Provider Spotlight: Merry Thornton, PA-C
We spoke to Westchester-based Merry Thornton, PA-C about what drew her to dermatology, what her typical day looks like and her tried and true treatment and product picks. Meet Merry!
Where are you from?
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. I lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn for six years before moving to Westchester County in 2009.
Where do you live now?
I live in Katonah, NY. I love the outdoors, and there is no shortage of beautiful hiking trails where I live.
What led you to a career in dermatology?
After working in the financial services industry for six years and getting my MBA at NYU, I decided to change careers and enrolled in the Physician Assistant program at Cornell. I didn’t feel fulfilled in my former career and yearned to help people in a meaningful way. I began PA school uncertain as to which field I would choose. The decision became very clear while doing a clinical rotation in dermatology. I like the variety that the field has to offer; I get to enjoy the technical aspects of doing procedures while also developing long-lasting relationships with patients and working with them to resolve their skin concerns. While I am very much a visual learner and there are enough primary skin conditions to keep me busy for a lifetime, I appreciate that dermatologic issues are often linked to systemic diseases. A dermatologist or dermatology PA can practice for years and still learn something new each day, as skin concerns frequently do not present in a textbook format.
What’s a typical day at the office like for you?
My typical day is a busy one! I see patients for a variety of concerns ranging from acne to rashes to skin cancer. On any given day, I may perform biopsies to diagnose dermatologic pathologies, excisions to treat skin cancers and atypical lesions, and injections to correct hair loss. Cosmetic treatments are a growing part of my practice as well. As non-surgical cosmetic procedures become more popular, I have seen an increase in patients asking for injectables (i.e. Botox, Juvederm), laser treatments, microneedling, skin tightening, and chemical peels. I evaluate each of my patients with great detail to offer the most precise care based on their skin needs.
After the patient leaves, there is still a lot of work to be done. With the help of my medical assistant, I devote a portion of my day to managing prescriptions, documenting patient visits, returning patient calls, and consulting with other providers to ensure the best patient care.
Biggest career highlight so far?
I recently had a patient tell me that I changed her life by clearing her acne. She had a severe case that was resistant to other treatments she had tried in the past. By addressing her acne with a multi-pronged approach, including topical medications, phototherapy, and chemical peels, and by treating the residual scarring with a laser, she achieved her desired outcome.
Another time, I saw a patient for a rash on her left breast. She had the rash for six months, and her primary care provider was treating her with various steroidal creams, but the rash was not improving. I knew right away that we needed to do a biopsy, and my worst suspicion was confirmed: it was metastatic breast cancer. Fortunately, we caught it early enough that she was able to receive treatment from her oncologist. Her daughter hugs me every time she sees me.
One of the best compliments is when patients recommend me to their family and friends. It is rewarding to know that they recognize my abilities and that they trust me with their loved ones.
What cosmetic treatments have you had?
While I would never disclose my patients’ beauty secrets, I am happy to spill my own. I have done the VI Peel to improve the texture of my skin, IPL to treat facial blood vessels, Juvederm to volumize my lips, and Botox to relax my forehead lines. I have had Laser Genesis treatments, which gently heat the dermis to stimulate collagen production. This is turn reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, tightens pores, and improves the overall texture of the skin. The best part is that it is pain-free and there is no downtime! I also started using a microneedling device that stimulates collagen growth. For my next treatment, I would like to try PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injections, which restores youthfulness to the face and provides and added glow.
Do you have (or have you in the past) any medical skin issues?
I had moderate acne as a teen for which I saw a dermatologist. I was prescribed a topical medication that we do not use much anymore. Now there are so many great options. I also have eczema, which tends to worsen in the winter months. Using a topical steroid cream twice a day for two weeks usually does the trick. I also make sure to moisturize my skin with an unscented moisturizer after showering.
Best question you’ve received from a patient?
“Are you old enough to treat me?” I joke that I am actually 70 years old, but I look like I’m 35 due to procedures I’ve done on myself.
What should all dermatology patients know before they come in for a visit?
Come with a clean face, no makeup. Expect to disrobe. Never feel embarrassed. I see patients all day, every day, and I am not phased easily!
What are the best skincare products you use?
I alternate washing my face with Cereve and Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser. After cleansing, I use Skinceuticals CE Ferulic followed by a mineral sunscreen. At night, I apply a retinol cream followed by SDG Prep & Extra Soothe. I also use SDG Clear Me Pro pads, which contain glycolic and salicylic acid twice a week. They are great multitaskers that can treat hyperpigmentation, acne, and uneven texture. Sunscreen is an absolute must in anyone’s regimen!
What’s your favorite cosmetic procedure?
I like Botox. It is quick, has no downtime, and it works! It does exactly what it is supposed to- it relaxes the muscles to prevent static lines from forming. I like to think of Botox as age preventative. Patients often wait until they see lines at rest to ask about Botox, but getting the treatment before these lines form prevents them from becoming etched deep in the skin. Patients are sometimes afraid to take the initial plunge, thinking they’ll look “frozen”, but once they do it, they report that their friends and family make comments such as “you look well-rested! What are you doing differently?” or “Your skin looks great! What products have you been using?”
What do you do in our free time?
I enjoy anything outdoors- cycling, hiking, grilling, and gardening. I love trying new restaurants, having a good meal with a friend, and traveling (I am up to 38 countries and counting). I am also passionate about animal welfare. My husband and I have 5 pets, and I have volunteered at animal shelters in the NY/CT area.
Watch Merry Thornton perform a skin-perfecting Laser Genesis, one of her favorite cosmetic treatments:
To book an appointment with Merry Thornton, PA-C, click here or call 844-DERM-DOC.