Dr. Warren Seiler – 2019 Kumar Patel Prize Recipient
2019 Kumar Patel Prize Recipient for outstanding contributions to Cosmetic Laser Surgery Education
Warren B. Seiler, III, MD
Seiler Skin, Birmingham, AL
First of all, I’d like to thank the ALSC for all the meaningful work it is doing, two of my many mentors, Dr. Ed Zimmerman and Peter Vitruk, for guiding me early in my career and, most of all, my wonderful wife, Jill, for her unwavering support and partnership.
It’s for sure a round-about, and even scary-funny way, how I got into the practice of cosmetic laser surgery. I grew up wanting to be a physician because my dad was a doctor. Although he was a child psychiatrist and I knew I wanted to be some other type of physician, he taught me a lot about the philosophy and art of medicine, the hypocritic oath, and about how much he loved helping his patients. After having several surgeries growing up, I began to think that surgery would be the field for me. Believe it or not, I went into medical school confident that I wanted to be a neurosurgeon! I guess it just seemed cool, high-end, and difficult – plus, I liked a challenge. Well, I quickly found out in the neuroanatomy section of gross anatomy that I didn’t like brain anatomy and ended up only making a 52 on my first neuroanatomy exam. Now mind you, the highest grade was a 65, so it wasn’t exactly a breeze for anyone! It didn’t take long before I became interested in orthopedic surgery, and I spent a lot of time shadowing those surgeons. Only late in medical school did I find an interest in plastic surgery. Not knowing which direction I wanted to choose, I decided to start in general surgery to explore the different specialties. Luckily, I had four elective rotations in my first surgical intern year and saw both ortho and plastics. I loved the incredible procedures in ortho but didn’t much care for the long, procedure-less hours in the clinic, so I became “gung-ho plastics,” as I called it.
Toward the end of my general surgery training, I was introduced to several laser procedures, namely CO2 skin resurfacing. I decided to take a year off after general surgery to explore my options, still fully planning on starting my plastic fellowship afterward. I found myself sitting in one local lecture about the new fractional CO2 skin resurfacing and it finally hit me – that was my calling. I did a lot of research on larger cities with physicians from different specialties, mostly dermatology and surgery, who were beginning to specialize in laser procedures. I built up the courage to tell the chair of UAB’s plastics program, who was my mentor and advisor, that I was going to retract my plastics fellowship and train to be a cosmetic laser specialist. I thought for sure I was about to be destroyed, with him saying “that new laser stuff is bunk, you need to be a real plastic surgeon”, but was both thrilled and surprised to hear him say that the new field of laser medicine and surgery was going to grow quickly and he thought I would be great at it. His endorsement further fueled my fire and initiated my pursuit to become a cosmetic laser surgeon. The road I took certainly wasn’t easy, because there was no official training or fellowship in laser procedures under any specialty, and they’re still really isn’t today. I had to seek out specialists in the field and spend time training with them in their private practices until I felt confident starting my own.
Ever since beginning my cosmetic laser surgery practice in 2007, I was always very passionate about striving to become an expert and thought leader in this field of medicine and surgery. Receiving such highly specialized training, coupled with the satisfaction I experienced through helping my patients achieve their desired results, created in me a deeper purpose to contribute and help educate fellow practitioners who share the same values and commitment to upholding the highest standards of patient care.
Becoming specialty-board certified through the American Board of Laser Surgery, and my subsequent appointment as its Executive Director of Education, Training, Research and Development, undoubtedly fortified this drive as I was afforded the opportunity to lead the ABLS’ initiative to update its study materials and board exam. From there, I spent over a year researching the “state of the union” of our specialty, particularly regarding the real need for better practitioner training to ensure safer and effective treatment of patients, as well as the importance of increased awareness around this need among state medical boards and various regulatory agencies.
