Alumni Spotlight - Dr. Amy Wechsler, T'91

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Jewish Life At Duke
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Dermatologist & author of The Mind-Beauty Connection

Where are you from originally? What made you decide to attend Duke?
I am from Queens, NY and Rockland County, NY.  I decide to attend Duke for a number of reasons - I already knew that I wanted to go to medical school and I knew Duke had a strong pre-med program and a first-class hospital; I wanted to leave my comfort zone of the Northeast and try someplace new; I visited Duke with my family and fell in love with the school and the environment; I love college basketball; - the list goes on and on!
If you had to describe your Duke experience briefly, what would you say about it?
I loved every minute of my time at Duke.  I was struck by the fact that no one on the faculty said no to me - if I was interested in pursuing an activity, there was always someone who was willing to help me turn my interests into reality.  I had a great mix of academics and extracurricular activities and social time.  I made life-long friends, had inspiring professors, and did unique things like spending a lot of time at the Lemur Center.  

You graduated before the Freeman Center was built. Were you active in Jewish life on campus when you were a student? What groups or activities were you involved with as a student?
I was active around holidays - services were in the Chapel and my mom encouraged me to attend.  I was in a sorority (Kappa Alpha Theta), I babysat for faculty members, I volunteered at Duke hospital (most notably in a pediatric AIDS clinic) and at the Lemur Center, I shadowed an orthopedic surgeon starting in my sophomore year (I was actually in the operating room), I was a Big Sister to a young boy in Durham, and I played on the Club Volleyball team.

Talk about your career and life now.
I have a private practice in NYC - I own my office and I set my own schedule, which is great because I am a single mom of 2 awesome kids.  I work hard, I feel privileged to take care of people for a living, and I plan my schedule around my kids' events and activities.  I also consult with Chanel on their skin care products.

You are one of only two dermatologists in the country who is board certified in both dermatology and psychiatry.  How did you decide to focus on psychology AND dermatology? And how do the two disciplines relate to each other in your daily practice? 
I first became a psychiatrist (and child psychiatrist), but in practicing psychiatry I missed taking care of the physical ailments of my patients.  It took me a few months to figure out which specialty I wanted to combine with psychiatry, but when I discovered dermatology it made perfect sense to me.  The mind and skin have myriad connections and affect each other in innumerable ways.  I spend a lot of time with my patients and I look at them holistically, since what's going on in their lives can impact their skin and vice versa.  

You published a book, The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin. You’ve been on TV programs such as the Dr. Oz Show, and featured in many publications such as The New York Times and O Magazine.  What has been the most exciting experience so far in your career? 
I don't have just one "most exciting" experience... in the office I love clearing up severe acne and watching each of those patients blossom as their self-esteem and confidence improves; I loved being on Tyra [Banks] for the first time because that was my first national TV appearance; I loved publishing my book because I worked hard on it and was proud of it; I love working with Chanel because it's a company of extraordinary people who do incredible work; I love finding skin cancers in their early stage; I loved being in the NY Times the first time because I am a New Yorker and my grandpa read it from cover to cover every day. 

Passover is coming up. What traditional Passover foods are worst for your skin? Which ones are best?
There are no Passover foods that are necessarily bad for skin!  Foods high in antioxidants are good for the skin - dark chocolate covered matzah is my favorite and dark chocolate has antioxidants in it - just eat it in moderation!

Any advice for us stress-prone Dukies?
Try hard to get enough sleep!  We heal and lay down new memory during sleep.  Without enough sleep, most people become irritable, cannot deal with stressors as well, don't perform as well on exams, and get sick much more easily.  I never pulled an all-nighter at Duke because I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate well the next day.  It's important to have a good balance of work and leisure time.  Take care of yourself - connect with friends, take a walk outside, exercise, wear sunscreen, and don't smoke!

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