UNLV nursing graduate student Erika Kimble has always had trailblazing streak. Instead of waiting for change to happen as a nurse, she decided to act by opening three separate dermatology businesses here in the valley.
Kimble says venturing into the unknown is how she lives her life. “I tend to jump into things without fear sometimes. If this feels right, I'm going to go in this direction and this path.”
That path started in Ohio, but eventually led her to UNLV, where she combined her extensive nursing education to an eager entrepreneurial spirit that hopes to improve patient care in Las Vegas and beyond.
Finding Her Passion
Kimble traces her love of science back to her childhood, picking up snakes and worms and wondering how they worked. She developed her scientific curiosity and her interest in taking care of people from here.
After earning her bachelor's from Ohio State University, she began working as a nurse in the OSU Hospital NICU, but admits she underestimated how sick infants can get and how emotional the experience would be. She went back to school, pursuing her Master’s in Nursing in Family Practice as a Nurse Practitioner. During this time, she became interested in dermatology.
“Anything you do in dermatology, you can like see, smell, and hear,” says Kimble. “There are so many senses you can use when you're diagnosing a patient. And for the most part, everything I could do for a dermatology patient, I can likely improve their disease process and have a positive outcome.”
Kimble was hired as a new graduate into a dermatology clinic, but after six and a half years working as a nurse practitioner in Ohio, she turned to UNLV's Doctor of Nursing Practice program. She says the online graduate curriculum was flexible with her work schedule, but she was also impressed with the overall program’s established reputation and high rankings.
But after another six and a half years, Kimble wanted to shake up her career path. “After 13 years in the field, you kind of run out of scenarios that pique your interest. I wanted more stimulation, more of an adventure.”
From Employee to Employer
Kimble realized she could start her own company to improve the dermatology patient experience. She opened her first business, an online dermatology store called Parasol Dermaceuticals to play off a metaphor she says applies to her expertise. “If you think of a parasol, it covers you from winds, rain, shine, and it's what I'm doing in my clinic. I'm treating the whole external body like hair, skin, nails, etc. It's that idea of what I encompass and what I do.”
After more than a decade as a nurse, Kimble entered a whole new world with creating her own business. “I really started from stage one with it. I have no history or education in business. It was a lot of groundwork with researching, studying competition, and seeing what my target population was and how to market.”
She built up Parasol with the goal of increasing medication accessibility with more affordable prices. She sells non-prescription medications to give patients options to help their conditions instead of them not using anything.
One year later, Kimble figured out she could do even more than just treatments. She realized she could also provide dermatology services. Kimble formed her virtual dermatology clinic Parasol Virtual Dermatology. Telehealth was another new industry to learn, not just with designing the appropriate infrastructure, but also troubleshooting technical issues with video system connectivity and learning about Wi-Fi and broadband capabilities and limitations.
Virtual medicine is arguably more widespread now during the coronavirus pandemic, because of its advantages in treating patients from their homes, but Kimble says the technology can only do so much.
“Some things you just need to see in person, especially if you're looking for a cancerous mole,” Kimble says. “There's just a visualization in person of texture and colors, so much different than in a photo or over a camera. That's one thing I say I won't do on there. I tell people to go into a clinic for that. But other things like rashes and acne, those are pretty similar to being in a clinic and kind of what you would be used to as a normal dermatology clinician.”
The limitations of telehealth inspired Kimble's topic for her DNP Project, a capstone requirement of the degree. It also motivated her to open a physical clinic Parasol Aesthetics & Dermatology nearly six months after the virtual counterpart. She noticed some patients she saw virtually needed to be seen in person. “I didn't have a place to bring them, and they wanted to see me because they are already established with me. I thought I'm going to have to do this at least a few days a week.”
More To Be Done
In addition to advancing her career, Kimble wanted to dive into the business side of health care to try and fix some of the biggest national related issues. She opened her online store to offer inexpensive alternatives for patients who can’t afford high-priced medicines. She also started her virtual clinic, in part, because of how long it and can take patients to get appointments.
“Patients have to wait one to three months to be seen by a dermatologist. There's a national shortage of dermatologists in the U.S. [I heard] my patients gripe when they came in saying ‘I couldn't even get in to see you for six weeks and I've had this rash, now it's almost gone.’”
But there is still more to be done, according to Kimble. “There's too much bureaucracy in medicine right now, and it's costing so much money for people to be able to be seen. Our insurance deductibles are so high, our copays are so high, and there's a long line to get in, so something needs to change.”
Kimble doesn’t see herself opening any more businesses as of now. She says the focus is improving what she’s already created and finding a bigger voice. “I think it's much more difficult with new innovations to get people on board and to get them comfortable and to really show them how to use it before they'll really adapt. That's the stage I'm in now. I need to educate people.”
She advises future nursing leaders who want to develop their own entrepreneurial projects to read a lot and find mentors who are business savvy and soak up what they say. “You learn a lot, not just from the books, but the experience of others."