The culmination of this endeavor was authoring the guidelines, “The Pressing Need for the Understanding and Oversight of Lasers and Light Energy Devices as Used in Today’s Cosmetic and Other Medical Procedures.” The Guidelines describe the necessity for better training in this specialty. During the 2000s, the number of cosmetic lasers and light procedures being performed on Americans exploded, particularly hair removal to skin resurfacing. This increase in procedures and consequential dangers were and continue to be driven by the availability of many new laser and light technologies that can address everything from reduction of lines, wrinkles and acne scars to the removal of unwanted hair, tattoos, age spots, skin discolorations, and many other conditions.
Still today, patients oftentimes are being treated by non-physicians, which can range from nurses to technicians to cosmetologists. The degree of oversight in these situations varies from adequate to virtually nonexistent. This can be extraordinarily dangerous because, when used improperly or simply in accordance with manufacturer-recommended settings, lasers and other light-based devices can seriously burn and maim patients. I have testified as an expert witness in dozens of cases in which patients were severely – and I mean severely – injured at the hands of inadequately trained practitioners. The Guidelines combat this real issue, and detail numerous ways in which laws and other requirements could be strengthened to uphold a higher standard of care. They were presented to all state medical boards and several regulatory agencies, and address the ever-growing need for sensible oversight in this industry, as well as recommend improved training and new regulations.
Today, my work with these governing bodies continues as there still is much to do. In fact, I have even launched my own private training company to ensure that, in both hands-on and online training environments, practitioners are getting the quality education and clinical instruction needed to produce safe and superior patient outcomes. I look forward to continuing my work training and educating other practitioners on cosmetic laser medicine, as well as creating happy, loyal, and satisfied patients in my own practice.
I am grateful and honored to receive this award, and hope that our collective passion for the specialty and providing the highest quality of care inspires others who may wish to join us.
Thank you all.
Warren B. Seiler, III, MD
Dr. Seiler is a board-certified cosmetic laser surgeon, the owner and Medical Director at Seiler Skin, and the founder of the Seiler Skin Aesthetic Institute. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with honors. He graduated medical school from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. After training in general surgery at Carraway Methodist Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala., Dr. Seiler, completed extensive further cosmetic specialty training, which extends well beyond any traditional residency or fellowship program. This includes in-depth training on the use of lasers and injectables, as well as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) in cosmetic medicine under Dr. Charles Runels, the inventor of the Vampire® procedures. He is also a fellow of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.
Dr. Seiler completed his specialty board certification through the American Board of Laser Surgery (ABLS). After gaining national recognition as a prodigious provider in laser medicine and surgery, Dr. Seiler was appointed as the Executive Director of the ABLS. He subsequently went on to co-author multiple editions, including the current, of the ABLS examination textbook and certification exams (written and oral). Most recently, Dr. Seiler co-authored the sixth chapter, Anesthesia in Laser Practice, in the “Textbook of Lasers in Dermatology.”
As Executive Director, he currently serves as a trusted advisor and educator to ABLS members and non-members who seek expert training and higher education opportunities in the field. Dr. Seiler also works with state medical boards, health departments, and laser safety societies in the U.S. and abroad to help create stronger safety and training regulations that govern practitioners who provide these procedures.
Dr. Seiler has trained and examined practitioners in 11 countries in laser, injection and aesthetic procedures. In 2008, Dr. Seiler founded the Seiler Skin Aesthetic Institute (SSAI), a premier provider of online and hands-on injection, laser and Vampire®– certified PRP training courses for physician and non-physician cosmetic practitioners. Dr. Seiler’s flagship online course is a comprehensive, CME-certified neurotoxin and filler injection training that empowers practitioners of all experience levels with increased confidence and proficiency to enhance their craft and produce superior patient results. Dr. Seiler also has trained practitioners for Allergan—the maker of Botox, Juvederm, SkinMedica, Kybella and Latisse—and is one of the few expert hands-on trainers for the popular Vampire® procedures.
For nearly a decade, Dr. Seiler has served in the capacity of expert witness for both plaintiff and defense attorneys in dozens of civil and medical-malpractice lawsuits concerning laser, injection, and cosmetic procedures.