MedicalPhysician Q&A

20 Questions: Mary Lupo, MD, Dermatologist

Mary Lupo, MD, is a practicing dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. Lupo began using combination protocols for her patients that included collagen fillers, light chemical peels, and topical products such as Retin-A and alpha hydroxy acids with sun protection. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Newcomb College of Tulane University (summa cum laude, 1976). She received her MD from Tulane University School of Medicine (1980). She then completed an internal medicine internship at Ochsner Hospital (1980-1981) before entering the dermatology program at Tulane University School of Medicine (1981-1984), where she served as chief resident in her final year.
Dr. Lupo is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology (former committee member); American Dermatological Association; American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (former board of directors and committee member); Women’s Dermatologic Society (former president and committee member); Eastern College of Health Vocations (medical advisory board); TopMD Skin Care (medical advisory board); Strathspey Crown (founding member and operating partner); Annenberg Circle of the Dermatology Foundation; and Stegman Circle of the ASDS Dermasurgery Advancement Fund. Dr. Lupo is the author of more than 60 published articles and book chapters, and she has been a speaker on various dermatological topics at nearly 250 national and international meetings and seminars. She serves on the editorial board of Prevention MagazineCurrent International, the Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, and Cosmetic Dermatology. Dr. Lupo has been published in Journal of Drugs in DermatologyJournal of Clinical Aesthetic DermatologyCosmetic DermatologyJournal of Cosmetic DermatologyThe Skin Cancer Foundation JournalDermatological SurgeryPlastic Reconstructive SurgeryDialogues in DermatologyJournal of Dermatological Surgery OncologyPostgraduate Medicine, and Archives of Dermatology.
When did you first decide to become a physician? Why?
When I was 16, I decided to become a physician. I felt it was the perfect profession for me since I loved science and was very outgoing. I also wanted to be my own boss and pave my own path.
How/why did you choose the medical school you attended?
Quite frankly, it was logistical. I was from New Orleans and staying home was economically necessary for my family to cut down on expenses. I was also accepted at Louisiana State University, but I chose the more prestigious national reputation at the time. I also wanted to be exposed to people from all over, not just Louisiana. I had gone to Tulane for my undergraduate degree and had a great experience.
What surprised you the most about your medical studies?
I was surprised by how relevant they were. I felt for the first time I was really learning information that would serve me well.
Why did you decide to specialize in dermatology?
I decided to specialize in dermatology because of the variety—the fact that it was very visual and procedural. Plus, I always had an aesthetic eye and good hand-eye coordination.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still specialize in dermatology? (Why or why not?)
Yes. Absolutely. In the early 80s, I saw the trend of non-surgical rejuvenation and as such I was on the early cusp of its development. I got to enjoy the field and help advance it.
Has being a dermatologist met your expectations? Why?
It has completely met my expectations. Personal and professional satisfaction has been my reward for focus and hard work.
What do you like most about being a dermatologist? Explain.
I like the variety. I see young and old. Well and sick. Medical and cosmetic. I bore easily and in dermatology, no two days are the same. I also love using my hands and I am particularly good with needles, which is good since I do so many cosmetic injections.
What do you like least about being a dermatologist? Explain.
Any time I have to fight with an insurance company who doesn’t want their insurer to get what I know they optimally need to get better. I like control, and the government and insurance companies have most of it. Patients and doctors get lost in the shuffle.
What was it like finding a job in your field–what were your options and why did you decide what you did?
I opened my own practice from scratch right out of residency, so hiring myself was easy.
On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
I see patients 22 to 25 hours a week. Add in my teaching and other medical activities, and I work about 40 hours per week. I sleep almost eight hours per night. I take four to six weeks of vacation annually.
Do you feel that you are adequately compensated? Why or why not?
Yes, but only because of the cosmetic work. The insurance companies and Medicare etc. pay poorly.
If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain? Please explain.
I did have loans and paid out over 10 years. The rate was 3%. It was doable.
In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself when you were beginning your medical career?
I have no regrets and if I went back knowing everything I know now, I would take the same path exactly.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were beginning your medical studies?
It is easier than you think. If you get into medical school you are smart enough to do well. Enjoy it. It can be hard but it is fun.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in health care today?
The biggest problem in health care today is the fact that it is no longer a doctor-patient relationship anymore. It is doctor-insurance company, etc. Bureaucracy is ruining medicine.
Where do you see your specialty in five years?
In five years in the field of dermatology, there will be no coverage for any conditions other than the most serious medical dermatology problems like melanoma, T cell lymphoma, and psoriasis.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
I do skin cancer screenings and do a lot of mentoring of residents.
Do you have family? Do you have enough time to spend with them?
Yes, I have a family. Yes, I feel that I have enough time to spend with them.

How do you balance work and life outside of work?
I balance work and life outside of work by trying to limit travel when I can and trying to take vacations with the entire family. It helps that my son and his family live across the street.
What is your final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing a career in your field?
My advice would be to pursue a degree in dermatology only if you love it. If you want to make a lot of money by working less, go to Wall Street. But if you love science and people, it is the very best profession and you will make a very good living.

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