Dr Elias Tam's interest in cosmetic medicine sparked because of his patients' needs and is guided by a simple philosophy on his practice.
Name: Dr Elias Tam
Clinic: EHA Clinic
Location: Shaw Centre, Jurong West, and Toa Payoh
I am involved in several medical societies. This includes being a committee member of the Society of Men’s Health of Singapore, and in the International college of Surgeons(ICS). I am very humbled to be accepted as a Fellow of ICS being a non-surgeon, and even more overwhelmed to be elected the President for the Singapore Section. At the international level of ICS, I am also the Honorary Secretary of the Pacific Federation, Honorary Secretary of the Cosmetic-Aesthetic Specialty and member of the International Executive Committee. I have also started a Cadaveric workshop since 2010 and invite the best from different disciplines to teach our fellow doctors. The unique opportunity to refresh our anatomy through dissection and confirm that we are injecting into the correct depth/compartment cannot be over emphasized.
What made you interested in branching out to cosmetic medicine?
After starting my first clinic in 1998, there was constant request for treatment of skin problems such as acne, wrinkles, hair loss, pigmentation and tattoo. To take better care of my patients, I went to attend various trainings in laser treatment, filler injection, or surgical techniques such as hair transplant. The term Cosmetic Medicine or Aesthetic Medicine was unknown then. Legally speaking in Singapore today, we are classified as General Practitioners with a special interest in Aesthetic Medicine. Cosmetic/aesthetic medicine does not belong exclusively to any discipline in medicine.
You may call it accidental as I did not set out to be in cosmetic/aesthetic medicine but more so to address the problems that my patients were facing.
How is your clinic set-up?
I am based at Shaw centre and most of the patients come here for their skin concerns. The range of services include skin treatments (lasers, IPL, chemical peelings, acne, acne scar), ageing issue (andropause managment, botulinum toxin injection, filler, threadlift), weight control (dietary & exercise advice, body contouring) and hair transplant.
We also have one branch at Jurong West and a new one in Toa Payoh. These 2 branches cover general medicine as well as the basic skin treatments such as Botulinum toxin & filler injection, laser, IPL and acne treatment.
We have several doctors working together as a team with a strong support from our clinic assistants, with a total strength of 20 plus.
How do you manage your staff?
Depending on their role, we have some on fixed salary, and others on salary with commission. In the end, we are all on the same boat and will share the profit.
Hiring staffs is probably much more difficult than doing a procedure. We trust that the basic nature of a person is good and the right motivation is what is needed. The team decide on who to hire.
Can you tell us which technologies you use in your clinics?
Technology is constantly evolving and we are always looking for a better solution. We are using Cell toning for IPL due to its gentle pulse. For laser, fractional technology is gaining popularity with better outcome and lower side effect.
Before bringing in any new technology, we do extensive research and testing to ensure that it will truly benefit the patients.
How do you find your patients?
I am terrible with marketing and should be the last person to give any advice on it. I am constantly amazed by how some new doctors could be on the first on google and be featured on radio station or magazine regularly. In fact, one of my regular patient once commented that I am the worse businessman she knows. She wanted me to sell her any special package for her birthday but I told her that I could not sell a package that she does not need. It turned out that it was not an insult but a compliment, and the reason that she trusts and continue to be my patient.
My philosophy is very simple, just take good care of the patients as I would of myself or my family members.
What are your profitable procedures?
I have not thought about it until you ask this question. I don’t think one should be looking at what is most profitable as a doctor. This is a wrong mindset. Applying the mindset of businessman to the practice would reduce the doctor-patient relationship to one of purely commercial transaction, and destroy the trust.
Can you tell us an anecdote about an interesting patient you have encountered?
After seeing me for a few times, a patient from China asked me on my career before doing ‘Cosmetic medicine’. I was quite amused and went on to share my part-time jobs of working in coffee-shop, newspaper delivery, factory and eventually giving tuition before graduating as a doctor. I have not done anything else since.
She was surprised that I am a real doctor. Apparently, many of the so-called ‘Cosmetic doctors’ in China are not trained as doctors. She shared that she had come across one who was a plumber, another was an electrician, and one was a beautician. They would attend a course in Korea and that would be all before they start a Cosmetic Clinic!
What can you impart to your fellow physicians?
You are a doctor, not a pair of hand, not a front for unscrupulous businessman. Take care of your patients and they will take care of you. Take care of your staffs, and your staffs will take care of your patients.
About Dr. Elias Tam
Graduated in 1993 from NUS school of Medicine, I have furthered my study in Family Medicine(GDFM) and Dematology (GD(FP) Dermatology). Constant upgrading and attending courses is probably a must to stand relevant in all disciplines of Medicine.
I am also a trainer for several pharmaceutical companies to share my knowledge of aesthetic procedures in filler injection and botulinum toxin injection.