I was fortunate enough to start my new year interviewing Trichologist Sergio R. Cardona Pérez. Sergio resides and practices in beautiful Puerto Rico where he follows in the footsteps of his father, and Puerto Rico’s first practicing Trichologist, Dr. Sergio Cardona Alicea.
Sergio knew at the young age of six that he wanted to be a Trichologist just like his dad. It was very evident when I asked him why he became a Trichologist that it ultimately came down to his admiration for his father. He explained, “I admired my father so much and he was more than a father to me, he was also my best friend, my pal.” He recalled fond memories of his grandfather teaching the young boys in the family that everyone must work early and hard to become men. With the driving force and hard-working patterns of both his grandfather and his father, Sergio began working with his father at the age of seven years old. He would wake up at 5:00 a.m. every Saturday to go to his father’s clinic. When I asked him what he could have possibly done at age seven in the clinic he said, “I was there to observe and be his little helper. I remember walking into the clinic and there would be as many as 40 people in the waiting room that were all there to see my father and receive a consultation from him. I would just stand in the corner listening and observing. He would give me little jobs and I was so eager and proud to do it.”
As the years went on Sergio became more involved and was given more responsibility. He learned how to use the UV lamp for inspection of the scalp and was fascinated. When he was a sophomore in High School he went to his father and told him that he wanted to perform a live consultation as his project for the science fair. I told him how awesome I thought that was and he said, “Yes, that’s what really ignited my career.”
Sergio began taking courses in Trichology while he was still in high school and finished his first part of Trichology school under his father’s instruction in 1998. I found it interesting when I asked him if he felt like it was easier to study under his father than it would be to study under someone else. He said, “No way! I was top of my class and my father still wouldn’t give me his signature on my certificate. He told me if I wanted to be a Trichologist I had to be better than him!” Sergio then decided to go to college, while still working alongside his father, and get his Bachelor’s-Degree in Biology. Finally, after getting his degree, his father gave him his signature and he officially received his certificate from his father’s school, The Puerto Rico Barber College.
In the fall of 2015 Sergio had the extreme pleasure of meeting Dr. David Kingsley, President of the World Trichology Society and a world renowned Trichologist. Sergio said they instantly made a connection and that he was honored when Dr. Kingsley asked him to translate his entire program into Spanish for him. He boasts, “The World Trichology Society certification program is one of the toughest programs in the world. They are partnered with the Huntington University of Health Sciences which offers the Doctoral Degree of ‘Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) with a personalized concentration in Trichology that has been accredited by the USA’s Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). This Trichology program gives you nine credits of that PhD program and, so far, is the only program credited for that purpose. It took me three years to finally get it right and now I’m partnered with one of the most powerful men in the Trichology industry. He has been a wonderful mentor and friend and I’m deeply grateful that he decided to take me in and take a chance on me.”
Sergio has been running his own practice, Trikhos, for 21 years now in Puerto Rico. I truly appreciate the genuine passion he has for his profession and how obvious it is that the influence of his father still resonates with him deeply. One of his motto’s is ‘Stay sharp or get sloppy.’ He claims that the hardest part of his job is the consultation. When I asked him to go into more detail on that he explained, “Giving the proper diagnosis and correct analysis is key. Am I asking the right questions? Am I picking up on all of the small details? Am I connecting all the dots? My eyesight is my biggest tool, but I also have to listen and make sure I’m not missing anything.”
He definitely believes that genetics can be a factor of different hair and scalp conditions; however, he also explained that there are many other factors to consider such as exposure to chemicals, medication, toxicity, what we eat, and even x-rays. He believes that every case is different and, whether it’s genetic or not, he will do everything he can to help every individual that walks into his clinic.
One of the most difficult cases and one that stands out most to him was a lady that he treated about ten years ago. “She came in with a very rare disease. Her scalp was deformed and she had many scabs filled with puss and blood. We worked hard to come up with a treatment plan for her and, though the progress was slow, we were beginning to see improvement. Unfortunately, she gave up because she was so mentally drained and exhausted from having to deal with the condition for so long. It wasn’t just the case itself that was difficult for me, it was the fact that she gave up and because of that I couldn’t help her. That was the hard part for me.” This is proof that Sergio truly does care about his patients. It was easy for me to tell that he is invested in not only their physical well-being, but their mental well-being as well.
It comes as no surprise to me at all that when I asked him what the best part of being a Trichologist was he was quick to reply, “The smiles! Watching people go from tears in the beginning to smiles in the end. I become personally involved with their feelings and want to make things better for them. Seeing the smiles is the most rewarding part of my job.”
As far as the future of Trichology goes, Sergio sees a lot of development. “People look at Trichology as Cosmetology or Dermatology. It’s not just that. It needs to have its own space. Trichology needs to get the respect that it deserves. We are at a very delicate point in the industry with regulations where it could suffer. The medical industry is trying to control the Trichology industry. As Trichologist’s we need to push through and provide strong education and innovation. It’s more than just products. It’s knowledge and the way we work. We need to work harder on consultation skills. We need to be quicker, more efficient, and get to the bottom of what’s going on with our patients.”
I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Sergio and learning about his journey. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, we need more people like him in this world. His dedication to his profession, his desire to do anything he can to help his patients, and his investment into their personal well-being makes him not only a great Trichologist, but a great human being as well.