Celebrity sells, and a Reno spa reaps patient windfall

The power of celebrity endorsement proved its pull when former actress Suzanne Somers filled a 1,000-seat auditorium at the Women's Expo in Reno late last month. The topic was not Hollywood hotties, but a more mundane subject: Menopause.

Immediately following Somers talk on hormone replacement therapy, 300 of the women in attendance booked an appointment for medical consultation. And another 100 women called in appointments the next week, says Dr. Graham Simpson, owner of the Ageless Zone, a medical spa in south Reno.

Simpson is the first doctor to open a partner facility of San Diego-based Menopause Clinics of America. Another 50 clinics have been licensed to open this year, with more than 100 clinics planned, says Steve Schroeder, manager of Synergy Communications, a public relations firm in Reno that counts Clinics among its clients.

Simpson was among the first in line to partner with Menopause Clinics, says Schroeder, because he published the book, "Spa Medicine," and personally knew the Clinics' medical director.

Menopause Clinics pays Somers to speak at seminars to launch the program. Prior to taking her show on the road, Somers published two books on menopause and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy "The Sexy Years" and "Ageless."

When her housekeeper pointed out that only celebrities can afford to spend thousands of dollars on treatment, Somers vowed to make the program available to the masses, says Schroeder. Through the clinics, initial consultation is about $40.

The Ageless Zone was not caught off guard by the deluge of new business, says Simpson.

Prior to Somer's appearance, he brought on Dr. Don McGee, hired several nurses and took on a program coordinator who's with Menopause Clinics of America.

"We're seeing them six days a week," says Simpson. "With the added staffing, we can see 60 patients in a week."


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