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More Than Skin Deep: Dermatologist Eric Rasmussen
By Maura Hallam Sweley

Founded in 1999 by Dr Eric Rasmussen, Peninsula Dermatology and Laser Clinic, which has offices in Silverdale and Gig Harbor, is one of the few medical practices in Kitsap County that can serve patients who require medical treatment for skin ailments, as well as those who are looking for a little assistance in turning back the hands of time.

“It’s nice for people to have a setting where they can have both needs taken care of,” said Dr Rasmussen.

Dr Rasmussen grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and graduated from medical school at UC Davis. He completed an internship in family practice at the University of Colorado in Denver, and then returned to the west coast for two years of dermatological research at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon. After completing his research stint, Dr Rasmussen remained at OHSU for another three years as a dermatology resident.

Dr Rasmussen moved to Bremerton in 1983, where he went into practice with the Doctor’s Clinic. He chose Bremerton, he said, in part because he had family in the area and in part because of the area’s easy access to water.

“I’ve always enjoyed sailing,” he said.

In 1990 he opened the Silverdale Doctor’s Clinic, where he remained until 1999 when he left to open his own practice, Peninsula Dermatology.

“Dermatology is fascinating in that it’s so visual,” said Dr Rasmussen. “In many cases you can look at the skin and attain a diagnosis fairly quickly. It’s rewarding to be able to move rapidly to treatment.”

Another draw for Dr Rasmussen is the fact that dermatology is one of the few specialties that allows doctors to practice in multiple areas, from general medicine to surgery, from dermatopathology (taking, reading and interpreting skin biopsies) to cosmetic procedures.

The main focus of Dr Rasmussen’s practice, as with any dermatology practice, is skin care: managing sun-related injuries, treating lesions, rashes, rosacea, acne and so on. But the cosmetic side of the practice, which Dr Rasmussen added in 2000, is growing steadily.

On the cosmetic side, “we try to specialize in non-surgical rejuvenation of skin,” said Dr Rasmussen.

Most of the cosmetic procedures available at Peninsula Dermatology and Laser Clinic are ones that are simple to perform, relatively non-invasive and have minimal risk, including Botox injections, the use of fillers, such as Restylene, photofacials and laser hair removal.

“We’re all so busy nowadays,” he said, “It’s harder for people to make time for more invasive procedures.”

The cosmetic side of the practice currently accounts for about a third of its business, said Dr Rasmussen, and he expects that percentage to grow.

“It’s taken a while to build the practice,” he said. “It’s taken a while for people to understand we’re here. Probably a mature mixed practice is 50/50. Our goal is to achieve that mixture.”

Dr Rasmussen opened the Gig Harbor office in 2002 and he and his staff split their time between both offices.

“We always have somebody down there,” he said.

Although Peninsula Dermatology and Laser Clinic is currently a one-doctor practice, Dr Rasmussen has a skilled staff of advanced care practitioners who work with him, providing consultations and performing procedures. The clinic has a part-time physician assistant, Erin Lenza, a nurse practitioner, Victoria Heinz, an aesthetician, Tina Duprie, and his wife, Jan Rasmussen, who is an RN. All staff receives significant ongoing training and continuing education, he said, particularly on the cosmetic side of the practice.

“In a cosmetic setting women like to see women,” said Dr Rasmussen, and the clinic tries to always provide an environment where patients are comfortable.

In situations where Dr Rasmussen’s expertise is required, and he is working in a different office, staff can reach him by phone for a consultation, or send photographs to him over the Internet so he can evaluate the patient.

“If a patient is critical they can usually be seen by me within a day,” he said.

The practice has grown to the point that neither the Silverdale or Gig Harbor office is large enough to accommodate the flow of patients.

In the short term, however, Dr Rasmussen’s current expansion efforts are focused on Gig Harbor, which he sees as an area of huge growth potential.

“As it is there’s no full-time dermatologist down there except our office,” he said. “I was really surprised they didn’t have one.”

Once the Gig Harbor office is brought up to snuff he will turn his attention to the Silverdale office. Ideally, he said, he’d love to build their own space, but as of now has no firm plans.

Over the years Dr Rasmussen has watched the cosmetic procedure industry boom, particularly with the proliferation of laser and other light-based treatments. Although reluctant to pass judgment, he cautions people to make careful choices before selecting a provider, particularly since current state regulations on who is qualified to operate laser and light-based systems are rather loose.

“So many people are trying to get into this business,” he said. “That’s the problem with this business; you can sell anything to anyone, but you shouldn’t. It’s more important to find the procedure that’s going to benefit them. You have to be ethical about what you do.”