to patient.”
A big part of the appeal of The Glasgold Group has always been its down-home personableness. Maintaining that character, however, may prove daunting as the practice continues to grow, Mark Glasgold indicates. “We are adding more surgeons and, as a result, we will soon need to expand our office and bring in more support staff,” he says. “In the process, we want to avoid acquiring an institutional feel by making sure our associates and staff have a full appreciation and acceptance of the family nature of this practice.”
The practice may also grow beyond its present confines- Lange has announced that she plans to open a second skin care clinic, this one in Manhattan. Glasgold thinks it is possible that he or one other member of his group will spend a few hours each week in Lange’s new facility to consult with patrons who express an interest in cosmetic facial plastic surgery. However, this is about as close to satelliting as The Glasgold Group is likely to get, cautions Mark Glasgold.
“I am not convinced that satelliting would be workable for our group,” he says. “ When you have satellites, you have to spend time on the road traveling between sites. That is time taken out of your day for seeing patients or performing procedures. If you try to compensate for the lost time out of your clinical day by extending your working hours, then your are taking time away from family. In my case, I have a wife and two young sons who need me to be around at the end of the day.”
It is clear that the Glasgolds possess plenty of business savvy. However, Glasgold confesses that mercantile matters never preoccupied his thinking while he was a solo practitioner. “For the longest time, I did not run my practice as a business,” he says. “I simply came in, performed my craft, and did not worry about things like growth strategies, achieving cost-efficiencies, or even what kind of return-on-investment I could expect if I bought this piece of equipment and not that other one over there. I performed good work and the community responded accordingly. I was fortunate to have my wife overseeing the business end of the practice, which allowed my to be focused on my patients.
“Admittedly, today, out of a fiduciary obligations to my children and the other associates, I have to be conscious of how the practice is performing as a business. I have to be aware of the economic considerations.”
It so happens that those economic considerations are prodding Mark Glasgold to explore ways of evolving the concept of super-subspecialization. “I believe super-subspecialization can help bring our practice to a higher level of prominence, perhaps in terms of market reach and certainly in terms of prestige,” he says. “I also believe that super-subspecialization is the ideal response to the growing sophistication of consumers. People want a superior product, and they are becoming increasingly savvy about sourcing the providers of that superior product. More and more, that provider is someone who is super-subspecialized in that product.”
Youngest son Robert Glasgold begins fellowship training in the practice this month, and when he completes the 1-year program, he will very likely sign on as an official member of The Glasgold Group. “I am hoping to groom Robert to specialize in rhinoplasties so he will be able to step into my shoes when I eventually get around to retiring,” says Alvin Glasgold. “Next it will be the grandchildren; we have a fine group coming up. And, who knows? I may still be here to train any of the grandkids who want to follow in our footsteps.”
Located in central New Jersey, the practice is only about 30 miles from New York City. “The majority of our patients are women,” says Glasgold. “However, whether male or female, they run the gamut from working class to very affluent. The common thread is they all are keen about quality and receiving the best results possible.”
Significant numbers of new patients self-refer to The Glasgold Group on the basis of name recognition alone. However, patients still are more likely to come by way of a referral from relative, friend, or colleague. Increasingly, though, a number of them are brought to the practice after first having used Ellen Lange Skin Care products or as clients of Lange’s skin care clinic.
Although The Glasgold Group uses paid advertising to attract patients, reliance on that form of marketing is minimal. “I have always had mixed feelings about advertisements,” says Glasgold. “ We have found that it does not directly cause patients to show up at the door. For the most part, what they do is create awareness of your practice and inspire people to ask around about your. At best, paid advertising is a tool to support and reinforce word-of-mouth.”
While the procedures performed at The Glasgold Group are entirely aesthetic-oriented, there was a time when most of the cases were reconstructive. “My background was ears, nose, and throat cases, so initially, my practice was heavily concentrated in head and neck surgery and rhinoplasty practice. In 1980, I also wrote and edited a text on the application of biomaterials in facial plastic surgery and was involved in work on the technology of chin implants.”
When Mark Glasgold came aboard, a greeter emphasis was placed on aging-face procedures. “Mark was instrumental in broadening the aging-face component of the practice,” says Glasgold. “It was possible for Mark to do that because, being young and just starting out in practice, he had the time and opportunities that I, as long-established practitioner, did not.”
For Mark Glasgold, he decided to practice alongside his father because of his deep affection for him. “We have always been a very close-knit family, so having the opportunity to work with my dad was appealing just because of the bond that exists between us,” he says.
Moreover, though, coming under his father’s wing made good business sense, meaning that Mark Glasgold could expect to circumvent most (if not all) of the struggles that normally accompany the building of a practice from scratch.
“My father’s greatest ambition was to see me be successful, and with that in mind he did everything he could to promote me to the practice’s patient base and to the community,” Mark Glasgold recalls.
Lange, meanwhile, had spent several years working as a public relations representative for a skin care products manufacturer before deciding to become an esthetician. After completing her training, she established a skin clinic in conjunction with her father’s practice. This eventually let her to begin developing her own skin care products.
Having his children involved in the practice has been a source of great pride for Glasgold, particularly one day about 3 years ago when he first noticed that Mark Glasgold was being requested by new patients as often as he was.
“It was no longer Dr. Alvin Glasgold and son. It was now Dr. Alvin Glasgold and Dr. Mark Glasgold, co-equals,” he remembers. “It was no longer a matter of new patients saying ‘I want to be seen by the doctor with the most experience.’ It was now them saying, ‘I understand that Dr. Mark is the best surgeon around for face lifts; I want to be seen by him.’ For me, this was wonderful to see happen.”
Still, working together creates a challenge, such as keeping shop-talk in its proper place during family gatherings, Glasgold indicates. “It is sometimes hard to separate office and home life,” he says. “I think it tends to be easier to interact with your kids as kids if they are not also your clinical colleagues and business partners. Event so, the rewards of working together as a family outweigh the few negatives.”