The Business Family of Soderstrom Skin Institute

by Melissa Lindeson

The Soderstrom group of companies has been on the cutting edge of skin care for decades.

When asked about his family business, Dr. Carl Soderstrom immediately replies, “There is a Soderstrom family. And then there is the business family.”

With a large number of employees who have been with the Soderstrom group of companies for more than two decades, it truly is a family. Comprised of 200 professionals, the team includes dermatologists, plastic surgeons, physician assistants, nurses, estheticians, cosmetologists, office staff and many more. While several of these employees are actual relatives of Dr. Soderstrom, even those who don’t share his name have become family.

The Early Years
As Dr. Soderstrom tells the story of Soderstrom Skin Institute, he reflects on how it all began in 1973 with one small office in Morton. A young dermatologist right out of medical school, Dr. Soderstrom had the same basic goal as many new physicians: pay the bills. But for him, that was secondary.

Listening to his patients reigns supreme for Dr. Soderstrom. And after three years of caring for patients, he finally reached a point where he had a small amount of money left after paying the bills. So he bought his first car—with an auto loan, he explains with a smile. Today, nearly 30 years later, Dr. Soderstrom leads his corporate family as they serve patients in eight locations, offering a full range of dermatology, plastic surgery and spa services.

When starting his practice, Dr. Soderstrom used his creativity to remain on the forefront of patient services. Although he is often an early adopter of new techniques, he ensures that any new offerings have been tested and are safe.

In the early seventies, he visited a medical practice in Florida that had developed an acne clinic concept. Feeling that there was much more that could be done to support acne sufferers here in central Illinois, he opened the second acne clinic in the United States. “Acne, especially cystic scarring, can be disastrous to a patient’s self-image,” he says.

Word got out that Soderstrom Skin Institute offered acne solutions in a caring environment. This is a theme for the company, continuing with the psoriasis clinic that was later launched in a similar manner. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Focus and Simplify
Since Dr. Soderstrom doesn’t often think about money, it’s a good thing his son does! The oldest of five boys, Carl David received his MBA from Notre Dame and has spent time sharing that knowledge with his dad. In addition to providing general business and financial advice, the younger Soderstrom was also instrumental in designing the main building (on Glen Avenue in Peoria) to maximize the unique and varied offerings of the practice.

Walking through the facility, one can see that every detail was planned with the patient in mind. With hallways that serve as spokes off the central nurses’ station hub, convenience and comfort are evident. Because Soderstrom Skin Institute offers everything from spa services to an accredited ambulatory surgery center, patients can receive a full spectrum of care—often within footsteps of each area. For patients who see the group for plastic surgery as the result of trauma, they may also need follow-up, such as supporting laser therapy services and quality make-up. And it’s all right here.

CEO Tina Peugh says that the onsite ambulatory surgery center provides an excellent opportunity for patients to have plastic surgery or other procedures performed in a comfortable environment.

“Because it doesn’t feel like a hospital setting, patients and their companions seem to feel more relaxed,” she says. “And because all their appointments, procedures and follow-up visits are in one convenient location, it eliminates the stress of locating and parking at a new facility each time.”

Continuing through the facility into the spa area, the colors are muted, the music is soothing, and the lights are low. Here you’ll find clients waiting for relaxing massages, spray tans (The safe way to look golden!), manicures and facials. You’d never know that just a few yards away, patients are being treated in fully-equipped surgical suites.

Not Just the Soderstroms
In addition to Carl David, Dr. Soderstrom’s other four sons have fulfilled a variety of roles over the years. John serves as a physician assistant, and Bob managed the spa for a short time before heading to law school, while Eric provided legal services prior to assuming his role as a practicing attorney in Chicago.

In addition to John, who works in the Morton and Peoria offices, Dr. Soderstrom’s son Steve works in the business as director of marketing. Beyond the boys, Steve’s wife, Carrie, provides strategic business guidance, utilizing the MBA she earned at Bradley University. “As a father, I’m so honored and proud to have family members who want to work with me,” says Dr. Soderstrom.

The feeling is mutual. John explains that he had two dreams, one of which was to work at the Mayo Clinic. “However, there was only one dream bigger than working at the Mayo Clinic,” he says. “That was the dream of working with my Mayo Clinic-trained father. He offered me the job, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Having John in the long-standing practice also serves as a fountain of youth. Patients who haven’t seen Dr. Soderstrom for 30 years are sometimes scheduled to meet with the younger John Soderstrom, PA-C. Their reaction? “Gee whiz, Dr. Soderstrom, you haven’t aged a bit!”

And this high level of family involvement doesn’t stop with the Soderstroms. Nicole Skaggs is a Registered Nurse who cares for patients in the psoriasis clinic of Soderstrom Dermatology Center, while two of her aunts work in office services. And the aforementioned CEO also has a brother who works in the practice.

Over the years, numerous employees have encouraged their family members to apply for employment. “Of course,” explains Dr. Soderstrom, “It’s important to maintain that delicate balance of ‘benevolent nepotism’ and giving every employee an opportunity to provide an integral, valuable contribution to the rest of the team.”

What It’s All About
More than a team, this family comes together when it matters most. A former staff member was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in October one year. This woman, her husband and their 10-year-old daughter had never taken a vacation together.

So the staff took it upon themselves to ensure that she was elected employee of the month as soon as possible, so she could become eligible for employee of the year. Later, the team bestowed this honor upon her, which included a grand prize of a family trip to Disney World.

Although she passed away just a few months later, one of the final memories her husband and daughter have of their family is a magical trip to the happiest place on earth. “And THAT is why I love this family,” Dr. Soderstrom says with a smile. iBi

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