Dr Stefanie Williams relives her route into dermatology and aesthetic medicine and provides insight on the differences between aesthetics in the UK and Germany
When Dr Stefanie Williams began studying medicine in her home country of Germany, she thought her future career would belong in neurology. “I did my doctoral thesis on Parkinson’s disease and then discovered I didn’t really want to do neurology anymore as you have a very limited type of patient,” explains Dr Williams.
She went on to do an elective in dermatology and immediately fell in love with skincare. “I just absolutely love dermatology because it’s so varied and there are so many different aspects of skin – I love skin – it’s like a hobby to my profession.” Dr Williams completed her higher specialist training in dermatology after having worked in several German university departments including Bochum, Ulm and Hamburg. She completed her German dermatology ‘exit exam,’ a separate compulsory qualification, in Hamburg. “After five years of postgraduate training and finally specialising in dermatology I started working in Germany in dermatology clinics, where I also did some aesthetic work, and then I came over to England about 12 years ago because I married an English man.”
When Dr Williams arrived in England she began working as a local consultant dermatologist in the NHS in Surrey, where she saw a big difference in dermatology practices between the two countries. “In the UK, GPs filter out what seems to be 90% of all patients,” she explains, whereas in Germany, dermatologists don’t necessarily have the GP as a ‘gatekeeper’ so patients can book straight in with a dermatologist to discuss whatever skin worries they have. “I did hard-core NHS dermatology – it was very interesting but I didn’t really enjoy it because I found the amount of constraints frustrating.”
Dr Williams says she was disappointed that she couldn’t treat people with skin conditions such as milder rosacea and acne as they were considered “not so serious” even though they still needed the attention of a dermatologist. “German dermatologists very often have an overlap of medical dermatology and aesthetics and do aesthetic work on the side or even spend half of their time doing it – it’s nice to have that overlap.” But the number of dermatologists doing aesthetics in the UK is much lower. Dr Williams says, “Most dermatologists here are really focused on medical work, and may even consider aesthetic work as being somewhat ‘dirty’. In a way, it’s perceived as ‘going to the dark side,’ which is interesting.”
In 2007 Dr Williams decided to greatly reduce her NHS work and set-up her first clinic, European Dermatology London, which has grown from a room in a local GP practice in Putney to a brand new flagship clinic in Vauxhall – rebranded as Eudelo, in March 2016. “With opening our main clinic in Vauxhall, we went very much against the grain and slightly against the ‘old school’ Harley Street but it’s working really well.”
Dr Williams says one of the best things about being in aesthetic medicine is that it goes hand in hand with her dermatology training. “A recent patient of mine came for a botulinum toxin treatment and I noticed she had a skin cancer on her neck and she didn’t know at all! We arranged for it to be taken out urgently – which was very lucky for her – that’s the great thing about having a background in medical dermatology.”
Outside of clinical practice, Dr Williams is an associate lecturer and researcher at the University of the Arts London in the department of cosmetic sciences. She is also a member of several societies and is passionate about educating others. “It’s so important that you educate yourself by going to conferences, listening to your colleagues and being a part of certain societies and membership organisations so you can stay on top of new developments, and it’s fun as well!”
Keeping up with education, Dr Williams says, is one of the hardest parts of being a part of the aesthetic industry, but explains that it is something that defines a good practitioner, “Someone may have injected for 20 years and think they are really experienced but unless they constantly update their knowledge, they might be worse than somebody who has only done it for five years but has constantly kept up-to-date with new developments.”
Although Dr Williams says the industry is extremely competitive, she hasn’t found it too difficult to stand out. “There are lots of people dabbling in and out of it and I think there is huge competition, but at the same time I think if you are doing your job well, it is not too hard to find a place.” When asked what her biggest accomplishment has been so far, Dr Williams says, “I would say that my three children are my biggest achievement in life, but in regards to my work I am incredibly proud of creating Eudelo.”
To be successful, Dr Williams stresses that training is key, “I would advise people to initially work in a bigger team with experienced people around them where they can observe other practitioners – don’t just open up your own practice.” Her best advice to practitioners is, “Keep watching other injectors inject and accumulate as many hours as you can because you can’t learn a technique any other way.”
I love doing facial contouring using fillers but I really like doing it conservatively, I hate the ‘pillow cheeks’ that you see everywhere at the moment.
People pumping up or freezing patients’ faces or injecting without looking at the bigger picture of skin regeneration and actually slowing down the ageing process.
Keep your knowledge up-to-date, keep watching and observing people and take note of their techniques. Learn as much as you can.
No because I think you learn from your mistakes – you should embrace little detours because it’s all part of the journey!
The difference you can make to patients’ lives in the increase to their self-esteem and confidence.