Aesthetic medicine has traditionally been dubbed by the masses as a self-preservation practice as opposed to being related to health and general well-being. This claim has led to a lot of misconceptions about the practice.
With time, however, the contributions of professional medics from the field are slowly changing this narrative to reveal the different faces of aesthetic medicine.
Dr. James Olding; a highly experienced aesthetic practitioner who is a trainee in Maxillofacial surgery, shares with us his career journey and in the process sheds more light on aesthetic medicine, not only by demystifying some age-old myths but by also giving an overview of what to expect from the field as a doctor.
Tell us a bit about your career as it stands? Why did you embark on max fax training and how did this relate to your journey into aesthetics?
I am specialising in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) also known as Max Fax. Right now that involves on-call work in OMFS in hospital, coupled with full-time study in Dentistry at King’s College London.
There is an accelerated 3-year course for doctors specialising in OMFS, which makes the pathway slightly less long, but it’s definitely a marathon as far as medical and surgical specialties go. Being OMFS definitely had a lot to do with becoming interested in aesthetics, and being able to draw on experience from medicine, surgery, and dentistry has definitely shaped my journey in facial aesthetics.
The face is the most socially and personally important part of the body, and whether it is treating facial trauma in an emergency setting, or providing aesthetic treatments and training outside the NHS, it is an area that I have always been passionate about.
What were the main challenges you faced in starting up your practice and how have you overcome them?
As an NHS-trained doctor, the biggest challenge in aesthetics was moving into an area that requires business strategy and acumen. Considerations of marketing, continuing professional development within aesthetics and, in my case, balancing this with an NHS career, made this journey a challenging one.
I definitely feel that working towards excellence in treatment overtaking a purely profit-driven approach has paid dividends in the long-term. Patients seek out the practitioners through word of mouth, and retention is dependent on the professional approach you take to dealing with patients. This is something we are all good at in the NHS, but that doesn’t always translate similarly in private practice.
What are the top 3 misconceptions doctors have about practicing aesthetics?
- Forging a successful career in aesthetics is easy: Success stories always reach the top of a social media news feed or the front page of an aesthetic magazine, and this can make aesthetics appear an easy path to follow. The investment required in both time and money to make aesthetic practice success is considerable. Courses are expensive, choosing wisely is difficult and there will be bumps on the road, so as with anything it’s about perseverance and strategy. This is what, in my opinion, makes it such an interesting and rewarding area, with great scope for personal and professional growth.
- Aesthetic doctors are purely money-driven: The decision to move into the aesthetic field, be that full-time or as a supplement to NHS work, is an extremely personal one, and no two doctors will give the same reasons. Nevertheless, one common theme I find on speaking to new and experienced practitioners is the desire for greater professional autonomy that a career in aesthetics can provide. This is particularly apparent coming from a role in the NHS. While financial motivations may rank highly, the reasons for choosing to start a new career are nuanced!
- Aesthetics is not a rigorous discipline like other medical specialties: While this may have some truth to it in the UK currently, there is also huge scope for us, as doctors, to lead the way in making the aesthetics field more evidence-based, safety-oriented and academically rigorous. While many doctors may still prefer to act within the realm of a specialty such as Plastic Surgery, Maxillofacial Surgery or Dermatology when presenting at conferences, publishing articles and undertaking research, there is a large and growing body of aesthetic literature and notable aesthetic journals and international conferences where doctors can contribute and learn as with any other area of medicine. Being part of this exciting process and leading change and development as a doctor in this area is exhilarating and of the great common good to our patients and colleagues alike.
You set up your own aesthetics training company – Interface Aesthetics 1 year ago now. What prompted you to do this and how does yours compare to other aesthetic training providers?
First and foremost I have always loved teaching as part of my role in the NHS. In addition, years of training and practice in aesthetics provided me with a huge amount of experience and knowledge, especially regarding serious and important complications. These were things that I was never told on any training courses, and the feel of most courses I had attended were like a ‘conveyor-belt’, taught in large groups, with little hands on experience and little-to-no after support.
Very importantly, the aesthetics industry is poorly regulated. The credentials of trainers can be unclear, spurious claims made by training academies often go unchallenged,
and crucially, delegates are not made aware of the realities involved in pursuing a pathway in aesthetics beyond paying for a training course.
The majority of doctors who do an aesthetic course do not go on to practise, and so I identified that the lack of experience from training, as well as unrealistic expectations on the process, were the two main issues in contemporary injectables training. I set up and designed the training at Interface Aesthetics to address these issue, through guaranteed small-group training, with a heavy practical hands-on emphasis, coupled with experienced trainers.
The training draws on expertise from across medicine, surgery and dentistry. Complications recognition and management form a central part of all training, and the level of facial anatomy knowledge that I expect of delegates is high. I find that these aspects help delegates leave feeling more confident to progress into aesthetics. We also provide follow-up support, both as part of our non-regulated qualifications (Foundation Course, Advanced Course) as well as on the nationally accredited and regulated Level 7 Certificate in Injectables.
What kind of people do well practicing aesthetics?
Motivated people! Come with an idea of what you short, medium and long-term goals are in aesthetics. It is important to have realistic expectations and an understanding of the process, and this is partly the responsibility of training providers to empower potential delegates to make an informed decision.
For example, it is important to highlight why an OFQUAL-regulated, nationally accredited course such as the Level 7 Certificate qualification is more expensive than a non-regulated one-day training course.
What core advice do you have for doctors thinking about practicing aesthetics in general?
Come with a clear plan and realistic expectations. Talk to colleagues, and interrogate training providers about the credentials of trainers, the structure of the training, etc. before choosing a course. Doing research on the investment involved in your training will help ensure you make the right decisions early on.
The general direction of travel within aesthetics is towards greater regulation, and as such choosing a course which future-proofs your potential new career is crucial.
Are you interested in hearing about how Interface Aesthetics could support your career plans or have a question for James?
Leave your details below and James himself will reach out to you.