Name: Ann C. Zedlitz
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Education: University of New Orleans; LSU Medical School; LSUHSC Emergency Medicine; LSUHSC Dermatology
Despite her elegant appearance, Dr. Ann Zedlitz was once a harried emergency room physician. But spending extended periods of time away from her family made her want to shift gears. She spent three years training to become a dermatologist, forming Z Aesthetic Dermatology in 2011. “It was difficult, but looking back, it was the right decision,” Zedlitz says of the career change. Zedlitz previously helped start an urgent care facility on Coursey Boulevard, so she had experience in getting a business off the ground. That didn’t make starting her dermatology clinic any less daunting. “I had an image in my mind of what I wanted to create,” she says. “The key element of my success was surrounding myself with people that shared my vision.” Zedlitz has earned multiple certifications from various boards and professional organizations, and last summer she was selected as a Castle Connolly Top Doctor in the specialty of dermatology.
Editor’s note: This interview was completed before the recent flooding in the Baton Rouge area.
What was your very first job, and what did you learn from it?
Working in a small, family-owned restaurant, I learned team-working strategies, the value of customer relations and the power of remaining calm under pressure (even during a kitchen fire). Being the last of nine children, I always had a job. If we wanted to have spending money in our pockets, we had to earn it. This value stayed me throughout my career. I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I was going to have to work hard and provide great customer service.
Where did your dermatology career start, and how did that previous experience prepare you for your current position?
In medical school, I was torn between two fields: emergency medicine and dermatology. I initially chose emergency medicine. After practicing emergency medicine for six years, I realized that I needed to have more time with my kids. It was hard being gone on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and many other special days. My admiration is great for the emergency room physicians—God bless them. So I went back to school. I spent three additional years of training to become a dermatologist. It was difficult, but looking back, it was the right decision. Multitasking efficiently, having developed good people skills and doing whatever was needed definitely provided a strong base for my career in medicine. Being able to think fast and remain calm in a wide variety of emergencies has served me well. I love what I do now.
How difficult was it to start your own business?
Starting your own business is a daunting task. I had already had some experience after starting a successful urgent care, so I knew what needed to be done. I had an image in my mind of what I wanted to create. The key element of my success was surrounding myself with people that shared my vision. Once I had assembled my business team, things just seemed to fall into place. The other key is sticking to your guns about what your visions are—and not deviating.
What is one thing about your job people don’t know about or expect?
Becoming a dermatologist is not easy. It is very competitive to get a residency spot. The training is rigorous and the amount of knowledge to learn to be a skin expert can hardly be learned in three years. In addition, you have to pass an all-inclusive test to become board certified. After certification, you have to complete educational activities to maintain certification. There are many so-called skin experts that have not done any of this training. I see scars on a weekly basis on patients treated by incompetent practitioners. I am able to reduce and/or remove many of those scars through competent treatments over time.
Aesthetic medicine seems to be picking up steam in Baton Rouge. Have you noticed an uptick in business recently?
We are very excited to see an increase in patients concerned about keeping their skin looking younger and heathier. Last year, we opened our second location in Prairieville. We continue to invest in new technology that advances our ability to meet the aesthetic needs of our patients.
What are your short- and long-term goals for your clinic?
At Z Dermatology, we want to provide the highest level of aesthetic dermatologic care in our area. We strive to exceed your expectations. We want our patients to have an “experience.” By treating our patients like family, we accomplish this goal. We simply want to be the best. My daughter just graduated from medical school and is going to Vanderbilt for her dermatology training. I am proud to say that she may play some role in Z Dermatology in the future.
How do you manage working in the same profession as your spouse, and what rules do you have in place for separating your personal and professional lives?
Although my husband is a dermatologist, he does not do cosmetic procedures and his eyes light up when the word rash is mentioned. Patients who desire cosmetic work come to me, and patients that need general dermatology are referred to him. We each love what we do. We try not to talk about work once we get home. We hang out with the kids, play and exercise with our two German shepherds, or go see a movie. We also have a vegetable garden and chickens that keep us busy and grounded.
