33 Years of Kindness: The Story of La Jolla Cosmetic

Marie Olesen, La Jolla Cosmetic’s longtime leader and CEO, joins us as the inaugural guest of the La Jolla Cosmetic Podcast. With LJC Podcast host and Chief Community Officer Monique Ramsey, Marie reflects on 33 years of passion for service and excellence — from the day in 1988 when Dr. Merrel Olesen left his position as the Chief of Plastic Surgery at Scripps to found LJC, through the distinction of receiving the MyFaceMyBody Global Plastic/Cosmetic Surgery Practice of the Year in 2020 — and everything in between.

As the leader of San Diego’s most well-known cosmetic surgery practice, Marie shares her most pivotal experiences, including:

  • The response she received to her first customer service feedback letter from the General Manager of Disneyland in 1956
  • The unforgettable feedback she received from patients in the early years that led to big changes for all patients
  • What it really means to win the UT’s Best of San Diego 20 years running

Whether you’ve been a patient for 3 decades or haven’t picked up the phone yet, listen in for the one thing Marie wants all patients to know if they’re considering LJC and stay to the end to receive a special promo for your next visit.

Support or learn more about the organizations mentioned on this episode:

Take a screenshot of this podcast episode with your phone and show it at your consultation or appointment, or mention the promo code PODCAST to receive $25 off any service or product of $50 or more at La Jolla Cosmetic.

The La Jolla Cosmetic Podcast is a production of The Axis.

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Transcript

Laura Cain:
You’re listening to the La Jolla Cosmetic podcast with the LJC chief community officer Monique Ramsey.

Monique Ramsey:
All right. Well, welcome everybody to the La Jolla cosmetic podcast. I’m your hostess, Monique Ramsey. And I am so excited about today because we are being joined by the CEO of La Jolla Cosmetic Marie Olesen. And I’m going to let her just tell you a little … it’s like how do you introduce somebody who has such a profound impact on your day-to-day life and our workplace? So I’m going to let her just tell you a little bit about herself. Welcome Marie.

Marie Olesen:
Thank you, Monique. I’m very glad to be here.

Monique Ramsey:
Well, so tell us a little bit about your role at La Jolla Cosmetic and other companies that you’ve founded.

Marie Olesen:
Well, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go back to when I was 12 years old and I went to my first Disneyland visit, and I was unhappy with the shuttle service. So in my little child’s handwriting, I filled out a form and made a complaint. And the manager of the Disneyland Hotel wrote to me and said, “We’re very sorry that the shuttle service was not working to your standards. We’re new here. And we have some things to work out, but we are fixing that. And let me know when you’ll be back.”

Marie Olesen:
And from that really developed my life with a passion for customer service and for organizations that take care of their customers. And even today in the world of ratings and reviews, I say that how Disneyland handled that was perfect. They apologized, they acknowledged that they had a problem. They assured me they were going to fix it. And they presumed that it would not break our relationship because I had an imperfect experience. And I think that that is really true of us today as customers, whether it’s in medicine, or when we’re buying a car, or we’re going shopping. We’re looking for kindness, concern, courtesy, and competence.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah. In fact, I saw in your LinkedIn bio, a copy of that letter dated September 29th, 1956. And I love the fact that like you say, they acknowledged, they thanked you, and they admitted that things weren’t perfect in their first year of operation and that they’re going to improve. But I love the way they closed it out. “Please let me know when to expect you.” Because they’re already saying, “We’re going to fix it and we think you’re going to come back.” So I thought that was really neat. So we’ll put a link in the show notes to the letter because it’s really cute.

Monique Ramsey:
So you’re not only the CEO of La Jolla Cosmetic, but you also founded a few companies. One is Inform&Enhance, and also RealPatientRatings. So could you tell us a little bit about that?

Marie Olesen:
Yes. I went to work for my first doctor when I was 18 years old. And I decided then that I wanted my life’s work to be helping good doctors take better care of patients. And at the time, this is the early ’60s and my parents hadn’t gone to college. So for me to think of being a doctor was really out of my realm. But to think that I could help doctors I thought I certainly could do that.

Marie Olesen:
So for many years, that’s what I did. But then Dr. Olesen and I wrote Cosmetic Surgery for Dummies. And by then, we realized this is the early 2000s, that patients really didn’t know how to find the good doctors. So in addition to helping doctors take better care of their patients, I realized that both the patients and the good doctors needed help finding each other, and that my 36 pages of medical specialization really didn’t help anybody. But helping people write ratings about doctors and then publishing those in a way that patients could find them and trust them. Then that led me to that second part of my life.

Monique Ramsey:
And that passion really does show in everything. I think that everyone at La Jolla Cosmetic does, and that’s always the top down thing. The passion for service and service excellence. And not just the typical medical institution. Very different in terms of how we see ourselves and our patients, and how we deliver care. So let’s go back to when you very first began working in the practice. And what was your role?

