Even in 2022, surgery in general, and cosmetic medicine in particular, remain male dominated fields in the already male dominated world of medicine. So when I had the chance to work with a plastic surgery practice that was run by women, I was intrigued, and soon found myself inspired.
I recently spent some time at ICLS Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Clinic here in the Greater Toronto Area. Together Dr. Julie Khanna and Dr. Maryam Saheb-Al-Zamani lead the ICLS Plastic Surgery department in Oakville, Ontario. ICLS is on the forefront of their industry when it comes to innovation and experience, with expertise in all areas of aesthetic plastic surgery, including rhinoplasty (nose surgery) and facial rejuvenation (facelift and eyelid lifts), and a broad spectrum of body procedures including breast surgery, abdominoplasty, liposuction, body contouring, and skin tightening. This dream team’s combined experience and passion for their craft provides patients with a superior experience before, during and after surgery.
I got the chance to speak to Dr. Zamani about what it’s like to be a plastic surgeon, and she gave us a glimpse in her work and her world.
Dr. Zamani found herself draw to plastic surgery early on in life. “In high school, I took a co-op course that allowed me to work in the plastic surgery clinic at Sunnybrook Hospital.” She was struck by not only the practical applications of the work she was observing, but the humane ones as well. “I was immediately mesmerized by the surgeries that were used to help patients with incredibly challenging deformities after traumas and cancers” Dr. Zamani continued. “I distinctly remember one case where a tissue expander was used to help a burn injury patient: essentially, a balloon is placed under the skin and slowly filled over time to encourage the skin to stretch and expand and then that skin can be used where needed. I thought to myself that this is the coolest profession and I have not once wavered on that opinion!”
From there, Dr. Zamani attended university in Toronto for her undergraduate degree, before travelling to the U.S. to attend medical school. She returned to Toronto to complete her training in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at University of Toronto. She gained further specialized training in aesthetic plastic surgery with a focus in cosmetic breast surgery and facial rejuvenation as an American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS)- endorsed fellow under the guidance of Dr. James Grotting. And, of course, Dr. Zamani is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
As a fellow child of immigrants, I could relate to the pride the Dr expressed for her hard working and ambitious parents, who crossed an ocean with hope and industriousness for themselves and their children. “My family immigrated from Iran when I was 11 years old” Dr. Zamani shared. “My parents used their life savings to move to Canada where they had no family or friends so that my brothers and I could pursue a brighter future and have a fair shot at achieving goals that we worked towards. I still don’t know if I can understand the full gravity of what they sacrificed for me but I am happy that my parents are proud of who I have become and that I am now in a position where I can help take care of them.”
Working in a field like plastic surgery, it’s understandable that people can have a curiosity, but even a fascination, with what the various intriguing and even mystical procedures can accomplish. While most of us probably focus on the superficiality of plastic surgery, Dr. Zamani hopes we can focus on the deeper side. “The goal of plastic surgery is to improve a person’s quality of life” Dr. Zamani stated. “Cosmetic plastic surgery is sometimes misunderstood as being about vanity and that is not true. The goal of cosmetic surgery is and should be to bring more harmony between who you feel you are on the inside and outside so you can feel comfortable in your own skin and empowered in your life”
Empowerment is a concept that Dr. Zamani is more than familiar with. Her career has not been free of challenges, but she strives to meet them head on. “I am a young female Persian surgeon in a field that is still dominated by older Caucasian men. There have been many times throughout my career where I have been underestimated by my superiors, peers, and sometimes even patients for my sex, age, or ethnicity. But I’m a fan of an underdog story. I let my actions and accomplishments speak for themselves and take joy when those same people become my greatest advocates and allies. I also believe in being part of the change, and working with other female surgeons to empower each other. It’s one of the reasons I partnered with Dr. Julie Khanna at ICLS, and why we created our YouTube show The Sisterhood of the Scalpel – to share plastic surgery insights from a female doctor’s point of view. Together we can continue to affect cultural change so that women can excel in positions of leadership in classically male-dominated positions.”
When I asked her what inspired her to explore the field in the first place, Dr Zamani said “I’ve always loved working with my hands and using my creativity to solve problems. The most rewarding part of being a plastic surgeon is being part of someone’s transformation journey– and I don’t mean that physically necessary. Sometimes the most subtle changes I deliver can help patients blossom into who they really are on the inside and carry that confidence into every aspect of their life.”
Knowing that ICLS and Dr. Zamani are always on the cutting edge of all things cosmetic surgery related, I asked her what exciting developments she’s seeing in her field and what she’s looking forward to sharing with her patients. “There has been a lot of development in biotechnology that complements what plastic surgeons can do beyond traditional surgery with scalpel and sutures” Dr. Zamani explained. “More and more we are using different types of energy devices (ultrasound, radiofrequency, laser) in our surgeries to enhance skin tightness and quality with less need for visible scars and better outcomes. There are also new types of skincare products and biomaterials (a substance that has been engineered to interact with the human body for a medical purpose) we incorporate in our treatments that help your body create more collagen or to give support or fullness to tissues.” ICLS of course hosts its own skincare boutique, The Skin Store to ensure patients of all procedures can access the expertise and products to get the most of of their treatments.
Dr. Zamani continued “In terms of future beauty trends, I expect to see more celebration of natural beauty and softness– a swing away from exaggerated facial contours and exaggerated hourglass body contours. As a society, we are embracing and celebrating different body types more openly, and this will naturally translate into more diversity in beauty trends as well.”
And when it comes to the next generation of plastic surgeons, Dr. Zamani had this sage advice to offer: “It is a privilege to be able to help others look their best and cosmetic medicine is both an art and medicine. Dedicate yourself to learning so that you can deliver safe treatments to your patients and recognize that it takes experience to refine your art.”
Learn more about ICLS through their webpage, and stay. tuned for my full run down on my experience of their incredible treatments coming soon