Dr. Terri L. Phillips Of Merz Aesthetics: “Flexibility”

Flexibility –The pandemic also reminds us, we are NOT in full control of this life. We do our best and that requires constant adjustments, with a smile and a patient heart for yourself and for others. Grace is my new favorite word. The global health and wellness market is worth more than 1.5 trillion dollars. […]

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Flexibility –The pandemic also reminds us, we are NOT in full control of this life. We do our best and that requires constant adjustments, with a smile and a patient heart for yourself and for others. Grace is my new favorite word.

The global health and wellness market is worth more than 1.5 trillion dollars. So many people are looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. At the same time, so many people are needed to help provide these services. What does it take to create a highly successful career in the health and wellness industry?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry” we are talking to health and wellness professionals who can share insights and stories from their experiences.

In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Terri L. Phillips, Chief Medical Affairs Officer for Merz Aesthetics.

Dr. Terri Phillips is the Chief Medical Affairs Officer of Merz Aesthetic, where she provides oversight to all medical affairs functions for the company. Dr. Phillips has over 15 years of scientific, technical, and business innovation expertise in the pharmaceutical industry. She initially joined Merz in January 2018 as Vice President and Head of Global Medical Affairs. She previously served as Vice President of Global Medical Affairs at Santen where she led organizational design and development for the company’s first global medical affairs function. She also worked at Allergan for nine years, performing many leadership roles such as Vice President, BOTOX Science and Vice President, Regional Scientific Services.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?

I was one of six children, so I grew up in a very big family. Both of my parents were in the medical field, so studying medicine was a natural path for me. I was always intrigued by the medical books I would find around our house.

My mother always told me, “If you have your health, you have everything.” I live by this phrase everyday as I take care of myself and my own family.

I originally considered being an orthodontist, but my father talked me into medical school instead. From there, I explored different fields, but eventually landed in the pharmaceutical industry, because the daily schedule allowed me to have more time with my family.

Was there a particular person or event that inspired you to live a wellness-focused lifestyle? Can you tell us about your main motivation to go all in?

One person that comes to mind was my Physical Education teacher from middle school. She was highly focused on fitness and competitive sports and instilled a sense of wellness in me at a very early age.

My ultimate motivation for living a wellness-focused lifestyle, however, was from providing medical care. By seeing patients every day, I was able to witness first-hand the effects of not taking proper care of your body. This left a major impression upon me, and I made a commitment to always prioritize my wellness.

Most people with a wellbeing centered lifestyle have a “go-to” activity, exercise, beverage, or food that is part of their routine. What is yours and can you tell us how it helps you?

During the pandemic, I developed a routine of riding my Peloton bike every day to stay active indoors. By unplugging from the world and working up a sweat, it soon became a form of therapy for me. As women, it is important to maintain our strength through exercise. Cycling is just one of the many ways you can move your body in a fun, energizing way. My motto is “I’m going to live until I die,” so finding the small methods that help me feel alive is what fuels my sense of wellbeing.

To live a wellness-focused life is one thing, but how did it become your career? How did it all start?

My family legacy of medicine was the main starting point for me, as I was surrounded by people in the life sciences. After I finished school and began practicing medicine, I put a greater emphasis on living and modelling a wellness-focused lifestyle. I believe that healthcare professionals should practice what they preach and my passion for wellness has inspired me to care for patients, provide clinical education for medical aesthetics professionals and lead a team in a way that prioritizes their health and wellness in addition to meeting our goals.

Can you share a story about the biggest challenges you faced when you were first starting? How did you resolve that? What are the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

One of the biggest challenges arose when I practiced critical care medicine in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and faced the possibility of ongoing deployments. My husband was also on active duty at the time, and we had young children. The process of planning for childcare in the event we both received military orders to leave the country at the same time was difficult. I began to feel a need to be more stable and present with my family.

Growing up, my own mother stayed at home to take care of her children. My mom has always been my role model, but I also loved my career so I needed to find a solution that would work for me to allow me to focus on my children, but still grow professionally. Ultimately, it meant leaving the military after 14 years of service to begin a new journey. The lesson I learned was that even when we have role models, it doesn’t mean that we need to emulate their path exactly. You have to identify what is most important and fulfilling to you and find the path that guides you toward that.

Can you share with us how the work you are doing is helping to make a bigger impact in the world? Can you share a story that illustrates that?

Aesthetic medicine has potential to make a big impact in peoples’ lives. I believe that when you look your best, you feel your best, and you do your best. Many people are seeking medical aesthetics for the first time now that most of us have spent more time than ever looking at our own faces on screens.

The aim of the Medical Affairs team at Merz Aesthetics is to make research and the latest techniques accessible and give healthcare professionals the tools they need to do their best work. At Merz Aesthetics, we exist to fuel confidence by helping people look better, feel better and live better and supporting healthcare professionals who have a positive impact on their patients is something I am proud of.

