“Smile,” the song Charlie Chaplin popularized, and Nat King Cole sang, tells us to keep smiling despite the obstacles that challenge us, through heartbreak and times of sorrow. It has always resonated with San Diego-based dermatologist Tess Mauricio, MD.
Snapshot of today
At 48, Dr. Mauricio has a thriving dermatologic and cosmetic practice with offices in San Diego and Beverly Hills, Calif.
It was her lifelong dream to become a doctor. She met her husband at Stanford Medical School, where they were classmates. He later became a successful anesthesiologist. They have two children who are busy pursuing their dreams – one is on her way to becoming a doctor. And Dr. Mauricio’s close-knit family, including her siblings, work with her in practice.
It is a good, full life, she says. And every bit of it is hard earned.
A child with a dream
Dr. Mauricio’s family immigrated from the Philippines to San Diego when she was 12 years old.
“We were in a very rough part of San Diego. I am the oldest of four kids. My parents basically worked all day and all night. I ended up being the caretaker of my three younger siblings,” she recounts.
Despite the obstacles, Dr. Mauricio graduated valedictorian from high school and earned a scholarship to the University of California San Diego, where she graduated summa cum laude. Determined to go to medical school, she got another scholarship, this time to Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Even as a really, really young kid, I always imagined myself as a doctor. I love taking care of people,” she says.
Dr. Mauricio learned early on about the power of medicine – dermatology, in particular.
“Growing up I had really bad eczema. My brother had some health issues, too. So, maybe that impacted me. I saw doctors as people who could make life better,” Dr. Mauricio says.
Eczema took a toll on her self-confidence and quality of life. Dr. Mauricio says she rarely got good sleep as a child, she was always itchy, her skin cracked and became discolored.
Aiming to enter into a medical specialty that could impact people’s psychological well-being, Dr. Mauricio considered psychiatry. But when she did her dermatology rotation, she realized that she could and would change lives by helping people through their eczema, acne, psoriasis and cosmetic concerns.
And that’s what she has been doing for the last 15 years.
She started her dermatology practice as a solo practitioner, subleasing space in her family practitioner’s office. “It was just me and my sister, Angela, who basically answered the phone. At the time, my daughter was about three years old, and I told my mother that I would just do what I could. If I didn’t have patients, I’d just hang out with my daughter and my mom,” she recalls.
“We got so busy that within a year we needed our own place and ended up having multiple locations. My mom jokes about how it has been 15 years and we still haven’t really spent that much time with her.”
Evolving into cosmetic and regenerative medicine
Dr. Mauricio is multi-racial, and she says offering anti-aging options to patients with skin of color became her passion.
“Over the last five or six years, I’ve gotten into regenerative aesthetics — the use of our own platelet-rich plasma, growth factors and fat-derived stem cells for rejuvenation and anti-aging. I’ve introduced a combination protocol called the Time Machine Procedure, where we combine energy-based resurfacing, growth factors and microneedling. We can customize it based on patients’ skin types and the level of downtime that they want. It is truly a natural way to permanently reset the aging process of the skin,” she says.
Dr. Mauricio also helped pioneer a regenerative aesthetics brand called ALMI, which involves harvesting a patient’s fat using local anesthesia and utilizing the stem cell activity of fat for volumization. She uses that in combination with the Time Machine Procedure, in hair restoration and for sexual health procedures. She also offers IV therapy to treat a host of pain and other conditions.
“The practice has truly evolved from just skin issues to an overall holistic approach to bio-hacking and anti-aging. There is no reason to ever look or feel old,” she says.
Dr. Mauricio’s husband, James Lee, MD, was diagnosed with a brain tumor nearly a decade ago.
“He went from a brilliant guy to someone who could barely tie his shoes and brush his teeth,” Dr. Mauricio says.
Her husband’s health struggles weren’t limited to the brain tumor. He started to rebound after treatment for the tumor and then was almost paralyzed by cervical stenosis, disc herniation and spinal cord compression.
Dr. Mauricio says that through it all, she tried to do her work, stay positive, be a supportive wife, mother and caretaker and, basically, not skip a beat.
“I think as women and especially women physicians, the life-work balance is always a challenge. I think my biggest accomplishment is really being able to continue to pursue my dreams, continue to make a difference in the field, transform patients’ lives and help pioneer incredible procedures while keeping my family intact, happy and taking care of myself personally — mind, body and soul,” Dr. Mauricio says.
Her husband has, for the most part, recovered. And the couple used what they learned from his journey toward healing to create Liveli, the nutritional supplementation program that they launched on QVC earlier this year.
“It launched and sold out. It is a little crazy because we are now kind of inspired by this extremely difficult time of our lives – creating something that could potentially help millions around the world,” Dr. Mauricio says.
For Dr. Mauricio, her strong faith (she prays many times daily) and solid family are her foundation.
“My parents live with us in our home. My siblings whom I took care of as kids, all work at my clinics. I have two siblings who are nurses and my other sibling is our CFO. And we all live within a few miles of each other,” she says.
Five random facts about Dr. Mauricio
Q: What are your three favorite songs?
1: “24-Carat” by Bruno Mars.
2: “Forever Your Girl” by Paula Abdul. Paula Abdul is actually one of Dr. Mauricio’s patients and they’ve become close friends. Dr. Mauricio helped prepare Ms. Abdul for her recent comeback tour, and when the singer was in San Diego she treated Dr. Mauricio and 100 guests to front-row seats.
3: “Smile.” “I sang that at The Aesthetic Show’s first-ever event. And it is true: Smile; stay positive. God has a plan.”
Q: What’s the most courageous thing you have ever done?
A: Let my kids get a dog even though I had a dog phobia. I was bitten by a dog on my face when I was three or four years old. We got a dog named Cargo. I’ve since gotten over my phobia and he’s part of the family now.
Q: Which celebrity chef would you most like to fix you a meal?
A: We’re huge fans of Bobby Flay and watch him on the Food Network.
Q: What is your favorite treatment or procedure to perform?
A: My Time Machine Procedure. It’s real, all natural and customizable, and it is how I stay looking young and natural at age 48.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: My mom always said, “just always do your best. Do what makes you happy and don’t worry about what other people think about you.”