Marie Olesen:
Well, I was helping Dr. Olesen and his then partner established the center. So I didn’t work for them. But on the outside of choosing the decor, helping them choose the location. And I started serving patients early in that process, probably 1988. And the first responses that came back were just startling to us.

Marie Olesen:
And you have to remember, this is 1988. So it’s pre-internet. And people didn’t have ways to find out medical information. They didn’t have access to a lot of things that we consider normal now.

So in the first surveys, one came back and a patient described herself as feeling through the surgical process that she was in a dark tunnel. And I’m claustrophobic. So nothing could be a worse image for me than a dark tunnel. And I didn’t want anyone to experience that.

Marie Olesen:
And then secondly, one of the patients said, “Dr. Olesen liked me until he did my surgery. Then he dropped me.” And again, this is before people really understood the patient’s emotional needs going through a cosmetic surgery experience. And frankly, he hadn’t been trained for it at all. So he’s a very nice man. He’s very kind. He was a really good surgeon. So once he identified that there was a need that he hadn’t understood, then of course he wanted to fill that need. So we have been serving our patients for 33 years.

Monique Ramsey:
And that’s really the only way to grow, and that’s sort of taking a tip from Disneyland. They said, “Our services needed improvement, and we’re working to correct that.” I know you share on a daily basis as our people give us a review on Google, or in RealPatientRatings, or on Facebook. You’re sharing those every single day with the staff. And I think if there’s a score that’s less than perfect, it’s not, like you said using it as a hammer, it’s more about learning from that and how do we fix it?

Marie Olesen:
Right, exactly. And when I first started, our average patient, let’s say she’s in her twenties, could have been my child. But now, she could be my grandchild. So how do you as a leader of an organization where the consumer is changing and evolving, how do you keep up with their needs and their changing expectations? And the only way you can do that is by continuing to ask them.

Monique Ramsey:
So back in that 1988, what made you think of having a survey to go to the patients in the first place?

Marie Olesen:
I know one thing that happens. So we did an office that we thought would be what our patients would want. So we did this beautiful office down in La Jolla, an old building. I told the designer to make it look like a European hotel, timeless. And then we started marketing and we started advertising. And somebody came in and they looked around and they said, “I’m not paying for this.” And I went, whoa. And then someone else, we had a typical four page medical history. And somebody else threw the medical history back at the receptionist and said, “I’m not filling this out. I haven’t even decided if I’m going to hire you.” And I went, whoa. We’re in a different world. And we better figure out since our desire is to serve and our desire is to provide quality, we better figure out what our consumer wants.

Monique Ramsey:
So let’s talk about back then, you were saying marketing. So that was really in the ’80s. For a long time, doctors weren’t even allowed to market. And then the government changed the rules and allowed them to market. But really, I think in ’88 when we were starting, was anybody else even marketing?

Marie Olesen:
A few people were marketing. Most of them were not board certified plastic surgeons. This is before the days when surgery centers were required to be licensed or accredited. So I remember one person describe that their recovery room bed was in the hall next to the receptionist. So it was sort of the wild west.

Monique Ramsey:
So that bed wasn’t in our facility, right?

Marie Olesen:
No, no, no, no. But I’m telling you that that’s what we were competing with. And we thought that that was wrong. So we did a Medicare certified OR, we got board certified anesthesiologist. We did everything right. And then we went about in our marketing to teach the consumer what to look for.

Marie Olesen:
And the sad part is they were great ads. And my husband got called up before the California Society for Advertising. And he went on this panel and he said, “I’ve sort of feel like I’m on a do you beat your wife panel? I’m not sure that I can give you an answer that you’re going to want to hear.” But his answer was many, many people are choosing physicians and surgeons off of inadequate information. And they don’t necessarily have the medical connections to get a recommendation from a physician. Which was sort of the path in those days.

Marie Olesen:
So we just regarded it as a public service, and that we were going to be transparent. We were going to be friendly. And we were going to be safe and great experiences in surgical quality.

Monique Ramsey:
One thing I remember seeing is that really you guys, whether it was a print ad, or it was in the yellow pages back in the day. And people, you’re in the yellow pages, but nobody wants to say that they found you in the yellow pages. Whereas now, Google, everybody Googles everything. And they’re on the web and they do all this investigation of their perspective doctor.

Monique Ramsey:
But one of the things that I remember you did was before the term infomercial was an actual term, you all did 30 minute TV segments to really talk about each procedure. And you’d have a guest on there, maybe a patient. And they’d have somebody interviewing the doctors. And what do you remember about that?

Marie Olesen:
I remember they were very successful, wildly successful. It was a little cable show. So they were just on one of the cable channels. But the doctors were stiff. Nobody knew how to be on-screen in a comfortable way. But they were still very valuable. And they got to know us in a way that now you can get to know someone through social media or something, watching videos or even podcasts. But with much more limited opportunities in those days.

