A few weeks ago, we headed to Bangsar to interview one of KL’s pioneers in cosmetic surgery, Dr. Alice Prethima. Strategically and easily located on Jalan Maarof, we were warmly greeted by the staff at the Dr. Alice Clinic as we stepped into a cosy and intimate ambience. We were quite eager to meet Dr. Alice, who has an impressive list of achievements under her belt (she has been educated in numerous countries around the globe!), and after a few minutes of waiting, she stepped out of her consultation room to welcome us in.
If you think cosmetic surgery is just a world of glitz, glam and rubbing shoulders with supermodels (remember the TV series, Nip Tuck?), then think again. Dr. Alice talks to us about her passion, patients and possibilites…
A: I became a doctor at the age of 21, and I followed my mother’s advice to become a gynaecologist. I worked at a government hospital for almost 10 years, and tried ophthalmology for a year. That time anti-aging methods and preventive healthcare were being introduced in Malaysia so I decided to go into cosmetic surgery. I went on to train in the UK, in Australia and Cardiff for dermatology. After getting all my necessary certifications, I opened my first practice in Klang about 12 years ago.
Q: Were you the first to open such a clinic?
A: Yes and people made fun of me at that time. It was a struggle – it was a time when people didn’t think of things like preventive healthcare such as stress or nerve function tests. My doctor friends were discouraging me from opening up a wellness clinic because they thought people wouldn’t pay for it. On the contrary though, when I opened, the response was good. In fact, my first patients were people who weren’t so well-to-do, they were from Pulau Ketam. They liked my clinic, so they would bring their friends there, as well. We just kept growing from there.
It was also then that I realized, because I had more female patients, that women were so unhappy about their body and skin. That’s when I started to focus on cosmetology and on different ways to get people to feel better about themselves.
Q: How did this clinic in Bangsar come about?
A: A lot of my patients were coming to Klang from Bangsar, so to make it easier, I opened another branch here to cater to this group, that was about eight years ago. This Bangsar branch concentrates more on different methods of anti-aging, detoxifications and medical check-ups. We also offer cosmetic treatments here – there’s a big need for that in this area. Opening another branch also allows me to further educate more people about our methods – it’s not just about doing things on a skin level, it starts at the foundation. Feeling and looking good comes from the inside – your mind, having the right kind of health and nutrition.
Q: How old are your patients?
A: Well they range between the ages of 18 – 49, but there are also younger ones who come in because of skin problems.
Q: Do you have male patients?
A: We have more female patients, but sometimes wives will come first, and during the next visit they’ll bring their husbands along for treatments! The male-female ratio is about 20:80 now, but the number of male patients are increasing. Guys will normally come in for botox, because it’s not so expensive anymore.
Q: What kind of treatments do you offer here in Bangsar?
A: Anything you can think of from top to toe! *laughs*
Well, our top three most-wanted treatments are liposelection, rejuvenation of the face (skin tightening, filling work, anti-aging) and hair transplants. Hair transplantation is the longest procedure – it takes a whole day and is very physically tiring for me.
Q: Do you do everything yourself?
A: I do all the surgeries myself, and my staff are trained to do the non-surgical treatments.
Q: Since you have such a busy schedule, and with two clinics to run, is it hard to get a consultation appointment with you?
A: Normally you can get one within a week – we’ll always try to push ourselves for the benefits of our patients. If it’s a procedure, you might have to wait up to a month on the waiting list.
Q: Apart from cosmetic surgeries, can people come to you for normal skin problems?
A: Yes, of course! We treat skin problems such as eczema and acne for which we offer light-based treatments by low-level lasers. I have my own products (oils, creams) as well to treat skin conditions. These have actually benefited a lot of our patients.
A: Yes it is, but even in other countries not a lot of people would admit to doing it. Most women don’t want to say they’ve done cosmetic surgery because they want others to think that they’re naturally beautiful. However, I also have a group of patients who are happy with what we have offered them; they talk about it among their friends and they’ll bring them here.
Q: There are quite a number of blotched surgeries that you read about in the papers – how does that affect you?
A: Generally, people don’t have much knowledge about proper cosmetic surgery, there’s a lack of sound information on it. It’s difficult for pioneer doctors like myself. Sometimes the public confuses doctors with beauticians – a facial is not a cosmetic surgery, these are two completely different treatments. I have seen a lot of disappointment when patients go to a beauty center expecting cosmetic surgery-like results. Thus, a large part of my work is to spend time educating people, to inform them about these different aspects. Unfortunately, even ‘educated’ people don’t know the difference, sometimes.
Blotched surgeries also happen because of low-quality equipments.Our machines comply to the Safe Standards of Practice, they’re all FDA-approved and of good quality. We use RM350,000 worth of laser equipment, for example. They’re all registered with the ministry, including our products – that’s important in the medicine field. Complications also come from fake products. I’m a doctor so I have to give my patients the best quality and safety measures. For us doctors it’s harder because we can lose our licence if something goes wrong. Beauticians, on the contrary, don’t carry any licence.
Q: Maybe people are afraid of coming to your clinic because they think it’s expensive…
A: But it’s not! In fact, my patients do admit that my clinic is cheaper than what beauticians demand. We offer long-term solutions to your problems. Doctors are educated and trained with the human anatomy, you should only trust doctors when it comes to injecting things into your body.
A: The Medispa will concentrate more on advanced modules of anti-aging, for which we have no space here in this Bangsar clinic. We’ll offer cosmetic treatments, detoxification, and other methods of mind-body wellness like massages, physio-therapy modules of deep tissue relaxation, and more.
I think it’s not enough to tell people to just go and exercise, we have to tell them what are the right ways to exercise. There are different combinations depending on your body’s needs. In Medispa we’ll teach people how to get the best out of wellness and fitness. You need different ‘arms’ to be a better person – it’s a combination of exercise, massages, nutritions. We’re offering everything under one rood, all in a comfortable surrounding.
One thing’s for sure – Dr. Alice is definitely a superwoman who divides her time between her two clinics in Klang and Bangsar! When we asked her if her life’s not tiring, she answered, “For me it’s more tiring not to do anything! I like to be pro-active. I’m driven by people’s needs and also my thirst to always improve myself and my practice.”
For more information on the Dr. Alice Clinic, go on www.aliceantiaging.com, or call the hotline at 1300 88 3234.
Dr. Alice Clinic
62-1 Jln Maarof, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur.
Services (among many others!): Laser lipolysis, breast & buttocks augmentation/enhancement, women wellness, cosmetic fillers, non-surgical liposculpture treatment, painless & permanent hair removal, hair regrowth & hair loss treatment for balding.