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Dr. Will Kirby: “You may think that my thought processes are too ambitious. But they aren’t. And my dreams are my reality”

Very early on in the COVID-19 pandemic my group, LaserAway, recognized there wouldn’t be enough protective equipment for first responders and hospitals to function efficiently. We immediately started donating our excess personal protective equipment (PPE) and with 58 clinic locations and a presence in nine of the ten biggest cities in the United States we […]


Very early on in the COVID-19 pandemic my group, LaserAway, recognized there wouldn’t be enough protective equipment for first responders and hospitals to function efficiently. We immediately started donating our excess personal protective equipment (PPE) and with 58 clinic locations and a presence in nine of the ten biggest cities in the United States we were well-positioned to make a difference. But we also recognized that the aesthetic dermatology industry looks to us to set the bar, so we challenged them. We asked dermatologists, plastic surgeons, med spas, and companies in the aesthetic space to donate their PPE via a social media outreach program called the “PPE Challenge”. We tasked ourselves, our colleagues, and our industry partners to take these valuable PPE assets and put them in the right hands. The concept really caught when TMZ ran a story about it and with additional support spreading the good word from aesthetic conferences like Vegas Cosmetic Surgery and The Aesthetic Show, we were really able to reach colleagues all over the nation. See, so many healthcare providers in aesthetics wanted to help but couldn’t find an appropriate outlet, and the PPE Challenged offered a means by which they could really make a positive impact in the fight against this deadly virus.


As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Will Kirby.

Celebrity dermatologist, Dr. Will Kirby, is the Chief Medical Officer of LaserAway, a leading aesthetic dermatology group. Dr. Kirby won a major reality TV show, a daytime game show and he has appeared on more 40 different national television shows. He’s worked for Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly Clark, and Unilever and has appeared live on QVC more than 100 times. He currently serves as the health and beauty reporter for Life & Style Magazine, as an associate clinical professor of dermatology, and the cosmetic director for the Western University of Health Sciences dermatology residency.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I try to bring a unique perspective to everything thing I do and while I’ll avoid being overly philosophical, it’s my contention that I’m able to bring different ideas to the metaphorical table because of my unique upbringing. I was born in a small nunnery in Florence, Italy, and went to kindergarten in Paris, France. My parents returned to the United States when I was young, and I spent my formative years in Florida. I got my primary education at a research school at Florida State University where, as a teen, my classmates and I were the subjects of psychological experiments. As a late bloomer in the field of medicine, I took time off before becoming a physician and worked in a number of non-traditional jobs before becoming a Beverly Hills dermatologist.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Asking me my favorite book is like asking me which of my two children I like best — that’s an impossible task for me. But I’m currently reading Leonardo Da Vinci, the biography by Walter Isaacson, and couldn’t be more enthralled. I recommend it in the strongest of terms. I respond so well to it because I’m of the opinion that no individual, alive or dead, has ever better-melded art with science. And as someone with a lifelong passion for biology and the healing arts as well as entertainment, I strive to better understand his passionate curiosity and how to be blended these worlds so effortlessly.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I have to explain this next concept carefully or it will be lost but I’ll do my best: A quote that summarizes how I view the world comes from the great Beatle, John Lennon. He famously said, “You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” And Lennon’s version, to me, is implying that there is comradery in inclusivity in that you, the listener, can take comfort in knowing that your act of dreaming big is a shared collective experience. But the record I owned had a microscopic scratch on it and as such, on the only version I heard, he was always singing, “You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not.” Now I’m now well aware of what the entire quote is but for years I thought that John Lennon was simply defying anyone who didn’t think he was capable of thinking big. This really resonated with me. See, I didn’t have access to his message that the power comes from strength in numbers so while Lennon was telling the whole world, “we are in this together and we dream a collective bight future”, contextually, for me, and me alone, he was saying. “You may think that my thought processes are too ambitious. But they aren’t. And my dreams are my reality”. On paper, there isn’t much of a difference when you lose those three little words (“the only one”) but the overall concept of the sentence changes entirely once they are removed. So, you may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not.