I have also always volunteered, a habit ingrained in me by my mother who has always been and is a woman of service to her community. I am currently serving as Board Chair for the Triangle region (Raleigh, NC) American Heart Association and our work is focused on health equity, especially given some of the disparities revealed by the current pandemic. We don’t live in the world alone and it is each of our responsibility to care for other humans and the planet entrusted to us.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We have two very exciting projects we have been working on. The Merz Aesthetics Medical Forum is a digital education platform providing short, snackable bites of medical aesthetics educational content. Instead of traditional longer lectures, this format is an effective way of reaching a wide audience on their schedule in the formats they choose. In addition, we recently launched the Innovation Forum to identify the next generation of young thought leaders interested in the industry. This is our way of getting to know the change-makers of tomorrow and connect them with seasoned mentors.

Also, through my work with the local chapter of the American Heart Association (AHA), we are focusing on women’s health given the lack of research and awareness of this important problem. Our current efforts are to engage with service organizations, volunteer health clinics and faith-based organizations to educate and empower women to care for themselves so they can care for the many who count on them!

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Faith — faith in myself to meet the challenge and to conquer my fears; faith in a higher authority (this is what has gotten me through the valleys of life). As a mother of four I have asked my own mother how she successfully raised six children and her answer is consistent: “on my knees.”

Persistence — as a woman of color lacking role models at many levels in my own career, I sometimes wanted to give up because when it got tough, I thought — — “maybe I’m not supposed to be here?” My parents, especially my mother, always reminded me others were looking at me and to me as a person paving the path for them, and others to follow. She helped me understand my obligation to those who came before me and to the ones coming after me. I see this same trait in my own children who make me extraordinarily proud.

Trust — as a leader I value this in myself and others above all. I want people to know I am true to my word and I expect others will be true to theirs. One of my favorite business reads is an old one, “The Speed of Trust.” Without trust, there are cost consequences — — and this holds true in personal relationships as well as business (time is money and it takes time if there is no trust). Once broken, to rebuild it is like filling a bathtub, one drop at a time.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. Wellness is an incredibly broad topic. How would you define the term “Wellness”? Can you explain what you mean?

I view wellness as a sense of physical, mental, and social well-being. Wellness is achieved when you feel safe, protected, and healthy in your body and your environment.

As an expert, this might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons with our readers about why focusing on our wellness should be a priority in our lives?

Once I began practicing medicine, I saw how lifestyle choices impact peoples’ lives. I decided that I was going to value my wellness and make choices that would benefit my overall health. These choices inform my work in Medical Affairs every day, as I can show up as the best and healthiest version of myself. Without health, nothing else is possible.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasingly growing understanding of the necessity for companies to be mindful of the wellness of their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, can you share steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental and physical wellness?

At Merz Aesthetics, we quickly sent the team remote and will continue to work from home until it’s safe to be together again. Since the beginning, we have made data-driven decisions to prioritize health and safety. In addition, we have provided additional sick leave and resources to help employees emotionally as well as physically. One of the most important things we did for our team was to support getting the vaccine early on through initiatives such as paid time off.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Curiosity — nothing stays the same and if you are not learning, you are not growing! Also, always be open to learning from others every single day — -“none of us as is smart as all of us.”

Balance — The pandemic has emphasized the importance of having a healthy balance in all aspects of our lives. It is so important to have a healthy balance of mental, physical, spiritual well being so you can bring your best self to everything you do.

Flexibility –The pandemic also reminds us, we are NOT in full control of this life. We do our best and that requires constant adjustments, with a smile and a patient heart for yourself and for others. Grace is my new favorite word.

Gratitude — no matter what, I wake up and am thankful every single day. My dad taught me this and I can guarantee you that no matter what happened yesterday and what the day ahead may bring, the time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here. I’m thankful for every day, good or bad.

Humility — this one is easy and guides me. Again, none of us is as smart as all of us. It’s easy for success to breed complacency and self-importance, but always guard against this. The world changes in the blink of an eye and what worked today doesn’t work tomorrow. Stay humble and keep putting in the work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would promote the most wellness to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This was a hard one for me but what I really want to see is a world where we recognize one another as humans in this thing together, and it really does begin with us. Much of prejudice is ignorance (not reading and understanding history and how it informs the present) and ignorance of other cultures and people. Live amongst others. Learn with them. Socialize with them. Expand your circle and relate to one another as fellow humans. You will find there is far more we have in common than not. Then, let’s tear down societal inequities and achieve true liberty and justice for all.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to sit down with Barack and Michelle Obama. After reading their books and following their careers over many years, I view the Obamas as contemporaries of mine in terms of age and life experiences. I had the pleasure of briefly meeting them during his early presidential campaign, but to get to know them over a meal would be a dream come true.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow my LinkedIn and visit merzaesthetics.com/news for updates.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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