I think the limit of growth a team can achieve is set primarily by how much their leader ask them to do. Ask them little, and their growth will be stunted. Assign them big responsibilities (and do not be afraid of the occasional inevitable mistakes), and see how your team will thrive and grow in every aspect.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Elham Jafari. Dr. Jafari is a renowned cosmetic surgeon and founder and president of Amoderm Medical Center in Irvine, CA. After completing her medical education on top of her class, her passion for aesthetic and anti-aging medicine brought her to the US where she worked at leading cosmetic clinics in Beverly Hills. She continued her higher medical education in the fields of Neurology at Northshore and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York followed by completing her subspecialty training in neuromuscular medicine in UCLA. Thanks to her advanced training, she has been very well vested in anatomy of face and its muscles and nerves which gives her un unrivaled mastery in performing many advanced cosmetic procedures. Backed by her knowledge and expertise and fueled by her passion, Dr. Jafari launched her cosmetic medical center, Amoderm, in Irvine and has been leading it since 2011. At Amoderm, Dr. Jafari’s focus remains on nonsurgical cosmetic medical treatments with goal of creating balanced, proportional and natural-looking results. She also devotes her time to educating and training other clinicians in performing various cosmetic procedures.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, this is quite complicated as I am a physician who is committed to well-being of my patients but at the same time I am an entrepreneur leading a busy clinic! Since I was a little girl, I always envisioned myself working independently and running my own business as opposed to working for someone else and perhaps it has roots in my family who has many entrepreneurs, but on the other hand, I am the first physician in the family and that can be traced to my exposure to some of the greatest works of literature at a fairly young age. A notable example is Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian which tells the story of Sinuhe, a fictional ancient Egyptian physician. There were also many historical novels and children books telling the stories of greatest scientific discoveries. The books portrayed scientists and physicians as heroes who were making breakthroughs and saving the world (a task that is now largely delegated to superheroes with powers that often have little bearing with our real world, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne being possible exceptions as they draw their powers mostly from science and technology). This all led me to med school and from there, as I was planning to be the best doctor I could be and I knew that the US is the world leader in science and medicine, I came here and was honored to be accepted into some of the most prestigious programs, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Working closely with my patients — each one of them a beautiful unique soul with so many inspiring life stories that they generously share with me — it is hard to put my fingers on one. Then there is my team and that is another exciting universe in its own! Add to it all the daily adventures (and at times, drama!) of running a busy clinic and the excitement never ends! It is really impossible for me to pick one story without feeling that I am betraying so many others, but if you insist, I can tell you about many of my elderly patients — women and men — who come to see me and they might be suffering from a number of ailments, some terminal, and they might not be having much time left (well, none of us really knows how much time we have left, do we?) and yet you see them so full of life and joy and I gladly do my little part by reducing a few lines and wrinkles here or adding a bit of volume there as we chat about their grandchildren, pets, homes, travels, new hobbies or books they are reading. Life never stops to amaze me!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Here is the one I learnt pretty early on: At first, as I was so eager to help my patients as much as I could (and I knew that we could do so many exciting things with all the great nonsurgical treatments at our disposal), I used to take the lead analyzing my patients face and body and tell them in detail about the “issues” they had and what we could do to “fix” but then it wasn’t rare for a patient to gently interrupt me while pointing out to a few small lines on their forehead saying “But doctor, none of these things you are talking about is bothering me and I don’t mind them at all. This small line on my forehead is actually what’s killing me!”
I do still do my analysis as I see my patients (one might say old habits die hard, but it is also part of my job and responsibility to my patients to use my expertise to figure out where we can help them best) but nowadays I talk much less at the beginning and try to be a better listener and let my patients tell me their story, what bothers them most and what they hope to achieve. As a cosmetic doctor, my ultimate goal is to make my patients feel better about themselves, which is certainly not helped by inadvertently making them feel insecure about their “flaws” — and let’s face it, who doesn’t have a few flaws in their face or body? It’s what makes each of us uniquely beautiful!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Well, I certainly hope we are standing out! If that’s indeed the case, it is because things such as emphasis on customer care and service, doing right treatments for right patients, standing by our clients who are our biggest asset, focusing on natural-looking results, and a constant quest to offer the latest treatments that are safe and effective are among the tenets of our philosophy of care and operation.