Okay, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

Very early on in the COVID-19 pandemic my group, LaserAway, recognized there wouldn’t be enough protective equipment for first responders and hospitals to function efficiently. We immediately started donating our excess personal protective equipment (PPE) and with 58 clinic locations and a presence in nine of the ten biggest cities in the United States we were well-positioned to make a difference. But we also recognized that the aesthetic dermatology industry looks to us to set the bar, so we challenged them. We asked dermatologists, plastic surgeons, med spas, and companies in the aesthetic space to donate their PPE via a social media outreach program called the “PPE Challenge”. We tasked ourselves, our colleagues, and our industry partners to take these valuable PPE assets and put them in the right hands. The concept really caught when TMZ ran a story about it and with additional support spreading the good word from aesthetic conferences like Vegas Cosmetic Surgery and The Aesthetic Show, we were really able to reach colleagues all over the nation. See, so many healthcare providers in aesthetics wanted to help but couldn’t find an appropriate outlet, and the PPE Challenged offered a means by which they could really make a positive impact in the fight against this deadly virus.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

Traditionally speaking, a hero is admired because he or she displays noble qualities. But the definition is really contextual. Who are heroes right now?

Well, of course, first responders are. Doctors and nurses on the front lines are. But so are the people who stock the shelves at the grocery store. So are the people who drive the trucks that distribute the masks. So are the people who distribute food to lonely elders. This crisis has really given everyone an opportunity to be appreciated for their job and service to their community. I salute every single person keeping the country going!

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero?

Five? I’ll give you seven! Well, six anyway.

To start off, I’d like to reference Dante’s inferno. What are the seven deadly sins? Pride, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, sloth, and wrath. Anyone driven by these attributes are clearly on the wrong path and might make short term gains, but you have to ask, “at what cost”? No one can be a hero with those characteristics.

Now let’s look at the seven heavenly virtues: Chastity, temperance, generosity, diligence, patience, kindness, and modesty. Let’s forget chastity for a second.

Want to be a hero? It’s simple: Do your job and be the best in the world at it. And incorporate temperance, generosity, patience, kindness, and modesty. You don’t have to rush into a burning skyscraper to save a kitten to be a hero. Just make a positive difference in the lives of your friends, family, and colleagues as well as in your community. To me, that what really constitutes being a hero.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

Well, again, I think heroes are all around us. It’s an unsubstantiated myth that you have to do something monumental and earth-shattering to be a hero. Sure, the huge heroic acts make the front page, but the consist, tiny daily acts of kindness offer everyone the opportunity to be a hero to someone.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

Just like any successful project, we just saw an unmet need — and we filled it. Again, we observed a paucity of personal protective equipment on the front lines and knew that we were sitting on supplies that needed to be put to better use than just collecting dust, going unused in our clinics. And our colleagues and industry partners were paralyzed — they wanted to help but didn’t know what to do. The PPE Challenged allowed these individuals and companies a tangible way to make a real difference.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

We are all afraid of the dark. But recognize that darkness is simply the absence of light. And right now, we have no means by which we can shine a bright light on a dark situation. I’m not a political person but I think it’s fair to say that we haven’t received clear messaging from the national government, the local government, from the media, from our local communities, or from national experts. Let’s be really clear, we haven’t received credible guidance from anywhere. Social media is a great way to voice opinions, but it has also erroneously taught people that their personal opinions are important. Truth is, most people with opinions on this crisis really don’t really know what they are talking about. So, what frightens me most is the lack of informed, trustworthy, believable information available and the mountain of unqualified opinions being spewed. This viral pandemic won’t be defeated until we have accurate information from trustworthy sources.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

I’m optimistic that we are getting closer to getting real answers. I think we’ll know much more about this virus in a few months. We’ll know how to test efficiently, we’ll know how prevalent it is, we’ll know how to treat it, and we’ll know to protect against it, and eventually, I hope we’ll know how to vaccinate against it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so the waters are uncharted. The future is bright. But how we get to that bright future, and how long it ultimately takes to get there, is still to be determined.

