In this month’s “Meet the Aesthetic Expert” column, Will Kirby, DO, FAOCD, talks with Gaurav Bharti, MD, FACS, about his journey in medical aesthetics, improving patient outcomes, and how to avoid burnout.
Welcome to “Meet the Aesthetic Expert,” where, each month, dermatologist Will Kirby, DO, FAOCD, of LaserAway, will connect with select industry leaders to get their expert opinion on the aesthetic specialty. With an emphasis on straightforward, candid questions, Kirby will focus on the best in aesthetics and get the experts’ frank thoughts on where the field is headed.
Gaurav Bharti, MD, FACS, is a board-certified plastic surgeon who is recognized as one of the “Best Plastic Surgeons of America” and a Castle Connolly Top Doctor. Bharti is highly focused on growth and development of the medical aesthetics space through innovative concepts to improve patient outcomes and contribute to cutting-edge advancements. As a fellow mentor to the next generation of aesthetic surgeons, he has continued to contribute his expertise and is focusing on education as an influential speaker in the industry. Based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, Bharti practices at H/K/B Cosmetic Surgery, where he also acts as co-owner and managing partner. Additionally, he also serves as co-founder of the practice growth consulting firm, K&B Management.
Kirby: Dr Bharti,thanks for taking the time to chat. Can you please tell us a little about your backstory?
Bharti: My parents are physicians from India who had a great opportunity in Libya years ago, and that was where I was born. We immigrated to Queens, New York, and I eventually ended up in Tennessee for medical school. I knew that I loved surgery and I wanted to use my hands to make people happy.
I was doing my plastic surgery residency in North Charlotte just over 15 years ago when I met my partner and co-owner of K&B Management, Dr Bill Kortesis. Dr Kortesis and I discovered early on that we both shared the same dissatisfaction for the status quo. That quickly led us to challenge the existing healthcare practices in the aesthetic space. Five years ago, we became partners with the goal of seeking the absolute best patient outcomes in the aesthetic space while being instrumental to growth, excellent patient care, and service.
K: With so much confusion in the industry, where do you go for trusted aesthetic information?
B: At K&B Management, we take pride in consistently staying updated and abreast of current trends, procedures, and technology. This is the leading edge of our consultancy. We pride ourselves on innovation, new technology, patient experiences, and the very best aesthetic results. And to do this, we are regularly in conferences, seminars, and even training and education that keep us at the forefront.
K: What is something interesting about you that you have never before reveled?
B: If I could make a living being a DJ and producing music, that would be ideal.
K: What's the best piece of (aesthetic) career advice you have received?
B: Always be willing to go the extra mile. Never be afraid to revise or improve. Taking care of patients who have problems will lead to happy patients and referrals.
K: What adversity did you have to overcome on your journey?
B: I didn’t come from a huge main institution, not a big undergrad school. I wanted to stick close to family and I made my own decision of where to go. I had to crawl a little harder but also had great support from family, including my wife, who I went to medical school with.
K: What resources are the most effective in making your life in aesthetics easier?
B: A key resource is having good mentors and educators—as well as business partners—who you can learn from and discuss key issues and concerns with when the need arises. Because all plastic surgeons have a different niche and a preferred way of conducting surgeries and procedures, it is important to welcome diversity in the field to be able to access which procedures and options work best for the patients that come in.
K: What resources (technology, human resources, staff education, marketing, etc.) should aesthetic providers invest in right now?
B: A key focus of K&B Management is innovation to provide the best and highest quality of aesthetic services and procedures. As technology is constantly advancing, it would benefit aesthetic providers to ensure that they are updated on not just the equipment, but also on technology needed in analyzing and monitoring customer progress.
K: What aesthetic patient demographic do you believe is the most coveted? Has this always been the case? Is this shifting?
B: There has been a massive shift in demographic. It’s everywhere and everyone. All genders and age groups. It is no longer focused on any specific group hence there is a need to understand that penetration in the marketplace is increasing dramatically. In the past it was focused—middle-aged mom makeovers or Instagram-fanatics. Now it’s diffused.
K: What aesthetic patient population is the most challenging to deal with and why?
B: I get surprised when trying to make a broad generalization to who will be more challenging. This is all very individual and having good rapport and understanding patients is key to dealing with this. Often, we are the cause of our own problems. It really boils down to patient selection and understanding their needs.
K: Telehealth exploded during the pandemic. Is it here to stay? What role will it have in aesthetics moving forward?
B: While telehealth has helped us and many patients during the pandemic, a plastic surgeon’s job can only be done in person. We can use telehealth to access patients and work with them on the best options and care plans, but most of the work is really done when we see patients face-to-face. In my opinion, telehealth will stay for a majority of consultation services or in other fields of medicine where surgical procedures are not necessary. It will definitely help speed up the process of consulting with patients in aesthetics, but it will not change the way plastic surgeons are currently—and have been—providing services.