Monique Ramsey:
And for those of you who are listening and don’t necessarily know who Dr. Olesen is, he’s your husband. He’s the founder of La Jolla Cosmetic, board-certified plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist. So he’s double board certified. And he’s retired. So we miss him dearly, but he pops in with his coffee and says hello. And I think the reason the center started was he was at Scripps clinic, I believe.

Marie Olesen:
Right.

Monique Ramsey:
And tell us about the transition.

Marie Olesen:
He was chief of plastic surgery at Scripps Clinic, and he had a very large cosmetic practice. And as part of cosmetic surgery consideration, you have to get a fee quote. And it’s pretty private moment for someone to be telling in a public setting what you want and how much it’s going to cost.

Marie Olesen:
So at the clinic, there was a bullpen of secretaries. So the patient had to sit there with other people listening to hear the price and have the procedure discussed. And the staffing at the clinic wasn’t what he needed in his mind to take optimal care of the aesthetic patient. So he wanted more nurses or he wanted better nurses. So we were paying nurses under the table to get them to stay in plastic surgery. And the clinic had like 250,000 patients at that point. And they were actively marketing for HMO patients.

So he went to the clinic and he said, “I need a separate entrance. I can’t have my patients in the same lobby with really sick people. It’s very discouraging to them. I need more nursing staff. I need private spaces.” So he just outlined what he needed. And they basically said, “No, and go write a book.” Because they were upset because he didn’t publish. And it just led to him deciding to leave. And his vision for how to take care of the aesthetic patient and how to have a team take care of the patient. And we’ve been team-based really since we were founded. In our early ads, one of our headlines was excellence in plastic surgery takes teamwork. And to help the patients understand this isn’t something to fear. You’re going to have a whole team of people taking care of you. And everybody’s a competent professional in their own right for their part of this experience and service that you’re going to receive.

Monique Ramsey:
Wonderful. I love hearing the blast from the past. And we do have on the website, there’s some of the history and some pictures of old building and the team that you guys can all check out. We’ll put some links in the notes.

Monique Ramsey:
So one of the things that going back before Google, how did people find plastic surgeons? Or how did they even know if a surgeon was right for them? And is this part of the education that you talked about?

Marie Olesen:
Yes. And again, taking everybody back to the ’80s, the newspapers were huge. We were very successful. We had large newspaper campaign. Magazines worked in those days, though not as well. And when a new patient called us, we did a survey of what’s happening in our community. So we found out that when patients called for an appointment, that in most practices, they made the appointment and they didn’t send them any information. So we decided okay, at that first step, we’re going to be different. And we’re going to send a letter from the doctor, and we’re going to send some information about the procedure and information about the safety in our practice. So that was the beginning. And I came across one of those letters the other day. And I thought, “My God, we used to print these and put them in an envelope, and mail them.” That’s how we communicated.

Monique Ramsey:
So part of the background of the center or the history is that award-winning care. And we really have won a lot of awards now fast forwarding to now. 20 Best of San Diego awards. And pretty much since they started the category for best medical spa. Since they started the category for best cosmetic surgeon or cosmetic surgery group. So we have a little hall of fame or wall of fame with the plaques at the center. And I remember hearing a doctor say, “Well, this is not that important.” And I thought no, it may not be important to you as a surgeon. But it’s important to the consumer. And that’s really what it is. How do you see those awards?

Marie Olesen:
I see them as a form of validation. If we say we’re really good and we’re going to take very good care of you, people go, “Yeah, that’s nice.” But there’s a statistic that says what other people say about you is 12 times more believable than what you say about yourself. So I think that the awards really matter. And once I realized that patients really had a hard time discerning proper training and excellence in plastic surgery, that then that’s why ratings and reviews would matter again. Because it’s what someone else is saying about us.

Marie Olesen:
And we surveyed the patients, as I said, from ’88. And they have little paper forms. And we had a three ring binder in our waiting room of hundreds and hundreds of patient responses. And people would sit and read those just like they read ratings and reviews now. And it’s just hard to fake that much happiness.

Monique Ramsey:
And one of the ones that now we’re moved to big-time from San Diego, Best in San Diego. So last year, they’re called MyFaceMyBody, they gave us the best cosmetic plastic surgery practice in the USA. And then against all the other places around the world, we won the same award. So best cosmetic surgery practice on the planet. So tell us about that and a little bit about that group.

Marie Olesen:
Well, they’re very well respected. They’re based in England. They’re on all the continents. They deal with med spas, and surgical practices, and a number of specialties. So we won the award for cosmetic plastic surgery. And they have very high standards. So we were very in sync with them because we think similarly to what they do. And they’re really trying to raise the bar in what it takes to receive an award from them and understand as we do that, then the true beneficiary of that excellence is the patient themselves. And it’s a wonderful group and a very big honor.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah. And I think now, we’ve got eight total awards, seven of them outright wins over the last three years. So it’s just another thing. And you can come and visit our trophies when you come in the office. But it’s good I think for the staff to have a source of pride. Where we work, the doctors are the best. Not just in our own opinion, we think it. But also in the mind of our patients in the general public and certifying bodies like MyFaceMyBody.

