Dr Firas Al-Niaimi highlights the importance of continued research in dermatology and aesthetics
Born in the Middle East and raised in Manchester, Dr Firas Al-Niaimi has had a varied and successful medical career. Yet, of all his achievements, he says that becoming a consultant dermatologist with numerous publications under his name is what he is most proud of.
“Be part of the community – interact, ask, learn, read, reflect – that’s the best advice I can give”
Dr Al-Niaimi first developed an interest in dermatology while studying for his undergraduate medical degree at the University of Amsterdam in 1995. His family had moved to the Netherlands while his father, a now-retired professor of oncology, completed a research project. “My dad certainly played a major role in influencing me to get into medicine, as I could see how rewarding it was to him,” he says. “The curriculum in the Netherlands was slightly different to the UK; which meant that students had a whole month dedicated to dermatology,” he explains, adding, “We had one professor who was very enthusiastic about dermatology, and that certainly evoked enthusiasm in me.” He continues, “I found it particularly interesting to browse through the colourful atlas, looking at all the images and appreciating that you can visualise all of the pathology.
As a third-year medical student I was very lucky to be able to focus my training early.” Upon his return to the UK, Dr Al-Niaimi began his medical rotations in the North West, prior to starting the national training in an accredited dermatology programme, The North-West Deanery Training in Manchester.
“In Manchester, we had one of the first NHS dermatology laser units where we performed many advanced cases of treatment”
He explains that it was during this time that he recognised that dermatology had a strong cosmetic component to it and could see the benefits of using lasers. "In Manchester, we had one of the first NHS dermatology laser units where we performed many advanced cases of treatment,” he explains. Following his formal national training in dermatology, Dr Al-Niaimi went on to complete a one-year fellowship in advanced dermatolgic surgery and lasers at St John’s Institute of Dermatology in London where he currently holds an honorary consultant position.
Since then, he has completed advanced cosmetic and laser training in the US, while his interest and expertise has developed significantly. “Lasers can bring sophistication in terms of treatments and precision. I enjoy offering laser treatments because the results can be very rewarding and I can really make a difference to patients’ lives,” he says.
Dr Al-Niaimi now divides his time between his private practice on Harley Street, his work as the medical director for four sk:n clinics in London and The London Scar Clinic. In addition, he lectures on the Skin Ageing and Aesthetic Medicine Master’s course at Manchester University and is on the executive committee of the British Medical Laser Association, as well as the editorial board of several dermatological and aesthetic journals.
“I think it’s important that practitioners always critique a treatment method or treatment that is available"
Dr Al-Niaimi is also a key opinion leader for many pharmaceutical and lasers companies, and is regularly invited to speak around the globe. Participating in dermatological and aesthetic research has become a key part of Dr Al-Niaimi’s career. “If you look closely at aesthetic treatments, I think it’s fair to say that many are still lacking strong evidence supporting their efficacy,” he says, continuing, “I think it’s important that practitioners always critique a treatment method or treatment that is available and try to seek answers with regards to the evidence, complications and improvements of the treatments.”
A thorough understanding of the skin is of course vital to all aesthetic practitioners, says Dr Al-Niaimi, “If you do not have any dermatology knowledge then my advice is to spend time with a dermatologist or enrol on post-graduate training. If you don’t have the time or desire to do so, please do understand your limits when it comes to certain dermatological conditions and refer them to someone who has more understanding.” He adds, “Sadly, every now and then, I do come across some treatments that were inappropriately performed due to a misdiagnosis of a dermatological condition.”
While reaching his goal of becoming a consultant dermatologist is of course a huge achievement, it is apparent that Dr Al-Niaimi has accomplished much more than this. He explains, “At this current stage, I have more than 130 scientific publications under my name and over 200 presentations in the UK and around the world, in addition to academic prizes. I have also written a book on specialty examinations and several chapters of other books.” He admits, “I think that I can probably conclude that, for my age of under 45, I’ve not done bad when it comes to my beloved specialty.”
My ethos is to treat patients the
way you’d want your family to be treated. You should also individualise treatments for each patient.
I do not like the overt commercialisation that sometimes occurs. We are dealing with patients who look up to us as trusted practitioners, so should always bear that in mind.
The more studies we perform, the more research we conduct, and the more we publish, will hopefully lead to safer interventions and successful treatment of challenging conditions.
Spend time with an experienced colleague, preferably more than one so you can be exposed to different styles and methods of work, listen to your patients, start slow, understand and know your limits, attend national and international conferences, and be part of the community – interact, ask, learn, read, reflect – that’s the best advice I can give.