Brought up in the small town of Timmins, Ontario, Michael Cecchini had plenty of opportunity to spend time in nature, enjoy water skiing, and connect with family and friends. These golden years set the foundation for him to become an individual in pursuit of professional excellence and progress. At 33, not too many years after completing his dermatology residency at the University of Toronto, he added another title behind his name: business owner. Skincare is a billion-dollar industry in Canada, and as more medical and cosmetic procedures continue to increase in both need and popularity, dermatology clinics work to keep up with it all.
Dr. Cecchini spoke with The Edge about entrepreneurship, his passion for helping others, and the importance of working towards your goals.
As the owner of the York Dermatology Clinic & RC, what were your goals at the beginning of your career, and what are your goals for the clinic moving forward?
At the beginning of my career, my main goal was to graduate, work for a number of years, and then maybe one day down the road, start my own clinic. I had thought about it, as I’ve always had an entrepreneurial side to me, even when I was younger, but I assumed it would be a longer process. When I graduated, I didn’t really have a clear direction. Many of my friends were taking different paths and moved away while I focused on work. I graduated and started practicing in July 2019. I was working a few days a week at the [York Dermatology Clinic & RC] clinic by that point, and then in March, I had the opportunity to buy the practice from the previous owner. Since this opportunity came up, I’m now in a different place than anything I could have imagined. I now have six doctors that work for me, we have a cosmetic wing, clinical trials, and now my goals include trying to be the best medical dermatology centre in the north [of] the GTA, with outreach into Northern Ontario. I want to be able to give great medical care to people who need it but may not always have access. On top of that, the clinic works very closely with many patients with hidradenitis suppurativa, a very painful skin condition impacting the body’s sweat glands, and I’d like our clinic to be one of the main centres to help with this. Ultimately, my goal is to continue to grow the clinic, help people, and be a centre of excellence.
In addition to working with patients for their medical or cosmetic dermatology needs, you manage various research projects. What skills are important in navigating the business side of dermatology?
I think there are many skills that [help] one be successful in business. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities. It’s important to surround yourself with others that you trust, and who care as much as you do about the organization. Everyone I work with hustles and goes above and beyond. We are working towards many common goals in building the best possible experience for our staff and patients. Being organized and managing your time is also essential, especially when things are hectic. Also, setting aside time for yourself and supporting your own mental health is valuable too. When you meet people, whether it’s networking, patients, or staff, it’s always important to make decisions with honesty and integrity.
You’ve worked in a variety of settings, from smaller northern cities like Sudbury—where you attended the Northern Ontario School of Medicine—to larger metropolitan centres like Toronto. How have these experiences shaped you and your approach to your work?
In medical school, having had the opportunity to work in many northern communities, I was reminded how important it is to be culturally sensitive and culturally aware, and actively listen to others [and their experiences]. I had a lot of great hands-on experience in medical school as there wasn’t the same access to specialists in Northern Ontario [and there’s currently only a few dermatologists for more remote areas]. As such, I was often able to have a lot of exposure to different procedures that I may not have had in a larger city at that time. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine really helped me grow as a person as well. When it comes to larger cities such as Toronto, my team working skills were really refined; being able to work closely with different specialists and learn from others has been a great help to me. All of these skills carry over into my current roles. Seeing the needs in more remote communities, while currently working in a larger city, I’ve been able to develop partnerships, outreach, and consultations in places like Sault Ste. Marie, Manitoulin Island, Timmins, and all-over Northern Ontario.
What advice would you have for others when it comes to overcoming challenges and pursuing goals?
I think it’s really important to keep your “eye on the prize” and to really focus on setting clear short- and long-term goals while working towards achieving them. Sometimes you have to put your blinders on—don’t worry about what others are doing—just focus on the things you feel are important. When working through challenges, it’s also necessary to take care of your mental and physical health. Finding what works best for you, whether it be talking with others, eating well, exercise, or mediation—it can all be helpful. At the end of the day, you just have to try to do the best you can and believe in yourself. This year [with the pandemic and life stress], it has been especially challenging. It’s important to continue to fight and move forward, to be good to yourself, and also to recognize and acknowledge every small success, and how far you’ve come.
Stephanie Hawkins | Contributing Writer