Home-grown on technology

September 1, 2004

Suzanne Kilmer, M.D., started out life on the move, in tandem with the amazing tech-nological developments evolving in laser medicine. The daughter of a pioneer in the manufacture of calculators, she was born in Dallas but early on moved to Chicago, then to Silicone Valley during her freshman year in high school.

When her father's company, Unicom, a calculator manufacturing company, was bought by Rockwell, her parents moved to Orange County, Calif. and Dr. Kilmer stayed in Saratoga tofinish her senior year.

Dr. Kilmer held her own: "My father used to say, 'you can try to take on my sons, and they will overpower you, but my daughter can out-maneuver you."

Dr. Kilmer decided to become a scientist and attended U.C.L.A.

Mentor changes career "I was in the Ph.D. program, and my mentor told me I was more of a people person. I was good at naming my rats, the whole bit. He told me I loved talking to people and that I should really think about med school," she says.

Dr. Kilmer says that when her mentor helped her change over from science to medicine, it was pretty much unheard of. While mentors work, typically, to keep graduate students in their graduate programs, Dr. Kilmer's mentor saw a different potential for her. As a result, she graduated with a master's degree in neurophysiology but only lacks physical chemistry classes to attain a Ph.D., never pursuing it because of the rigors of medical school. She is content with her choice.

"I love my life. I love what I do. I have more of a surgeon's mentality, and I like to do things, to fix things. This allows me to do that. I see all ages, see all kinds of problems, and I'm in the high-tech part of a field that is surgically oriented, so, for me, it's a perfect fit," she says.

Dr. Kilmer did seriously consider going into neurosurgery but the challenges of dermatology intrigued her.

"In dermatology, you do a lot of different things, and deal with all ages, both sexes, and do a lot of teaching to other doctors. So, for me it was a good fit. Lasers were just starting to come out; I saw it as a chance to get into a field that was brand new," she says.

"We were just starting to treat tattoos, and the only vascular laser we had was KTP or the old pulsed dye laser. Things really blossomed a couple years after that," she says.

Dr. Kilmer worked on clinical trials, and led a bi-coastal life for a couple years, flying back and forth every few weeks.

Power of lasers The challenge of the new field and the power of lasers were appealing to Dr. Kilmer.

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