Monique Ramsey:
So if you could explain a little bit, when they go on the website and they see the numbers next to the provider’s name, patient satisfaction score, what do those numbers mean if you could explain that?

Marie Olesen:
Sure. It’s a cumulative score of their interactions with their patients. So when I founded RealPatientRatings, my background for many years, I had been a consultant to other practices. So I was usually using data to evaluate practice quality. So I decided when someone gave a rating and review, we just didn’t want a few words. We wanted to know who the provider was, who the practice was, what the procedure was, so that we could then take that and accumulate those scores.

Marie Olesen:
So if you look on the ljcsc.com and you go to the individual provider, that’s all the reviews that they have received from patients in our practice across all the procedures that they have done. And if you go to a procedure page and say let’s say you go to the Botox page. Now that is all the Botox delivered to all patients in our practice who completed a rating and review for Botox. So that’s the aggregate score of everyone in the practice providing Botox.

Monique Ramsey:
So really, it’s not just by provider or as a group, but by procedures. So you could say okay, what are the breast augmentation satisfaction rates at La Jolla Cosmetic?

Marie Olesen:
Correct.

Monique Ramsey:
I think that really differentiates from other practices.

Marie Olesen:
Well, if someone were thinking of coming to our practice, and let’s say they go online and they look at RealSelf. And they look at, I don’t know the right number, but let’s say they look for a device. And the satisfaction according to RealSelf is 78%.

Monique Ramsey:
We came up with this the other day. We saw this, right? This was under I think Ultherapy. And we were discussing Ultherapy and the satisfaction scores. Because I think in RealSelf, it was in the high seventies, maybe.

Marie Olesen:
Correct. Right. Ours was in the nineties. So what we’re doing there is helping the consumer, because the aggregate score on devices is a reflection of the quality of the providers. It’s not just a score about the device.

Monique Ramsey:
Right. How you use that device.

Marie Olesen:
Exactly. So if you have better trained providers or higher quality providers and they’re getting ratings individually on their use of that device, it creates an awareness on their part that I think demonstratively improves satisfaction for the patient.

Monique Ramsey:
And I was looking at the stats. We have over 7,000 reviews now I think on RealPatientRatings, and over 5,000 five star.

Marie Olesen:
I don’t know the numbers, but I think we’re over 6,500, and we’re up to almost 10,000 with all sites.

Monique Ramsey:
Of those that are five star, it’s a pretty high percentage

Marie Olesen:
It’s in the mid eighties. And then if you take the highly satisfied and the satisfied, it’s over 96.

Monique Ramsey:
Wow. That’s so exciting. So I was looking at my phone just a second ago because I get these notifications when somebody posts on Google. So literally just now, we had a patient post. Kelly. Her name’s on the post, but I’ll just read. Kelly just said, “I’ve been going here for years and have always had a great experience. I would only trust the best in the industry with procedures on my face. I only want the most natural look to stop the signs of aging.” Don’t we all? I love you, Kelly. “I just had a filler under my eyes and a tiny amount in my lips. I was so scared because I don’t want the duck lip look. My look is so natural that only I really know the difference. And that’s what I’m looking for. Being a part of the glam fam is also such a great deal if you go in more than twice a year.” So fun to see these things pop up.

Marie Olesen:
Yes. Wonderful.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah. Okay. So let’s also now go back in time again to when we were founded in 1988. Okay. So there were computers, but no smartphones. People couldn’t carry them around. I think the first website that we had, and we were early, it was about 1995. And it was like a little page that San Diego Magazine made for us. “We’ll build out your website for free if you put an ad in our paper.” And then I think we then took that over ourselves in 1996. And that’s when we moved into XiMED. So that was when we really started. How has the center grown and changed over the years from maybe those early days on Prospect Street to now?

Marie Olesen:
Well we were mostly a surgical practice. And then, we tried dermatology because our plastic surgeons weren’t particularly interested in doing lasers, and our patients had needs for what ultimately became med spa procedures. So dermatology, it didn’t work for us. And I can remember it because the decision between the dermatologists and the surgeon was what goes first. And do you bake the cake, which is surgery? And I sit, and the dermatologists would do the skin first. And then the patient would be maybe not as happy as they would be because they had too much skin, and they needed skin to be removed first.

Marie Olesen:
And I can remember Dr. Olesen saying to one of the dermatologists, “If your dress is too big and wrinkled, do you really think ironing it is going to help?” And I thought what a great analogy. You have to do first what solves, presuming the patient agrees obviously, but what solves the biggest problem.