K: What will the aesthetic industry look like 10 years from now?
B: There will be many more advancements in the technology and surgical procedures available in 10 years. More complex procedures and higher quality equipment will help the industry provide for better services and achieve better results.
K: What is the biggest myth in the aesthetic industry?
B: Aesthetic surgery and procedures are often frowned upon and seen as disruptive to the natural appearance and dynamic of a person and the aging process. Many think it is only affordable to celebrities and used to change the looks of a person. However, this is far from the truth. Aesthetic procedures are now, more than ever, used to enhance natural appearances or to correct or treat certain conditions such as in reconstructive surgery after someone has a mastectomy.
K: Why do so many people feel that the aesthetic industry is ripe for disruption?
B: The preconditions imposed on the aesthetic industry and what it was previously known to do, such as create “plastic” appearances, have placed an unfair preconceived notion on plastic surgeons and the work we do. With innovation and medical science, we have found so many other ways to help patients live their best lives and be more confident, even after a major life crisis like breast surgery.
K: Why are we seeing decreasing interest in conferences and lower conference attendance?
B: In recent years, it is mainly due to the pandemic. However, the decreasing interest prior to the pandemic is because of frustration. It’s the same chops by the same set of individuals year in and out. It is important to have fresh and genuine content about what people are currently doing, not just about what has been published years ago. It also needs to be convenient especially with crazy surgery schedules. This could mean possibly shorter meetings instead of day-long conferences so that surgeons and industry professionals can have well-rounded and balanced days.
K: What steps should the aesthetic industry take to increase overall market penetration?
B: Education is key in increasing market penetration, both to the public and to allied healthcare professionals. The numerous benefits and changes in the aesthetic space can be quickly tapped to help more patients live better lives. The young generation of plastic surgeons are open and eager to exploring new, innovative ways of delivering better results and this should be translated to the general public.
K: What can the aesthetic industry do to increase diversity and inclusion?
B: More can be explored and taken advantage of through the continuous discussions and partnerships of foreign aesthetic surgeons and industry professionals. There is a lot more to learn and explore through a more integrated role among country-specific industries.
K: What role do allied healthcare professionals (RNs, NPs, PAs, etc) play now in aesthetics and what role will they play 5 years from now?
B: Allied healthcare professionals can really help educate more people about aesthetics and the role it can play in enhancing one’s life. Many times, the services can be integrated for optimum results, and it is important that in the future, allied healthcare professionals continue to make their patients aware of how aesthetics is an available option to improve their lives and well-being.
K: What changes would you like to see take place in the aesthetic industry?
B: I feel that the industry needs to focus more on practice development and driving patients to practices, as opposed to just selling and moving products. Direct-to-consumer programs should be aimed at encouraging trial and expand the space instead of merely creating replica products that are generic. The industry really needs to be targeted and customized to each individual patient and focused on finding solutions. Our goal is not to compete amongst other practices.
K: Many purported ‘key opinion leaders’ in the aesthetic space state that they support ‘advocacy’ but when you dive deeper, they always seem to primarily advocate for their wallets. Where might one find true advocacy in aesthetics these days?
B: This varies greatly so due diligence on speakers is required and never rely solely on one resource. Always appreciate diverse opinions!
K: What advice do you have for people in the aesthetic space to avoid ‘burnout’?
B: Take a moment to come up for air. Money is not everything. Lifestyle and family are important. Strive for mental stability.
K: What can a top aesthetic expert with your credentials reasonably expect to earn?
B: The sky is the limit. It is all relative and depends on what you want. Nothing will be given. All has to be earned.
K: What is your current biggest operational hurdle and what could be done to fix it?
B: Delegating tasks to free up my time to focus on my capabilities for the practice and my patients. Also, to spend more time on my well-being.
K: What is your favorite aesthetic treatment to personally receive?
B: Botox Cosmetic is my personal favorite treatment!
K: What advice would you give your younger self knowing what you know now?
B: Absolutely enjoy the moment and don’t be so worried about the future!
K: What advice do you have for someone not in the industry who wants to enter the field of aesthetics but doesn't know where to start?
B: Just jump in, there is no better place to begin and there is a lot of room for growth.
K: As an expert in the aesthetic industry in a powerful position, people are looking at you to lead. If you could inspire a movement in our industry, what would it be?
B: Focus on patient outcomes and expanding reach instead of worrying about your competition. Ensure aesthetic wellness options are provided to all those in the United States and around the world.
K: Thank you for your insights! How can readers get more aesthetic expert information from you?
B: Please find me on Instagram and Twitter @drgauravbharti.