Have you seen any disappointing behavior in your industry during the pandemic?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment that I was extremely disappointed with some of the decisions that companies in the aesthetic space made recently. See, I’m a firm believer in transparency and I completely understand that some companies had to let employees go, I can stomach that. But, as an example, what disgusts me is when a company in the aesthetic space twists the narrative when making uncomfortable changes. It would have been refreshing if they had told the truth. They should have said, “Look, we mismanaged the company. We foolishly threw lavish parties, we don’t actually have a ‘breakthrough’ product, our physician influencers are kind of creepy, our stock has nosedived in the last twelve months, and we now need to fire a bunch of employees”. But they didn’t. They instead sent a poorly worded email with a multitude of grammatical mistakes which surely must have been supremely insulting and hurtful to the people impacted by the layoffs. Where is the humanity in our field? Where is the rectitude in our field? Well, thankfully that example was an exception to the rule. These are tough times for everyone but, for the most part, I was overjoyed and inspired by how the aesthetic world rallied together. So many companies really stepped up! Allergan/AbbVie, Cynosure, Solta, The Hydrafacial Company, EvolveMKD, Merz, all of these organizations really shined. The old adage really is true: The cream rises to the top. And let me tell you, that cream is rising quickly!

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

One day there will be volumes and volumes of books available about how the coronavirus has altered societies. I’d be doing a disservice by attempting to postulate on this right now. I will, however, state that this situation has reminded me that the world is much more connected than we realize. One small action can huge, huge ramifications. Candidly, I’m as interested to see how this plays out as everyone else is.

What changes in your industry do you anticipate will come out of this crisis?

I’m of the strong belief that this crisis will force a much quicker evolution of the inevitable change that was already occurring in the aesthetic dermatology field; There are a lot of emperors wearing no clothes in my world and coronavirus is a parade where they march naked. See, so many so-called key opinion leaders in the dermatology space are false profits. They have no loyalty, no conviction, no real expertise. They were simply in the right place at the right time and that trajectory has now been accelerated. So, I strongly suspect that we’ll see many of the traditional voices in aesthetics fade away over the next years and be replaced by a more diverse, inclusive group. This pandemic is quickly ushering in a new era of influencers in the aesthetic space.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I wouldn’t tell young people anything. I would listen to them. I’m in my 40s and my generation and my parents’ generation certainty didn’t get things right. It’s an incredible burden but we need to acknowledge that the future belongs to our children and we need them to lead us out of this mess we have made. We incredibly high unemployment, the climate change crisis looming, a pandemic suffocating us, and the two presidential candidates in their 70s. It’s probably time to acknowledge that we need some fresh blood to repair the present and navigate the future.

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

Well, my group and I are doing that already. Big picture thinking makes us recognize that Personal protective equipment (PPE) is still desperately needed. So, the big movement I’m pushing is the PPE Challenge. See, PPE has an expiration date and a large amount goes wasted every year. We are still pushing out industry partners and colleagues to donate it to the healthcare facilities that need it most! And no matter what happens with a “new normal” in public spaces, PPE will be a necessity to every business and individual moving forward. In smaller terms and on a personal level, I’m just trying to make sure that my staff loves coming to work so I’m pushing a positive corporate culture movement there. One of the reasons that LaserAway is supremely successful is because of the respect we have for each other and how we always look after each employees’ best interest. Focusing on interpersonal relationships at work will be of premium importance for our company, and any successful company, moving forward.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’ve been trying to track down Elon Musk for some time now. Sure, he’s been tweeting some rather wacky stuff these days but I’m still of the opinion that he’s the greatest scientific mind of our generation. I would love to volunteer for one of his Los Angeles-based projects.

How can our readers follow you online?

Please follow my business account on Instagram (@LaserAway) and go to our website (www.LaserAway.com).

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thanks so much for being interested in what I have to say! I fully acknowledge the irony in my statement that there are too many readily available opinions these days, yet I’m disseminating mine, here, right now! See you on the other side!

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