Marie Olesen:
So we now in 2013 established a med spa. And it has been just wonderful for our patients. And seeing into the future, it’s clear that that’s going to be a big and important part of our business. So now, we are in the works to expand into the north county to add another location because our patients are coming from so far.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah, that’s so exciting. And I would say the med spa procedures and the technologies are incredible. I think it’s wonderful because we have that concept of everything under one roof. And you may not know what you need. You might just say, “Gosh, I really hate my neck. What do I do?” And there might be seven ways to solve it in the med spa. There might be four ways to solve it in the surgery center. And you can kind of give yourself to the center and let them help you make the right decision for you. And I think that term of when all you have is a hammer-

Marie Olesen:
Then all the world’s a nail.

Monique Ramsey:
Right. So If you have one laser, then of course you’re going to recommend that one laser to everybody.

Marie Olesen:
Right. And in truth, no matter how much cosmetic surgery and med spa procedures are done, people are still scared to start on this journey. And we have our brand promise, which is where dreams become real. And we see ourselves as the trusted people who can help you evaluate your options. And people have their own limitations or regulations like, “I don’t want surgery,” or, “I’m happy to consider surgical procedure.” So then you have to take their input and then you have to say, “Well, here’s the options we have available within your own criteria.

Monique Ramsey:
Whether it’s time off, or it’s budget related.

Marie Olesen:
Exactly. And so I think that one of the things we’re most proud of is that concept of under one roof. And we have patients move backwards and forwards between the two, all the time. We had one recently with Dr. Brahme where a patient came to him to see about having her eyes done. It’s called a blepharoplasty. And he said, “You don’t really need a blepharoplasty.” He said, “I’m going to refer you up to the med spa. And I think just a little laser on your lower lids is all you need at this point.” And she wrote a review saying that, “What honest people.”

Monique Ramsey:
Well, it’s true. Yeah. I mean, you want to know that people can trust the advice. And I think that’s so true. Why do something that’s not needed?

Marie Olesen:
Right.

Monique Ramsey:
And it’s really about long term. I mean, now we’re coming up on 34 years. We have generations of patients and their friends. Or they come back, they say, “I had my breasts done 20 years ago. And I’m ready to change the implants or change my face now.” So it’s really nice.

Monique Ramsey:
One thing, we always have people who are interested in joining our team. So what do you look for when looking for people to join the team? Whether it’s a doctor, whether it’s a nurse, whether it’s a front desk receptionist. What are some qualities that you look for?

Marie Olesen:
Someone who’s willing to work as a part of a team. And sometimes people are sort of, they just want to do things on their own. And we had a funny conversation about this this morning, because we’re looking at hiring someone new for our contact center. And one of the team that was thinking about this said, “I like vanilla people the best.” And we all started laughing and saying, “If you named a spicer, if you named an ice cream, does it sound good to be vanilla?” And what do we mean by being vanilla? Which is a kind of neutrality, and a softness, and not bringing any chaos to work. Just come and help us take care of patients. We don’t need high maintenance staff, because our greater responsibility is to take care of the patients and their needs. So I have a very strong belief that what comes from management must be kind and must be reasonable.

Marie Olesen:
And if I’m having a temper tantrum in the morning, what do you think is going to happen to patient care all day? Everybody will be all upset. And I’ve learned over the years that there’s a way to say the same thing if I identify a problem to get the problem resolved in a way that doesn’t set everybody off and undermine everything we’re doing for the day. And it’s one of the reasons I share all the ratings and reviews because I want everyone to be reminded all day how happy we make patients. And one of the words that I love to hear them say is comfortable. Because to come into a scary environment, and it’s pretty scary to start talking about your fondest hopes and dreams to a stranger. To know that they can reach the point that they’re comfortable, that they just relax enough. That they’re going to be able to hear what’s said, to have a good conversation about whatever they’re considering. And it’s a very human need to be comfortable when you’re embarking on something that’s a big decision.

Monique Ramsey:
And I remember years ago, you saying patients come in and they take the emotional temperature of the place. We all do that. Whether we’re walking into a friend’s home, or we’re walking into a doctor’s office, or a business. But that’s true. You can pick up that vibe if it’s tense, if it’s tense and upsetting, I think back on Prospect. And one day, we would have some doctors locally. They sometimes used our ORs because we had three. So sometimes, they weren’t all being used at the same time and we had this surgeon visiting.

Monique Ramsey:
And of course back then on Prospect, you had to move your car every two hours. The meter maids would come around. So this physician came and she threw her keys, her car keys at us at the front desk. I happened to be there. She threw her car keys and she said, “Move my car.” Because she was going to be in surgery for the next however long. And it was like that’s a great way to start your day. It was like oh my god. And I have to think you hear random stories about doctors who throw instruments in the OR or have a temper. Our doctors are so kind. So our staff is so kind, but really we work for doctors who are very, very kind people. And it’s important that they do good work, but it’s also really nice that they’re emotionally stable and fun to work with. And it’s an honor to work with them. And as we’ve added doctors throughout the years, I feel like you guys have done a great job in vetting very nice people.

