By Avery Wood

Idyllic Palm Springs has always called to tourists and celebrities alike with its year-round sunshine, pristine golf courses and dynamic culture. Now it is also home to what supermodel Beverly Johnson is calling the “fountain of youth”: Dr. Wendy Roberts’ Generational Dermatology Symposium, which occurred Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 19 at the Hard Rock Hotel, along with a women’s focus group on Thursday, February 16 moderated by Johnson and Dr. Roberts.

The symposium concentrated on Dr. Roberts trademarked process of Generational Dermatology, which according to her, is “a subspecialty of dermatology… where we practice a preventive approach… what Generational Dermatology does is address the situation before it gets to be a problem.” Many of the symposium’s presentations during the weekend concentrated on young people, such as “The Anatomy of the Young and Aging Face” by Dr. Kimberly Butterwick and “Peds and Tweens: What is Trending” by Dr. Mona Gohara.

Beverly Johnson acted as the keynote speaker for the event and got involved because she so admires Dr. Robert’s work, after becoming her patient three years ago. Johnson was looking for a dermatologist and after working with Dr. Roberts, considers her an artist, saying, “I finally found Dr. Roberts …even with all of the plastic surgeons and all of the dermatologists I had at my… disposal, I was still searching. I was going back and forth to Los Angeles, and finally I said ‘I’ve got to find a doctor here, everybody’s been talking about Dr. Wendy Roberts forever.’ I could tell by the way she touched my skin. It’s an art form to really be able to understand beauty and the face.” Though Johnson was aware of beauty treatments during her modeling career, which started at 17, she nonetheless was “really excited to learn the professional aspect” during the symposium.

The idea for Generational Dermatology came to Dr. Roberts because she wanted to treat her patients more effectively. “When I came to the desert 23 years ago, I had patients who were, let’s say 40 years old and ten years later their skin didn’t look the same; they were aging right in front of my eyes. And 20 years later, it looked even worse. So I said to myself, well this is nice that I’m treating wrinkles and lines and spots and rosacea, but what if I started 20 years earlier and made a difference in their life. That was my ‘aha’ moment, that I didn’t have to be a doctor that treated disease, that I could be a doctor that prevented disease from happening,” she says.

The women’s focus group led by Johnson and Dr. Roberts reflected her ideas and the purpose of the symposium, addressing the dermatological concerns that the women had about aging. It was composed of Dr. Roberts’ patients, with the decades of age being represented, from twenties to eighties. The group was asked questions about the skin and hair issues they were having at their age, what they knew about skin care and where they learned it and who their beauty icons were. The women in their twenties and thirties expressed concerns about acne and dry skin; the women in their forties started to express concern about wrinkles; and the women in their fifties through eighties talked about dark spots, thinning skin, a thinning face and a loss of skin elasticity. Almost everyone emphasized that they appreciate a natural-looking beauty in their icons and expressed faith that Dr. Roberts could help them achieve or maintain that.

The purpose of the symposium is for Dr. Roberts and her colleagues to educate other dermatologists on the newest techniques in dermatology, including Generational Dermatology. “As the founder and chair of the program, I have a vision of what I want to deliver to the doctors. The speakers are all key opinion leaders in their specialty and these are internationally and nationally known faculty. These speakers are really at the top of their game and they’re out there teaching doctors all across the nation,” Roberts says, emphasizing that these are doctors who are have new and current technology in fillers, Botox and skin cancer treatments. Dr. Roberts’ vision concentrates on preventative techniques. “We’re teaching physicians how to go out there and identify the patients who are at risk for all of these things that are coming for them later down the road,” She says.  “Aging doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a slow process. You wake up one morning, you’re a 50 year old woman and you’re losing your hair. How did it all happen? Well, you were losing your hair in your thirties, you just didn’t know it. So we want to teach doctors how to hone in on those patients and say ‘you know what, you’re at risk; I see the early signs of hair loss on you; I’m going to treat you so you don’t wind up losing your hair.’”

The symposium also addressed the importance of diversity in the field of dermatology. One presentation, by Dr. Mona Gohara, is called “Transgender Patients: New Demographic / New Needs” and Dr. Roberts wants to emphasize “diversity in every way: age, sex [and] ethnicity,” saying, “Aging is not the same in certain ethnic groups. So we’re going to look into… aging in African Americans, I’m going to speak a little bit about aging in Asians… different skin types. These people are coming into their dermatologists’ and their doctors’ offices with concerns, so we’re teaching safety… and efficacy in these procedures in what we call our skin of color patients. The world is becoming a multi-racial mix… biracial, triracial, that population is growing and their skin has specific needs and has to be taken care of properly and in a safe fashion.”

As for hosting the symposium in Palm Springs, Dr. Roberts says, “This meeting was made for the venue of Palm Springs. Because we’re actually coming into an area where people are aging and don’t want to look like they are. Palm Springs is like… the fountain of youth. People come here and they just don’t age, they look wonderful and so this is the perfect place to have a meeting like this.”

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