Skin Deep with Dr. Missy Clifton

by Case Dighero

“The strongest female mentor in my life?  That’s the easiest question of them all; without a doubt my mom, Lynne Gleason Murphy.  She is the most amazing person I know, she’s brilliant….and she’s what all working women aspire to be,“ says Premier Dermatology founder Dr. Missy Clifton, on stage at DISH, breaking her gaze to look down at her mother sitting in the audience.  It’s enough to put a giant lump into the throat of even the most stoic host; but clearly, inspiration has always been an important part of this highly regarded, often out-spoken woman, mother, wife, daughter, and doctor…yes, probably in that order.

Clifton - Tree.JPG

The interesting, inspirational story of DISH started with Dr. Clifton’s upbringing in Dardanelle, Arkansas surrounded by a great family, true southern culture, and without a doubt, incredible food.  Young Missy was raised primarily with an understanding that hard work was a necessity if she were to get ahead in life; and guided by the strong, matriarchal side of her family she was able to obtain the most important, worth-while pursuits in life that include a happy home, children, and thriving practice.  Indeed, she raced through the streets of Dardanelle with the rowdy neighborhood boys, competitive in nature, and even when her grandmother suggested that she might occasionally let the boys win because they “might like her better”, Missy politely nodded and said “yes, ma’am” even though she never ever looked back as she crossed the finish line well before the others.


Clifton - with the Boys.JPG

On stage, Missy beamed with beauty and charisma, delighting the DISH audience of both men and women with funny, smart anecdotes about growing up in a small town in Arkansas, studying hard in medical school, opening her own practice just after the millennium, and expanding that beauty business to two other cities while raising a healthy, happy family with husband Jeff.  If Missy is charming, pretty then she is equally humble, accessible; stopping to talk to anyone at any given time, even if she doesn’t know them, to hear their own semi-connected stories, or to contemplate ailment inquiries.  As a sponsor of Wednesday Over Water {and now DISH} for several years, Dr. Clifton and her staff are and have been frequent attendees to museum programs, even offering impromptu services when a real life “Is there a Doctor in the house?” moment arrived once a few years ago.  Missy took to her work, stabilized the guest, saw them to the ambulance, then returned to her seat quietly, without a stitch nor hair out of place. 


DISH was poignant, entertaining for myriad of different reason; but in addition to the matriarchal stories, guests were especially intrigued by Dr. Clifton’s response regarding her favorite work in the Crystal Bridges collection as “The Portrait of Professor Benjamin H Rand” by Thomas Eakins.   Missy explained simply, “Dr. Rand, the subject was an anatomy professor, and anatomy is my favorite subject to this day, because studying facial anatomy and symmetry is my obsession. The piece shows him at a messy desk intently studying and patting his cat; and it reminds me of med school studying with papers strewn about and my study dog Jasper always by my side. It also pays homage to the countless hours of study, amazing professors put in to teach and inspire students. It’s a bit of a thankless job but so many professors have made such an impact on all of us...”  You could hear a pin drop as Missy concluded her insights about the Eakins work, clearly impressed with the personal connection she had to this very recognizable portrait; a vibrant example of how art has the potential to affect everyone, even world famous dermatologists.

The evening concluded with the service of Whole Lemon Ice Box Pies, complete with white, pillow like crowns of fresh whipped cream, one of Missy’s favorite desserts from childhood.  As the night began to wind down it became clear that this lineage of inspiration passed down from mother to daughter would undoubtedly continue with Missy’s daughters as they find their passion and cause in life, guided brightly, intently, and beautifully by their own mother’s gift to be what all working women aspire to be. 

Hosted by Case Dighero, the DISH series at Crystal Bridges cultivates lively, insightful dialogue with women in the culinary and art worlds.

Thanks to for sharing this post with Premier.