Marie Olesen:
Well one of the observations I made recently is all of our doctors are happily married. And there was one once who became apparent within a week that he was going to be a predator on the nurses. And I mean he was gone. My husband just said, “This is unacceptable.” And I would say emotionally clean environment. But the other thing I’m known for is physically clean. I am a manic about cleanliness. And here we are in XiMED, nine stories of offices. And we literally are the only office that has a cleaning crew come in every weekend and clean our offices. And years ago, someone wrote a survey and they said, “What was the final reason that you chose us?” And they said, “Well the office was so clean, that I knew the OR had to be clean.” And I thought you don’t know how to make a decision about quality of something as complicated as surgery. But you can figure out if they’re nice, and if the place is clean, and if you’re having a good experience. And all of that takes an enormous amount of organization and follow through to deliver consistently. So I think that there’s a lot of quiet clues that people pick up that they may not even realize that they’re seeing and that it’s influencing them. But it’s reassuring.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah, for sure. And I remember one of our patients years ago, I think this was back in La Jolla. And though patient coordinator when the lady decided to book surgery, our patient coordinator said, “What made you choose us?” And she said, “I went to another doctor and had a consultation. And he handed me a mirror and he said to me, ‘Now show me on your face as you look in your mirror what bothers you?’” And she said, “And the mirror was cracked.”

Marie Olesen:
Oh my God.

Monique Ramsey:
And she said, “If he doesn’t notice that, how can I trust him to do what I’m wanting on my face if he’s handing me something broken?” And I thought ooh, but you’re right. The little clues. I think that whole idea of kindness, whether it’s the doctors or the team. And the patients, I think it sets a mood for the patients. But going back to what you said about Dr. Olesen at the beginning, what his vision was, was that kindness was part of his legacy maybe.

Marie Olesen:
I think that’s true. He was very kind. And he was a stunningly capable surgeon, and he had no attitude. I mean, he had a strength and a personal power, but it didn’t translate in any negative way to anybody around him.

Monique Ramsey:
So let’s say you’re a patient and you have a problem, small or large, maybe after your procedure. What would you want that patient to know?

Marie Olesen:
That we’re going to stand behind our work. And we do everything we can, including additional surveys where someone might have an issue and they like us, and they’re reluctant to express something. Then we send a survey to everybody and say, “How’s it going? Is there anything that has disappointed you? If yes, would you like the practice to contact you?” So we receive these, and we don’t receive a lot of them. But, we act on them every time. And we call the patient and we say, “This is not where we want you to be. And it’s not where you thought you would be. And let’s figure out what is that going to take.” Maybe in the med spots, a few units of Botox or some other something. Another pass with the laser in surgery. It may need going back to surgery for a minor revision or something. But we are always going to stand behind what we do.

Monique Ramsey:
And I think that’s, especially in terms of not just surgeons, but in the med spa. They come and go, there’s hundreds of them in San Diego. And you might go somewhere. And if you have a problem, what if they’re not around tomorrow? And I think you nailed it in terms of that security as a patient. That I can go back and express that things might not be quite right. And how do we fix it?

Marie Olesen:
What I saw, because I’m a businesswoman at heart, is as I looked at the med spa industry and considered adding this aspect to our practice, what I saw was that there was a lot of turnover of staff in med spas, and that people almost accept it as something normal. “Well, that was my provider. But she’s no longer here or he’s no longer here.” And on the surgeon side, we get the same people. We have long time relationships with them. And it’s very stable. So the patients know where they are, they know exactly.

Marie Olesen:
So I just looked at that whole med spa environment and said, “I don’t like it. I don’t want to have temporary relationships with people that are important to our patients.” So there were few fits and starts in learning how to do it and how to select the people correctly. But it’s really we’ve created a partnership with the providers in a way that ensures that they’re in the best location to practice their career, that we’re respectful of their families. We’ve had seven babies and maternity leaves in our six years of our med spa.

Monique Ramsey:
We’re spiking the water. A lot of babies. It’s really nice though.

Marie Olesen:
But then it creates a humanity to the place also that’s important for everyone.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah. And I think having such a high level of providers, we don’t take people straight out of nursing school. They have to have a minimum of I think three years experience as an injector, as a laser technician to even step foot. And then we vet them on every procedure. So they may have done let’s say Ultherapy at another practice in the past. But we want to know that they do Ultherapy to our standards or injections, etc. So one of the other things is what would your advice be for anyone seeking plastic surgery and a med spa provider? How should they approach finding a good doctor?

Marie Olesen:
Well, I think you want to make sure that they are appropriately trained and credentialed. So I have a particular affinity for plastic surgeons. Because plastic surgeons and brain surgeons go through about the same amount of education. So while other specialties are out already practicing, the plastic surgeons have two more residencies. So they have made a commitment to be properly trained. And these are not simple things. You don’t go to a weekend course and learn to do a breast aug.

Marie Olesen:
We had a patient the other day. And literally, she had gone to a dentist for her breast aug. And of course she was here because she had trouble. And you just go, “What were you thinking? How could you have thought that that made sense?” So I was shocked really given the amount that we know now, the much better patient education and the resources for information. But people are still not considering the credentialing and the preparation enough in my mind.