What have been some of the unexpected challenges in your business?
Last year, our Baton Rouge location flooded and we were closed for most of the year. We are now open at our flagship location, but the experience was a nightmare that we handled by utilizing our second location. The crowded conditions were difficult and still painful to think about, but we have successfully traveled that path and are back on track.
What is a typical day at the office like?
Having 20 different lasers makes every day different. I could start the day treating a 7-year-old with a burn scar and end up with a 75-year-old wanting filler. I also love to talk to my patients about what is going on in their lives. I enjoy the quality time I get to spend for 30 minutes or more per visit. I am usually at the office by 7:15 a.m. and leave around 4:30 p.m.
How do you balance your roles as assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the LSU Health Sciences Center and as a practicing dermatologist?
I would not be where I am today had I not had great teachers along the way. I teach because I want to make sure that the next generation of dermatologists is just as knowledgeable as I am. Being around students who are bright and who ask questions keeps me on my game.
How many people are on the “Z” Team and what are their various roles?
I have a staff of about 20 employees. They range from front desk receptionist to aestheticians, LPNs and RNs, to makeup artists. They all have a common role—being their best and taking care of our patients as if they were their own family member. The “Ritz Carlton” experience is our goal.
Your website says you’re a laser specialist and an “ExpertInjector.” What exactly do those titles mean?
Today, you cannot thumb through a magazine without seeing ad after ad of people advertising lasers and injectable treatments. Most of these ads are for clinics that do not have board certified physicians practicing in their field of medicine. Some clinics are not even staffed with physicians. Unfortunately, our current laws do not prohibit such behavior. The ExpertInjector program is committed to patient safety, public awareness and the pursuit of reliable consumer education to help patients seeking aesthetic injectables find appropriate, well-credentialed providers in the core specialties of plastic surgery, facial plastic surgery, dermatology and oculoplastic surgery. Whereas some dermatologists divide their time between general dermatology and cosmetic dermatology, I specialize in cosmetics that include lasers. I am a trainer for a filler company were I train physicians on both how and where to inject.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
I was a single parent while going through medical school and graduated with honors. My evenings were devoted to Erica (my daughter), and my medical school homework began after she went to bed. I guess I got it right because she was valedictorian of her high school and is now a physician with a heart bigger than her brain.
What is your favorite part about what you do? What makes you excited about going to work?
My work is very rewarding. One of the things that I enjoy the most is when I make a difference in someone’s life. Skin problems can have a significant emotional impact. Our patients have shed many a tear as they look in the mirror after we are done and like what they see. You can’t help but get emotional with them. We go through a lot of tissues!
What other leadership roles do you hold in the community and/or what volunteer efforts do you support? What cause are you passionate about?
While we donate to many local charities and schools for various reasons, my personal favorites are the teacher recognition and the math student recognition programs. In our teacher baskets program, we accept nominations for teacher-of-the-month and give away baskets full of skin products to educators at schools in Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes. Teachers need appreciation for all their dedication and hard work. Our math reward program is for those students who excel in math, which makes my heart sing. Math was my favorite subject, and it allowed me to advance to the level of education I have today. Rewarding the students with the highest GPA in math brings them positive reinforcement and recognition among their peers, their teachers and their community. I do this for about 15-20 students a year at various schools in both Baton Rouge and Prairieville.
What is a great piece of advice you personally received? Did you have occasion to put it to use?
“A true leader leads during crisis.” My sister taught me this. My leadership skills were put to the test during my office flood, and lead I did. My flagship facility is now reopen and even better than before.
What gets your workday off to a good start?
Hugs from my kids and quiet time with God, along with the friendly smiles and welcoming hearts of my staff.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Old-fashioned friends-and-family get-togethers, where we laugh and celebrate each other. Playing cards. Books, books and more books. I also enjoy whitewater rafting and horseback riding.
What is an item on your “bucket list”?
Grand Canyon: overnight camping, donkey riding—the whole experience.
Where is your go-to spot in Baton Rouge?
Perkins Rowe for entertainment, food and relaxation. A good movie (drama/action) with hot popcorn is hard to beat.