Born into a medical family in Russia, board-certified dermatologist Julie Russak, MD, moved to the US to attend college and medical school. Her accomplishments in medicine were even recognized as an undergraduate, when she received an award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for her excellence in genetics and immunology. She then attended New York University Medical School and completed a dermatology fellowship at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where she was named chief resident. An Oncology Melanoma Fellowship with Dr. Darrell Rigel followed and today, Dr. Russak runs a busy medical and cosmetic dermatology practice in Manhattan.
Tell us a bit about your background. What inspired you to become a dermatologist?
I grew up in Russia in a medical professional family and from the very beginning I knew that I would continue in my family tradition. However, with all the changes happening in Russia at that time, education was the last of the priorities for the government. I came to the United States to go to college and medical school. While in college I started working in genetic lab and became fascinated with molecular biology. I continued my research into genetics and cancer in medical school and through my interest in melanoma genetic research, I met several fascinating people who were dermatologists. They introduced me to this amazing field with incredible diversity that incorporates science, the art of medicine, and visual and esthetic art. I continued with a fellowship in melanoma oncology and in my current practice try to combine all the fields together.
What is your signature procedure?
A procedure that is becoming very popular is our revolutionary non-invasive eye rejuvenation, which involves a variety of techniques to improve lines, dark circles, and sagging skin around the eyes for a youthful, refreshed look. Until recently, this kind of procedure was done using surgical techniques, which require general anesthesia and a fair amount of downtime. Now, we can rejuvenate the eye area in a variety of ways, using superficial fillers, neurotoxins, and our tightening ultrasound device for the same result. These procedures require no downtime; they are done in the office and patients can go back to work the same day. The first things someone notices about you are the eyes, so this combination of treatments can make a world of a difference in how you and others perceive your face.
Are there any new anti-aging treatments on the horizon that really excite you?
With all the advancements in cosmetic dermatology, I think we are broadening the range of potential clients. Some issues are best corrected through cosmetic surgery; however, there is a large client population that just would never opt for elective surgery. This specific patient base has felt left out for a very long time and they continue to not address certain concerns that they have. That client population is going to frequent the dermatologist more and more in the future and will be able to have very similar results (for example, cosmetic nose augmentation using dermal fillers, mini face lift using Juvederm VOLUMA XC and neuromodulators). I am very excited about the launch of Juvederm VOLUMA XC, the first and only hyaluronic acid (HA) filler that is FDA-approved to instantly add volume to the cheek area, resulting in a subtle lift. VOLUMA is the thickest filler to date on the market.
What is the condition you find most challenging?
Allergic reactions are very complex conditions to treat. There are so many possible causes, whether it is food, product ingredients, environmental stressors, etc. It can take some time and serious attention to detail in order to correctly diagnose.
What should a new patient always ask their dermatologist?
A patient should always inquire about what they should be looking for regarding changing moles. If patients are actively on the lookout for irregular changes, it makes catching a potential skin cancer all that easier.
What is your beauty mantra?
Starting younger and doing less but more frequently to maintain healthy, fresh-looking skin through the years. I don’t want to change my patient’s face. Everyone is uniquely beautiful. It’s about cosmetically enhancing your natural features, not radically altering you who are.