Monique Ramsey:
Well, and I think social media might have something to do with that. We’re going to actually do an episode on this, but do we choose our doctors from Instagram, or from TikTok, or Snapchat? That’s a personality, but is that a good surgeon? And are they board certified? And I think in the early days of the center, we really did like you say, have to educate the patients. But after a while, they knew what board certification was. But that is pretty shocking.

Monique Ramsey:
So, okay. Let’s just talk about you for a second. We know you love to work. But can you let us in on any other things about you outside of work? What are some of the loves?

Marie Olesen:
Well, I have a wonderful husband. We have two dogs, and their names are Charlie and Lulu. And they’re both black and white. And they are very funny together because one’s a midsize poodle and the other one is Tibetan Terrier. So one has short hair, one has long hair. One’s bigger. And he follows her around, and they’re like entertainment. So they’re a great part of my life.

Marie Olesen:
And I do a fair amount of volunteerism for many years because I was doing a lot of consulting. I was on the road a lot and I basically stopped doing volunteerism. But now I’m back. I’ve gone on the board of Humble Design. We help Promises2Kids, which is one of the best foster programs in the country. And we do a fair amount of children’s scholarships and things within the community.

Monique Ramsey:
And I know you do that personally. Dr. Olesen used to go down to Tijuana. And tell me about that a little bit.

Marie Olesen:
Well soon after we were married, we met a nun. And she was an American woman from Beverly Hills who had received a calling. Her name was Mother Antonia Brenner, and there was a book written about her.

Marie Olesen:
So apparently, she had been praying for a plastic surgeon to come and take care of her children. And her children were the prisoners in the most violent prison in Mexico, which was then the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana.

Marie Olesen:
So for about 10 years, Dr. Olesen and I went down there about once a month, and he would do anything that he could do under local. So my background is … and I wasn’t a nurse. I have a degree in public administration. But when we went down there, I could open the suture, and he could take it out of my hand.

Marie Olesen:
So Mother Antonia said to us at one point, “Isn’t it nice to have a free nurse?” And he looked at her, and we had been to an auction the night before. And I had bought some Chinese statues. And he said, “Mother, she is not a free nurse. She is the most expensive nurse that I have ever had.” So we all got a laugh out of that.

Monique Ramsey:
That’s cute.

Marie Olesen:
One other thing. We collect posters. So this is something that we started when we married in ’81. He had one poster. I had a couple of posters from my grandfather. I’m of French descent. He went to school in France. So over the years, we went to France a lot and we started collecting posters. And we have them at home. We have them in our offices. And in getting ready for this new office, we haven’t even signed the lease, and I’m already buying posters. So it’s just a fun thing that everybody can share with us.

Monique Ramsey:
They are really fun. And on our Pinterest channel, we have a Pinterest board about art we love. So I’ll have to add some of the-

Marie Olesen:
The new ones.

Monique Ramsey:
The new ones. Exactly. So back to the charity part, I love that you and Dr. Olesen have always done that in your personal lives. But you’ve transitioned that. And that’s been a part of the La Jolla Cosmetic tradition from the beginning of giving back. And people now are very in tuned with organizations that give back. And we’ve been doing that a long time and we just didn’t really talk about it that much. But going back to Humble Design, that partnership, can you talk a little bit about that?

Marie Olesen:
Yes. So one of the things that we’ve done really for I think 30 years or something is Las Patronas. And that’s the Jewel Ball held every August in La Jolla at the Beach & Tennis Club. And the proceeds from that ball are distributed toward the organizations throughout San Diego. And it’s a wonderful group of 50 ladies. And Dr. Wheeler’s wife was in that group, and now Dr. Salazar’s wife is in it. And they just do marvelous things for the community. And they have the time to vet all these charities, which is hard to do. From our point of view, we have to make sure that whatever we’re giving to has been vetted. And we haven’t always listed what we do, but we do a lot.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah. And they gave I think over, I don’t know what they’re up to now, but over $400,000 last year. I could be way off.

Marie Olesen:
It’s about a half a million a year minimum.

Monique Ramsey:
Okay. Yeah. Yeah. And I love the fact that you might be driving around and you see a van and it says generously provided by Las Patronas. They give tangible things. I remember San Diego Junior Theatre, it was a soundboard. The kids needed a new soundboard for the theater, and actual things that would help that group.

Marie Olesen:
We’ve done a lot with animals over the years, too. We had a seeing eye dog that we sponsored, and we’ve done things for various animal charities.

Monique Ramsey:
And the Humble Design is we go in … so tell us about what they do and our partnership.

Marie Olesen:
I love this organization. When people are transitioning from homelessness, they go through a year program. And then they are given an empty apartment. So they don’t have a bed. They don’t have dishes. They just are in sleeping bags on the floor. So it’s really not much of an improvement in the life they were living. And as a result, the national statistics are that about half of those people are back on the street after six months.

