We hear it all the time during practice management sessions at medical meetings: To thrive (or even just survive), physicians must embrace the business side of medicine. Sapna Palep, MD, MBA, dermatologist and founder of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, took this advice literally and it has made all the difference. She now has three New York City practices, with plans for more—not to mention a thriving lingerie retail business. Dr. Palep shared some of the secrets for her success with Practical Dermatology® magazine.
Why did you decide to get an MBA along with an MD?
Sapna Palep, MD: I always had a passion for entrepreneurship, and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to start my own dermatology practice. I watched my father, who was a gastroenterologist, build his practice from the ground up, while also owning several franchise restaurants. He was successful in juggling his medical practice and business side-by-side. I learned that having a solid business education tends to be beneficial when running any type of business. There are core business concepts that all business owners should be proficient in, and having a formal education gives me a distinct advantage in running my practice.
How has your business background shaped your practice and its growth?
Dr. Palep: My business background gave me the roots that have allowed me to think outside the medical bubble. This is a very difficult crossover for many physicians at times, including myself. Medicine has very much become part of the service industry. We thought of Spring Street Dermatology as a brand from the very beginning, from the logo to the aesthetic of the practice, and I think this has contributed to the success and growth of the practice. We needed to embrace the emerging importance of brands in the dermatology industry.
In less than 10 years, we’ve grown from our office in SoHo to another location in TriBeCa and now a third office opening in late fall in Midtown on Fifth Avenue.
Do you plan to expand further?
Dr. Palep: Yes, it is my dream to expand further. However, my first priority is to not lose focus on the patient. Expanding our brand, while maintaining quality of care, is our ultimate goal. From the very beginning, our practice has grown organically through word of mouth referrals, and I am very proud of that. There is no greater compliment than the referral of friends and family. Overall, we have a passion to provide our patients with beautiful, healthy, glowing skin.
What advice would you, as a business woman and as a dermatologist, give to your colleagues?
Dr. Palep: Never lose focus on what you are trying to accomplish, which is the highest quality of patient care. What we have to remember as board-certified dermatologists as well as businesswomen is that this has a broadened meaning today. It means being accessible, providing all the services our patients might want, offering personal care, and even helping patients understand their insurance plans. The scope of being a doctor is beyond just patient care now.
Tell us about your involvement at Journelle.
Dr. Palep: I am owner and co-CEO with my husband at Journelle, a multi-brand lingerie retailer that features its namesake brand with three New York City locations and a retail location in Chicago. I married into the Italian family that founded a 40-year-old global lingerie brand, Cosabella. During 11 years of marriage to my husband, I’ve been able to greatly influence the lingerie industry based on my experiences in dermatology. Patients openly discuss their undergarment needs, while we diagnose skin issues caused in part by undergarments and in part by their active lifestyles. The exam room has, in effect, crossed over to be a dressing room, as well, opening up conversations related to fit, construction, and fabrication. This knowledge has allowed me to naturally bring innovation and design solutions into my husband’s lingerie collections. Journelle allows me to further that innovation, where we effectively provide fitting services by appointment. At Journelle, we host our clientele much like I would my patients: a thorough assessment of their concerns and needs, in a comfortable and private setting, with a solution-based result. Just like with my patients, Journelle schedules regular follow-ups as seasons and the body changes. Also, much like my practice, we focus on brides, mothers, and the discerning woman’s rejuvenation.