Written by Ali Bechtel, originally published in the February 2016 issue of Berks County Living.
Dr. Peter Pugliese’s journey to becoming one of the most beloved educations and foremost experts in the skincare industry is not what you might expect. It began with a childhood dream of becoming a priest, led him through two wars, two decades of private practice, and to the love of his life. Today he has consulted for more than 35 companies, authored over 400 industry publications, and given lectures all over the globe.
The Country Doctor Who Almost Wasn’t
Dr. Pugliese never intended to practice family medicine, instead his early career had bred in him a love of research. But near the end of his tenure at Penn Med when he had not yet secured a residency, the young doctor decided to open a practice to support his family. He set up exam rooms in his stone farmhouse in Bernville and starting making house calls. Over time his practice grew into a twelve-person staff that treated up to 90 patients a day. Although he maintained his practice for twenty years, the doctor never lost his love for research. After hours he worked with the Reading Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and after two decades finally returned to his passion full time.
Mrs. Pugliese’s Powers of Persuasion
After returning to the lab, Dr. Pugliese was working in cancer research when his wife changed the course of his career. “Joanna was an extraordinarily beautiful woman. One day she mentioned to me that she had a wrinkle. She thought because I was doing all this research I knew everything there was to know about skin. Well I knew practically nothing about skin.” So he shifted his focus to the study of dermatology, skin care, and cosmetics. He spent years evaluating cosmetics before turning his attention to aging. His research led to the development of a line of skincare products, Joanna’s Solution. In 2003 he renamed the company Circadia, for the underlying science of nightly skin repair and the body’s circadian rhythms. The company, now run by his grandson Michael, specializes in products sold throughout the world to repair and protect skin, and slow the effects of aging.
The Cookie Doctor
One of Dr. Pugliese’s most recent endeavors is his memoir, “The Cookie Doctor, An American Physician’s Memoir of Life’s Obstacles and Miracles.” As a private rural doctor he often treated patients who could not pay, so they offered what they could in exchange. Over the years he accepted many items as payment, including plenty of cookies. Once, while working with a colleague, a young patient asked if the new doctor was a real doctor who takes money, or a cookie doctor like Dr. Pugliese. This story inspired the book’s title, and also its message. “I just wanted to thank my patients for being the kind of people they were, and I also wanted to leave a message to medical students about what medicine really was like, and how important it was to really look at the patient as a person.” The book is meant to inspire new generations of medical professionals to keep their faith during difficult times, to pursue new discoveries, and to believe in themselves. It can be purchased at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
Did You Know?
Doctors Take a lot of Bull During his time as a “cookie doctor,” one patient paid Dr. Pugliese with a bull to settle a $700 bill.
Beauty before Age According to Dr. Pugliese, aging looks are entirely a result of lifestyle choices, not body chemistry: “I believe without question that a woman never needs to get a wrinkle.”