Times were not always so rosy, though. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, consumer demand for cosmetic procedures led to increasing competition and turf wars between plastic surgeons, facial plastic surgeons, dermatologists and other medical professionals. Dr. Raval finds that there are still doctors who are dogmatic about these different specialties. “They don’t recognize that we all are physicians and we’ve all had training and are good at what we do,” he says, noting that times are much better now, with combined meetings across multiple specialties where physicians share ideas and dilemmas in an open, accepting environment. A more recent challenge has been the economy. Although his practice weathered the storm and remained relatively stable throughout, Dr. Raval acknowledges a general nervousness that still prevails in the industry. He addresses these challenges by applying the advice of his mentors. “You strive to do good work and be a caring doctor, you always seek to improve your techniques, and you never, ever sit back and think you’re on easy street,” he says. “Push the envelope. It keeps you on your toes and at the top of your industry.”
The experience of launching and managing his own practice, particularly through the economic downturn also inspired Dr. Raval to return to school. “I’m getting my MBA right now, and it’s actually helping me to run a better business,” he says. “In real time, I’m learning how to run a better and more efficient practice. It’s a lot of work, and it’s challenging, especially with a full work schedule and a young family.”
Though the medical aesthetics and aesthetic surgery specialties require a level of entrepreneurial spirit and business bent, Dr. Raval does caution incoming physicians not to forget that they are healthcare professionals first. “If you think about this field only in terms of making money, you forget about the fact that patients are real people, and not profit centers, and your practice is not going to work,” he says. In spite of its ups and downs, Dr. Raval remains optimistic about the industry and its future. He is looking forward to competitive versions of botulinum toxins that may make prices more affordable and bring in a wider range of patients. He’s also excited about the advances in stem cell research for volumizing treatments. “It’s an exciting time for cosmetics and medicine in general, because there are always new techniques that improve what we’re able to do,” says Dr. Raval. “There’s new research on the aging process that gives us a better understanding of how we age. The more we know, the better we can address problems and fix them. It’s very encouraging.”
Writer Shelley Moench-Kelly, MBA is senior editor of MedEsthetics.