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Family Physician Changes Lives Through Aesthetics


If you ask Josie Tenore, MD, MSc, about vacation time, you won't hear about relaxing afternoons on a tropical beach or roasting marshmallows by a campfire. Instead you'll learn how she serves as the medical director for walk-a-thons, and AIDS bicycle rides from Amsterdam to Paris.

If you ask Josie Tenore, MD, MSc, about vacation time, you won’t hear about relaxing afternoons on a tropical beach or roasting marshmallows by a campfire. Instead you’ll learn how she serves as the medical director for walk-a-thons, and AIDS bicycle rides from Amsterdam to Paris.

“If anybody had watched me as a kid, they probably would have put me on ADHD medicine,” Tenore recalls. “I tend to be a little hyper.”

Today, Tenore puts that hyper tendency to good use. She spends a considerable amount of free time perfecting her craft. That shouldn’t be surprising, because Tenore, a board-certified family physician who became interested in aesthetics during medical school, has always known what she wanted to do in life, and actively pursued it.

“I was hospitalized, probably with a kidney infection, and there was just something about that whole world that fascinated me as a 5-year old,” Tenore says. “And I actually made the announcement, when I grow up I’m going to be a doctor. I always had that passion. I always found the human body supremely interesting, and I still do.”

Varied and challenging

In medical school, Tenore found herself fascinated by plastic surgery and aesthetics. The problem, however, was that she also loved her obstetrics rotation, and pediatrics as well. In fact, with each rotation she found herself falling in love with a different area of medicine.

She sat back and asked herself, “How can I not give up all the things that interest me, and still have the most varied, challenging career?” The answer was family medicine. But it wasn’t that simple.

“I was always sort of looking at health inside and out,” she explains. “I had that early recognition that when people look in the mirror, if they don’t like what they see, they’re less likely to eat healthy and exercise. And if they like what they see, they’re more likely to take care of themselves.”

So she trained in doing varicose veins, then added chemical peels and cosmeceuticals—cosmetic products with biologically active ingredients purporting to have medical or drug-like benefits—to her repertoire that included obstetrics, pediatrics, and geriatrics. But after 22 years, it was time for a change.

A “fresh” start

Tenore transitioned her practice into a full-service aesthetic medical center, FreshSkin, based in Highland Park, IL.

“I discovered that I have this sort of artistic talent,” she explains. “Any time I looked at someone and their skin yelled at me, ‘I’m not healthy,’ it didn’t make sense to not pay attention to what was going on internally. So now I take an aging face, uncover the mystery of what was underneath it, and then restore it. I consider myself a restoration artist.”

Most of her patients do not like taking medication, so Tenore focuses on nutrition. She’s done a substantial amount of research on nutraceuticals and supplements, and has uncovered some companies with expertise in developing new compounds.

“We’re able to improve people’s metabolic syndrome by just using supplements, in addition to weight loss and exercise,” she explains. “It’s sort of fascinating how people are really not asking for medication any more. They want to do things more naturally; they want to be more proactive, and we have the technology to do that.”

Appreciating culture

Of course, Tenore is not a workaholic. One of her passions is traveling and getting to know other cultures. She lists Turkey and China as the most interesting places she has visited.

“I didn’t know much about the Muslim faith, and I was able to sort of live it because I was in Turkey during Ramadan,” she explains. “There are so many ancient ruins. In Turkey, if you trip over a rock, it’s not a rock. It’s probably from an old cathedral or something. And the people were so warm and receptive.”

She visited China in 1985, before the country had opened to travel from the west. As such, Tenore found herself at the center of attention as she visited many small towns.

“They took photos of me because they had never seen a redhead before,” she laughs. “It was sort of fascinating. I’m the tourist, and yet I’m on the other end of the camera lens. Both places have such interesting cultures, much different from North America. I was lucky enough to visit both.”

A healthy mindset

Recently, Tenore had an opportunity to visit an old friend from medical school, a psychiatrist in Toronto. Her friend said, “I still tell my patients about you, how you exercised your way through residency.”

That’s not surprising. Tenore was raised on a Mediterranean diet. Her parents had a garden, so the family ate from that garden all summer long.

“Eating healthy was kind of genetically inbred,” she says.

So was exercising. Today, Tenore engages in 50-mile bike rides, takes indoor spin classes and skis in the winter, and subjects herself to very aggressive Pilates classes—what she refers to as torture Pilates—that involve Pilates moves on an engineered reformer until muscle exhaustion.

“Exercise was how I stayed away from drugs,” she explains. “I think a lot of people could be off ADHD medicine if they made sure they had all their nutrient levels where they should be, and exercised. We’ve become too sedentary.”

Ah-ha moments

With all that Tenore does, everything still comes back to her patients, and their reactions following treatment.

“It’s the wellness ah-ha,” she says. “I’ve had people cry and say, ‘Oh my God, I never thought I’d see that face again.’ There’s nothing more gut-wrenching and touching to me than that.”

It’s the same with students. Tenore has taught at the University of Toronto (her alma mater), Brown University in Rhode Island, and Northwestern University in Chicago. She has often heard students say, “Wow, I never thought of doing it that way.”

“That’s when I feel like I was able to touch somebody’s life in a way that nobody else was able to,” she says. “And that’s going to be my legacy.”

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