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Practitioner Spotlight: Dr Inderdeep Gakhal

This week, we shine the spotlight on Dr Inderdeep Gakhal, co-founder of Surgicare Aesthetics, who explains the importance of alleviating anxiety in the consultation process, as well as her thoughts on setting patient expectations from the very beginning.

Hi Dr Gakhal! Thanks for joining me. I’m intrigued to know about how you got into aesthetics...

I’m a GP and graduated from medical school in 2011. In 2016, I first started working as a full-time NHS GP, and it was definitely a baptism of fire - extremely busy and stressful - in a good way, but sometimes it was difficult to manage timelines. So I actually sidestepped and started working as a private GP, and this really opened my eyes to what other opportunities were out there. Often, as a GP, you just end up going with the flow and not really thinking about the other options that are available to you. However, I realised there was more I could do, and that I could mix up being a GP with other things. This is when I was first properly introduced to the idea of working in aesthetics.

So, my husband and I started training in aesthetics in 2018 and have never looked back. We then started the business together, and because of our different personalities, we were able to bounce off each other and really work well together. Working in aesthetics has allowed me to do something alongside working as a GP and allows a bit of flexibility - which is perfect now I have a child - but it was also just a great new challenge. It’s been fantastic and I’m so glad me and my husband decided to set up the business when we did. The pleasure that you get out of having your own business is great!

One thing I love about your Glowday bio is where you talk about being able to alleviate a patient’s anxiety. How do you do that?

I think the most important thing - and I think it comes from having a medical background - is that our consultations and appointments are lengthy. I don’t think anyone can get out of the door in anything less than 45 minutes. It’s important to have a keen interest in the patient and their needs, so when someone’s coming in to see me, I need to know what treatment they are coming in for and why. Plus, I need to give them essential information about the treatments they’re interested in. Yes, they’re non-invasive, but I need to explain the possible risks and side effects as well as the benefits.

People like to share so much when they come in to see me, and that’s really important - particularly in the first consultation. It’s vital for me to build trust and rapport, and makes me feel like I can leave at the end of the day feeling like I’ve done a good day’s work. Asking the right questions is essential - not only to allow me to determine what treatment is right for the patient, but also to show that you actually care about them, their past experiences and their well being. Talking in depth and getting a better understanding of the patient also really allows me to formulate a tailor made treatment plan.

Do you have one particular treatment that you love to perform?

There are two things I love. One is lips - either starting from scratch with first time lip fillers or dissolving fillers and going back to a blank canvas. The second thing is, essentially, a non-surgical facelift package. And although I use the term ‘package’, it actually varies from patient to patient, depending on their individual needs, and involves looking at restoring areas with dermal filler, how you can lift the face in people who would otherwise consider going under the knife.

Many women come in at 45-55 years old, and it tends to be because they’ve either lost a lot of weight or they’ve had an illness and their face is looking drawn. A lot of people that age group don’t know much about fillers and what non-surgical aesthetics can do, so what I love about them is that they’re not coming in trying to achieve an unobtainable look - they’re just looking for a natural-looking improvement.

Do you have any stand out examples of times you’ve performed treatments and the patient has had life changing or positive psychological benefits as a result?

Yes. Lots! One particular lady came in who’d had inflammatory bowel disease, and she’d lost a lot of weight. She felt really down because her appearance looked really drawn. She’d never had dermal fillers or anti-wrinkle treatment before, but the result came out so well. I was really happy with it, she was really happy with it, and what really made me feel good was that when she left a review after her treatment, she left so much detail. She explained that she really liked the way she felt when I sat down and talked her through the treatment, and it made me realise that she’d really appreciated the information I’d provided. When you get that kind of feedback it makes you feel like you’re on the right track.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt about yourself or the industry since starting out in aesthetics?

For me, the most important thing is setting realistic expectations. That is so important for so many reasons. Sometimes, people don’t appreciate where they are at that particular point, so it’s essential to get the mirror out and really get patients to understand what’s there to begin with and what can be expected with certain treatments. Because if someone’s got in mind these fabulous Angelina Jolie lips, even if you do a great job on that patient’s lips, they’re not going to be happy. So, it’s really important to address what’s achievable and what isn’t in the consultation. It’s not until we’ve sat down and had a proper talk with someone that we get an idea of what they really want or are expecting.

Another thing I’ve learnt is that the term ‘natural’ means completely different things to different people. What’s natural to one patient might be completely different to my idea of natural. So, it’s important to know what they mean and to be able to explain whether or not the treatment they want will give them that look.

We’ve all been through a rough time because of Covid-19, but what have you been doing to prepare your clinic so you can come back with a bang once you’re able to reopen?

We’ve been emailing out our waiting list and have put all of the patients wanting to rebook on a priority appointment list so that we know when we open up we’re going to have morning to evening, back to back appointments to fit in everyone who is in need of a treatment. We need to be organised and make sure that the right patient’s booked in with the right doctor and that everything runs smoothly and we can just focus on delivering aesthetic treatments.

Also, my husband (Dr Patel), my sister (Dr Jas) and I have been doing lots of live webinars once a week during lockdown, which has been great, and we also have a Whatsapp group for some of the other medics to share information and troubleshoot ideas, which is a fantastic tool.

I’ve also just completed a training course in nutritional therapy with Intravita. So, hopefully, by the time we open up, I’ll be offering nutritional therapy - for example, vitamin and IV drips, booster drips and shots. That’s something I’m really interested in, and, being a GP, a lot of the work I do is around health promotion, not just treating disease. I think a real push on health promotion will be really important in the next few years, and it sits so well between my GP life and my aesthetics life.

That sounds great! Thanks so much for sharing your story and I hope everything goes well when clinics reopen.

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