Perspective of Aesthetic Medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic

Oct 20, 2020

On March 14th, 2020, I was speaking at the Mexican Congress of Aesthetic Medicine in Mexico City when the news reports came in advising all Canadians to return home and self-isolate for 14 days. My wife and I quickly changed our plans and jumped on the first available flight home. Instead of just a 14-day quarantine as we expected, we were additionally faced with the almost three-month closure of my practice. The uncertainty and potential impact of what was happening affected everyone we know.

In an instant our lives can change, and this pattern has been repeating over the millennia. From civilizations in antiquity conquering each other to more recent world wars, natural disasters, and of course pandemics, one thing has stayed the same over time and that is constant change. Since the second world war, we have been living in a world of relative calm and prosperity. I think of it as a pond affected by ripples of only tiny pebbles thrown into it, until a huge rock splashes down.

The waves of this pandemic are unfortunately only starting, and we might be feeling the effects and after-effects of it for many years to come. It seems quite surreal when we realize that we are right in the middle of it presently, as repercussions of the pandemic keep unfolding in the world around us. In my world of aesthetic medicine, it is certainly also very real.

When we were eventually allowed to reopen the practice, it was with a list of protocols and procedures that included personal protective equipment, sanitizing routines above and beyond what we had previously employed, and many logistics for various treatment routines. Even ordering supplies and dealing with backorders, not to mention palpable anxiety levels in employees and clients alike, all add to the many challenges we encounter. Luckily, we are adapting and settling into the new routines, but secretly I think we all long for things to return to the way they were.

As the second wave of the pandemic is now happening, the intensity of emotions seems to be increasing again. The timing of it, close to the traditional holiday season and how plans around that may be affected, makes this wave especially difficult. Simultaneously, many of our neighbours suffer very real consequences in terms of lost income, lost livelihood, economic depression, mental health problems, and difficulty accessing important services, health care, and certain supplies.

Being a physician and trained to be in tune with the general wellbeing of patients, it is obvious to me that there is a bigger toll to bear than just the physical and material side. Depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem are on the rise. My job consists as much of counselling and emotional support, as addressing medical and skin issues and cosmetic medical needs. I’m very thankful to be able to work and contribute, while realizing that currently many others are unable to work.

For practitioners involved in aesthetic medicine and cosmetic surgery, like the rest of our medical colleagues, things are somewhat different because of the pandemic, and regulatory restrictions do affect our way of working. In my practice, consultations are now done virtually and one day per week is dedicated to that. For in-person medical appointments and treatments, more time is allocated per visit to reduce the number of people in the clinic space at any given time. Some restructuring of administrative and other positions was also required and was very difficult to have to do. As in other businesses, one is also always on alert to potential exposures of asymptomatic cases that may come through the door and threaten our ability to work until cleared by public health.

As I reflect on all these things, longing for an eventual resolution and hoping that the impact will be smaller than it could be, I keep returning in my mind to the things that really matter.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is perspective: the things that are most important in life, what family and friends mean to us, and how blessed we are to be living in a country like Canada. I believe that each of us can make a positive contribution by encouraging each other and contributing to the needs in our own communities.

I keep reminding myself to stay focused on the positives, and there is no doubt in my mind that in due time, together we will get through this enormous challenge that fate has thrust upon us.

Dr. Renier van Aardt, MD