If Dr. Nicholas V. Perricone ’70 had listened to the skeptics and the doubters he never would have become an anti-aging expert, best-selling author or renowned inventor. That was the message he shared with students last week when he presented the fall Bartels Fellowship Lecture.
“There are just as many people who are going to tell you that whatever you are trying to do is impossible and give you a long list of reasons why you should not do it,” said Perricone. “More people probably discouraged me from continuing than encouraged me. So you just have to believe in yourself.”
After graduating from UNH with a degree in English literature and serving in the Army, he went on to work as a fundraiser and in-patient services for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. His work with children ignited his passion to go to medical school and he was accepted to Michigan State University.
“As an English literature student, I was the only student that could read,” he joked. He graduated in two-and-a-half years and started an internship at Yale in pediatrics. While he enjoyed working with children, the difficult nature of the work caused him to transition to dermatology.
He completed his internship in pediatrics at Yale Medical School and his dermatology residency at Ford Medical Center.in Detroit, became a board-certified dermatologist and returned to Connecticut, where he took over a practice from a retiring doctor. He also joined the faculty at Yale, where he pursued his belief that inflammation was at the basis of most age-related diseases.
“This was not a popular idea, but I believed in myself even though I had no support,” he said. “Science is about 110 years behind where it should be because of a poor acceptance of ideas. It is a threat to your career when you step out of the norm, especially in medicine.”
Despite the naysayers, he persevered and used a combination of traditional Western medicine and an anti-inflammatory diet that he developed. The diet is low in sugar and includes high quality protein such as fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and adequate amounts of good fat that is found in products such as salmon, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
He also started looking at the possibility of putting anti-inflammatory agents directly on the skin to assist with healing. His findings resulted in his first patent while a resident at the Ford Medical Center. Today, he holds nearly 120 U.S. and international patents.
In 1997, he started the skincare company Perricone MD Cosmeceuticals, a name derived from the blending of “cosmetics” and “pharmaceutical.”
He has communicated his groundbreaking findings through several New York Times best-selling books, including “The Perricone Prescription,” “The Wrinkle Cure” and “Forever Young.” His work has also been featured on “Good Morning America” and the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”
This year, the sales of his products on QVC are projected at more than $60 million.
None of this would have been possible if he listened to the critics.
“I was discouraged by everybody,” he said. “I was told, ‘You can’t possibly compete against L’Oreal and Estee Lauder,’ but I believed in what I was doing.”
Instead of worrying about competing against others, Perricone told the students to focus on maximizing their own strengths. “You all have an aptitude that can carry you through and you can do something unique,” he said.