In Profile: Dr Johanna Ward

01 Jun 2014

Dr Johanna Ward, medical director of clinic chain The Skin Clinic and winner of Rising Star at the Aesthetics Awards 2013, explains her route from Oxford English graduate to aesthetic doctor and stresses the need to have a focused approach

“Hard work is the basis of everything” 

When nearing the end of her undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Oxford, Dr Ward decided that she wanted her life to take a different direction. “Without telling anybody one day, I got on a bus before my finals and interviewed in London for medical school and got offered a place,” she says. She graduated from Oxford in 1999 and went on to complete six years of medical study at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’, graduating from medical school in 2005.
She continued her career by training to be a general practitioner, then decided to complete training in botulinum toxin and dermal fillers when a friend offered her a job in her aesthetic clinic. Dr Ward soon decided that she wanted to turn her attention to aesthetics full time. “I was still doing general practice and I was getting so busy that I had to make a decision,” she explains. “I didn’t feel that seven minute consultations with my patients was professionally fulfilling, either for myself or for them, and I soon realised that I enjoyed medical aesthetics much more than my NHS work.”

So she decided to set up her first clinic in Sevenoaks, Kent. “Several people told me I was mad to walk away from my GP job and the career security it offered. But I knew that it was what made me happy and I can’t say that I’ve regretted a single second,” she says. She went on to set up her second skin clinic in Brentwood a year later. Alongside aesthetics, Dr Ward remained an active part of the local dermatology community, and still currently works at an NHS dermatology unit one day a week. “I am passionate about anything to do with skin and I think it’s really important to be involved in the NHS and give back to the community,” she explains.

Additionally, Dr Ward hasn’t neglected her undergraduate education; she explains how her English degree has complemented her medical career. “It’s a wonderful combination,” she says. “I do a lot of writing on dermatological conditions and aesthetics, which combines my writing skills and medical knowledge and experience. Many doctors don’t think outside of the NHS career box but there are several great ways to earn a living in medicine. Medical journalism is a growing specialty and something that I’m interested in.”
As a demonstration of her growing success, Dr Ward went on to win the award for Rising Star at the Aesthetics Awards 2013. “The awards are a great way of recognising both outstanding individuals and innovators in our industry who are dedicated to clinical excellence,” she says. “Winning a professional award gives you a voice, which can be used to bring about change. For example, it allows you to help with things such as speaking out about regulation and encouraging the industry to be taken seriously as a medical profession. Receiving the Rising Star award was humbling and an honour.”

And Dr Ward’s focused approach, combined with having care and consideration for her patients, is why she has got to where she is. “Hard work is the basis of everything, and being clinically sound is important,” she says. “Also, I think if you’re a genuinely kind and caring person, that shows through. I always give my time generously to my clients and tailor treatments precisely to them; it’s a very personal service and I think patients value professional integrity and honesty more than anything.” 

What’s your favourite treatment?

Dermal fillers, as you can craft and create something really exquisite and beautiful. I also love treating acne as its so rewarding professionally. Acne affects young people at a time in their lives that is so pivotal, when they’re forming their identity and trying to establish themselves socially. Facial conditions can be very debilitating and treatment can be quite life changing. 

What’s your favourite thing about the aesthetics industry?

It’s dynamic and exciting, no two days are the same and you get to meet lots of wonderful people. Also you never know what new treatments are around the corner. I love going to conferences because they’re an opportunity to find out what’s new and what to invest in next.

What do you dislike about it?

It’s disappointing that we are not taken seriously as a medical specialty. Many of us are as dedicated to our work as any other medical specialist and it takes years to become clinically sound and experienced. It would be wonderful if the government formalised our training to help regulate the industry and protect the public from poor practice.

What’s been the biggest lesson of your career?

My philosophy has always been to under-promise and over-deliver, because then people will always be happy. Private medicine, especially aesthetics, is completely different from NHS work. Expectations are very high and are related to the fact that people are paying considerable amounts to get a good outcome.

What advice would you pass on to young doctors?

Hard work gets you everywhere. Think outside the box and know that anything is possible if you have the passion and drive. Also, know when you’re out of your depth and when to ask for help. If you don’t ask questions, you’ll never learn. Don’t ever try to take shortcuts or guess, because shortcuts and risks don’t work in medicine. 

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