Marie Olesen:
So the founder of Humble Design decided that she wanted to help people get furniture. So it started as her going to her friends and neighbors and say, “Does anybody have a couch you’re going to replace, or some beds?” Or whatever. And then over the years, what they found is that over 90% of these people are still in their homes at a year.

Monique Ramsey:
Wow.

Marie Olesen:
So we became involved, the practice became involved, and we became personally involved. So twice a year, we actually send a team of people down to one of, they’re called installations. And we actually get to meet the family, and hang the pictures, and put the pillows on the sofa. Put the dishes and the pots and pans in the kitchen. They go from literally having nothing to having not only a beautiful home, but really organized for living. And it’s so wonderful. And I think we’re scheduled down to do it again on the Friday before Mother’s Day.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah. And if any of you in our podcast audience want to help out one of these days, it’s so much fun. It’s so rewarding. You go in at 9:30 or 10 in the morning. And by 2:30, it’s like a total transformation from an empty apartment to a beautiful, something you’d see almost on HGTV. They have designers who donate their time. And the way they put these things together is just amazing. So you can follow them online at humble design.

Marie Olesen:
And let me just share one story from that, which is the boyfriend of one of our staff came along. Because you need the men to help you lift things and hang heavy pictures. So he didn’t want to come. The boyfriend did not want to come. And at the end, you have a little circle and you say, “What have you gotten out of this?” And he said, “I did not want to come here. I wanted to sleep.” And he said, “What I’ve gotten out of today is that I need to get a life. It’s like, this is trouble. These people have trouble. And if I’m wandering around feeling sorry for myself, that is not right at all.”

Marie Olesen:
So I think I’ve decided recently about myself and my overall philosophy of life that the single characteristic that I value most in myself and I look for in others is gratitude. Someone asked me to do something the other day, and my husband doesn’t really want me to do it, because it’s a big task. And I said, “Merrel, how can I refuse them? We have each other. We have this wonderful business. We have this wonderful life. I have no suffering really in my life. And here’s a problem and they need me.” And I said, “I really can’t bring myself to turn them down.”

Monique Ramsey:
That’s a wonderful trait to have, to incorporate in your daily life, to have that gratitude. And saying no, everybody says, “You should say no to this and say no to that.” Well, that’s true sometimes. I’m a yes person. It’s a character flaw, but-

Marie Olesen:
Only in the extreme. It’s an asset most of the time.

Monique Ramsey:
Right. But knowing where you can make a difference in someone’s life, that’s a really special thing. And I think the partnership with Humble Design, it’s that beauty. We are in the beauty business, and we’re in a beautiful office. And that’s thanks to you and your vision for having this beautiful place to work. That makes it a joy to come to work. The patients love it because they come in. And what did you say the other day? There was one patient opened the doors from the XiMED lobby.

Marie Olesen:
Our lobby’s really happy with bright colors and big posters. And she goes, “This is like coming into a speakeasy.” And what she meant is speakeasy had this plain door. And then you open it and there’s this big party inside. And I just love that observation from her.

Monique Ramsey:
Yeah. So we make beauty, we are surrounded by beauty. And then for us to be able to give back to people in our local community, and they’re surrounded with beauty that makes them want to keep that lifestyle. It gives them incentive to say, “Oh wow, I have my own place. And these are my things. And my kids have their name over their bed. There’s some permanence.” They’d maybe been living in a car or in a shelter. Nothing is theirs. But in the home it’s like this is your dollhouse. It’s so cute and so heartwarming to see. And if you follow us on social media, you’ll see when we post, we show the before and the after. So it’s kind of a neat way that we can give back that also very much aligns with what we do every day.

Monique Ramsey:
So thank you, Marie. That was so nice. And I want to make sure everybody knows how to contact us. First, you can look in the show notes. That has all information on how to call, or text, or email us. And Marie, how should somebody reach out if they want to connect with you directly?

Marie Olesen:
Well, I’m MM Olesen @ljcsc.com. And I’m obviously on LinkedIn.

Monique Ramsey:
And we hope that you’ll subscribe or follow our podcast wherever you’re listening for podcasts. And we reward that. So if you come in and show us that you’ve subscribed or followed us, we’ll give you $25 off a $50 purchase or more. And you can get your favorite eye cream or the new neck product from Skin Medica. So we really just love having you as part of the glam fam. So thank you again Marie. This has been really fun. And thank you all for listening and we hope to see you all again soon. Bye bye.

Laura Cain:
Take a screenshot of this podcast episode with your phone and show it at your consultation or appointment or mention the promo code podcast to receive $25 off any service or product of $50 or more at La Jolla Cosmetic. La Jolla Cosmetic is located just off the I-5 San Diego freeway in the XiMED building on the Scripps Memorial Hospital Campus. To learn more, go to ljcsc.com or follow the team on Instagram @ljcsc. The La Jolla Cosmetic Podcast is a production of The Axis. T-H-E-A-X-I-S.io.

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