Dr Maria Gonzalez reflects on her career in medical aesthetics and highlights the need for more education within the specialty
“You have to love aesthetics and strive to deliver good results for your patients”
Consultant dermatologist Dr Maria Gonzalez developed a passion for medicine when she was just a small child. “My friend’s father was a doctor, and from the age of six or seven, he greatly influenced my career ambitions,” she explains. In 1992, Dr Gonzalez moved from Trinidad to the UK to pursue a career in dermatology, before beginning her medical aesthetics career in 2002. She now runs the successful Specialist Skin Clinic in Cardiff, which won Best Clinic Wales at the Aesthetics Awards 2014, and holds consultations every other week at Dr Rita Rakus’ clinic in Knightsbridge. In 2002, a colleague who had purchased an Intense Pulsed Light machine encouraged Dr Gonzalez to join her in a private venture treating aesthetic concerns at St Joseph’s Hospital in South Wales.
It was from this experience that Dr Gonzalez began introducing new aesthetic technology to the hospital and developed an interest in setting up her own services for the NHS. “I set up a service for hair removal and treating acne scars in an NHS hospital,” she says, explaining, “It was also established to help provide education for the postgraduate doctors who may be tasked with treating these concerns.” Dr Gonzalez explains that creating these services enabled her to enhance patient results and offer a wider range of treatments aside from prescription tablets and creams.
As the director of all dermatology programmes at Cardiff University between 2000-2012, teaching postgraduate students how to use the machines she had introduced fuelled Dr Gonzalez’s passion for education. She stresses the importance of continued education within the aesthetics industry, and continues to teach postgraduate dermatology students at Cardiff University. In addition, Dr Gonzalez has created a 12-week online course for the university, titled, ‘An Introduction to Dermoscopy’, which, she explains, has received very positive feedback from the university’s Department of Dermatology. “I hope the future of industry education will progress further as I do think that the aesthetic market in the UK needs more educational support,” she says, adding, “I would also like to see more dermatologists involved in teaching and I think that we should encourage juniors to look at this as a viable option.”
"Even through coming up with a witty presentation title, education can allow you to express your creativity effectively"
Along with teaching students in a university environment, Dr Gonzalez regularly presents at industry conferences and discusses an array of topics, from achieving patient skin confidence and management of acne scarring, to conducting laser and chemical peel workshops. She says that teaching and presenting also allows her to utilise her skill and passion for writing, explaining, “I like to provide my audiences with a creative perspective when I’m teaching and presenting. Even through coming up with a witty presentation title, education can allow you to express your creativity effectively.”
Dr Gonzalez notes that one of the negative sides of the industry is that many practitioners decide to enter aesthetics under false pretenses, suggesting that the financial and glamour aspects can overpower certain practitioners’ decisions. “I think a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon because it can seem like quick and easy money – if that’s your motivation then it’s the wrong reason, you have to get into aesthetics for all the reasons people do medicine. You have to love aesthetics and strive to deliver good results for your patients.” For anyone looking to develop a career in aesthetics, Dr Gonzalez advises, “If you are a clinically trained practitioner, you need to always uphold what a practitioner’s ethos is, which is to help patients improve their quality of life, and avoid negative outcomes. If you focus on these values then success will eventually transpire.”
I like treating pigmentation using lasers, which can be very challenging. It requires a lot of patience, so I take great pleasure in performing it well and I always strive to get a good result.
Lasers – I like working with gadgets. My clinics are heavily based on lasers and my patients have always received very good results.
I don’t like the fact that the aesthetics industry in the UK is unregulated. It’s disappointing that it seems as though the UK, which usually has a very high standard of medical care and education, has somehow neglected this part of medicine.
What makes my day fun is the interaction that I have with patients. Without that, my typical day would be too hard, and, luckily, compared to when I used to work in the NHS, private medicine allows you to spend more time getting to know your patients.