There is really only one story to share here: We launched our company during the worst possible times, right around the financial collapse of the late 2000s. People were losing their jobs and their homes and everyone was laughing at us saying we were crazy to think that with the financial apocalypse upon us, people would have money to spare for cosmetic treatments. As it turned out, because we focused on doing a descent job and we stayed true to all those tenets I mentioned above, people quickly recognized the value of our service and they started to come to our doors in increasing numbers and within a year, we had to expand to a much larger clinic to be able to meet the demand.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are constantly working on new ideas and products to be able to better serve our patients, but one project that I would like to highlight here is a procedure called “4D Under Eye Lift™” that I have been working on for a while. This is a highly refined approach to non-surgically treat dark circles, bags and hollows under eyes using filler injections that are performed at strategic locations under eyes and in cheeks. The area under the eyes is an anatomically sensitive area and not many cosmetic doctors have expertise to perform injections there. Moreover, I commonly see patients who have done filler injections under eyes and they ended up being over-filled or not looking very good. Of course some adjustments might always be needed after any filler treatments done even at the most skillful hands, but based on my experience, for the filler treatments under eyes to work nicely and look good, the injection must be done in a particular way and at carefully selected areas to be able to not only restore the volume loss under the eyes, but also address the commonly-ignored volume loss in the adjacent areas such as cheeks and nicely contour them. The 4D Lift procedure I have developed addresses this by ensuring that there is uniform volume restoration and contouring in the area, as opposed to leaving one area over-filled and other areas under-filled, contributing to undesired outcomes.
We are naturally attracted to right proportions and balance (the concept put forward by Da Vinci as the “Divine Proportions”) and that is what we perceive as “beauty”. The same is true for cosmetic procedures and the most beautiful and appealing results are those that are proportional and balanced and the 4D Lift procedure is a key step toward achieving this.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive? What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I know that these two are often asked as separate questions, but in my opinion there is no proper way to address them separately. When it comes to teams and leaders, one cannot thrive without the other.
My advice for team leaders is that do not be afraid to delegate and do not let perfectionism lead to inaction or taking on too much burden. I see it commonly specially among women that the urge to do something perfectly prevents them from allowing their team to help. I think the limit of growth a team can achieve is set primarily by how much their leader ask them to do. Ask them little, and their growth will be stunned. Assign them big responsibilities (and do not be afraid of the occasional inevitable mistakes), and see how your team will thrive and grow in every aspect.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been very lucky to have two such people in my life. One is my mother, who has been a true bedrock of support for me throughout my life and after all these years still whenever she feels that I could use some help, she shows up to do whatever she can. It actually makes me a bit nervous to think if I can measure up to her as the mother to my own two daughters!
The other person is my husband who has been my partner and has always been by my side since the early years when we met at med school and I cannot imagine doing this all without his love and support.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At the risk of sounding pretentious, I have to say that I love what I do as I truly believe that my work has some positive impacts on my patients’ lives. Cosmetic treatments have gained some negative connotations, as they are often associated with being vain or shallow. I cannot disagree any more. I see patients from every walk of life ranging from those who are considered by others as “ordinary” (I never think so), to highly achieved professionals and I can see the big positive impact I make by helping them being closer to their true self and feeling better about themselves. There are people who constantly look tired and exhausted, because of dark circles under their eyes that are perhaps hereditary in nature. There are those who always look angry or upset because of deep frown lines caused by overactive muscles. When you help them with such issues, of course you will bring goodness to their lives.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement. that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Children are our future, so anything that can be done to improve their well-being and make them better prepared for life will have a long lasting positive effect for all. There is great amount of research and evidence on good parenting practices from limiting screen time to healthy eating and physical activity and more, with many simple and easy tips and ideas, and it breaks my heart when I see that at times, we — myself include — fail our children in some aspects. Of course no one is perfect, but I think we can do much better taking a better care of our children.
Can you please give us your favorite. “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The great humanitarian and actress Audrey Hepburn said “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’!” I know that it is probably an over-used cliché, but I did come to the US literally with a suitcase and clothes on my back with a tourist visa to present a scientific paper at an international medical conference, but more importantly, I came with big dreams and strong determination to succeed. If anything, my life is a testament to the fact that if you dream big and work hard toward achieving them, everything is possible.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Can I ask for George Clooney?! Jokes aside, there are so many names that come to my mind, but there is one person that I truly wish I could sit and have a chat with and unfortunately it is not going to happen, and he is Anthony Bourdain. Gone too soon, but like many others, I am so grateful for all the goodness he brought to our world and shared with us so generously.