The aesthetic and beauty business has come a long way since its early days. The term ‘aesthetic’ was one that was not commonly used back then. People often sought help for skin or hair related problems from general practitioners. In dire cases, many had to visit specialists. There was no in-between. It was only in relatively recent years that the term ‘aesthetic’ was popularised by a group of doctors who sought to specialise in common skin and hair related problems. Dr Elias Tam, one of the pioneers in this trade, played a pivotal role in transforming the local aesthetic medical scene.
The team from Affiliate Hall had the privilege of catching up with Dr Elias Tam to find out more about his trade and experience.
How did you get started as an aesthetic doctor?
I started my first clinic around 18 years ago. At that point of time there was no such thing as ‘aesthetic doctors.’ Patients simply came to us for acne problems, pigment problems, help with tattoo removal etc. Throughout the process, patients are generally very appreciative when they start seeing results from their treatments. That actually motivated me to do more of it.
Like how I went into medicine, I did not plan for it really. It all just came together through a process of trial and error, experimenting and destiny.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Pic: Dr Elias speaking with his assitants.
I think it’s the appreciation from our patients. And also when we see that the treatments can actually help change their lives for the better. We had a male patient who came in with severe acne issue. He was so shy, quiet and generally withdrawn. He’s probably an introvert by nature, but the way he was always looking down and avoiding eye contact, it became quite apparent that his acne issue was affecting his self-esteem.
We went on an intensive treatment to treat his scars. When he finally completed one year of continuous treatment, he was a completely different person. Even the staff noticed the change. He’s still soft-spoken, but at least he’s looking up, speaking and interacting more confidently. This is a good example of how correct treatments can heal scars not just on the surface, but also psychologically and mentally. What goes on, on the outside will usually reflect on the inside and vice versa.
What are the most common requests you get as an aesthetic doctor?
It really varies according to a number of factors, from the age to the gender of the patient. For example, we have parents who tell us that their kids are being bullied in school because of their skin issues. We also have women who are divorced or have lost their other half and want a complete makeover. Then we also have males who come to us for the most common problem; hair loss.
These are real social issues that come hand-in-hand with the medical problems. Like what I mentioned earlier, with the correct treatments, we can actually see and feel a patient becoming a totally different person. I strongly believe that every treatment should take a holistic approach.
Of course, we do occasionally get requests for some extreme procedures. In such cases, we do not do them simply for the sake of doing them. I think there has to be a balance between treating ailments and getting addicted or overdoing procedures.
There’ve been times when I have had to reject patients’ requests, simply because they were not suitable.
We understand that you train other aesthetic doctors as well. In this increasingly competitive trade, why do you create more competitors for yourself?
Believe it or not, I don’t really see my trade as a business. I see it more as a calling. If you can see it from this perspective as well, then training other doctors is really to benefit more patients, so that more people can get access to the right treatments. I think in medicine, it’s important to practice with the mind-set that you are first a doctor. Everything else is secondary.
Seeking beauty procedures is still considered by some to be a luxury or unnecessary extravagance. What is your opinion on this?
Pic: EHA Clinic
I think in many cases of aesthetic treatments, it’s not about getting the perfect look. It’s really to solve problems that can be solved, problems that are affecting people’s lives. Be it acne, pigmentation or severe hair loss, these are things that affect people socially, mainly because of stereotypes and conditioned perspectives. It will be unreasonable to condemn someone simply because he or she is seeking treatment for conditions that can be treated.
Like it or not, people are judged because of the way they look. We live in a world that is highly influenced by a person’s physical attributes and therefore, I think it is fair for a person to seek treatment to improve how they look.
Video: Dr Elias sharing his experiences and insights.
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