Dr Raj Thethi says he never expected to have this –a 3,500sq ft, two-floor clinic with six treatment rooms, an operating theatre and recovery room, training centre and offices – at such an early stage in his career, at the age of just 31. “I thought this was going to be something I would have 15-or-so years into the future, when I was 45, or something,” he says.
“Covid made a lot of opportunities pop up for me. Of course, I appreciate how horrible it is, but there are silver linings to everything. The day before the PM announced the first lockdown, I was due to sign a lease for a much smaller clinic space, but I had this weird gut feeling. Now, I’m so glad.”
Dr Thethi explains that as restrictions from the first lockdown started to ease in July last year, he called back to see if the space was still available. It wasn’t, and he was “kicking myself; so, so gutted”. But then he came across a much bigger unit online and suddenly, things took a different turn. The vision expanded into what is now Yorkshire Skin Centre, and it’s hard to imagine things turning out how they were originally intended.
With so much more space than he expected and having to completely renovate the whole thing, Dr Thethi had his work cut out: “Covid meant that throughout the most recent lockdown I could just focus on it as a full-time project, because I didn’t have an architect or a designer, I did everything from scratch myself; where the walls were going to be, where the plug sockets were going to go, down to the taps and treatment couches. There weren’t even any pipes because it’s a former car showroom, so the floors were weighted concrete – no floorboards or timber, nothing,” he says.
Of course, it’s not entirely true that Dr Thethi did everything himself. In fact, his father, a joiner, ended up doing and overseeing most of the work, including the plumbing, mounting of the electrics; essentially everything one would need to do to create a fully functional super-clinic out of massive shell. “The hardest bit was figuring out the logistics of what you need and where, and how you’re going to achieve it, so my dad has been instrumental. It was expensive, but it’s a place I want to grow into, I don’t want to keep moving around,” he says.
ON THE MAP
Based in Leeds, Dr Thethi wanted his clinic to rival those of London in terms of prestige, but with the space, light, luxury and artistry that are perhaps harder to achieve in the capital thanks to the astronomical rents of Harley Street and the surrounding areas.
“Space and light are so important, and when you have a little cramped, dingy room, it takes away from the whole experience for the patient, especially when you’re squeezing past them to get a needle or something. I treat my patients like portraits, and I want to be able to demonstrate in surroundings that echo it,” he says.
Having himself visited other clinics for training in the past, Dr Thethi says he was always conscious of the spaces in which practical treatment demonstrations were carried out. So, suddenly faced with a much bigger space than he ever anticipated, he decided to incorporate a training facility.
“Most of the time you’re just stood in the injector’s room and you’re training in there,” he explains. “A clinical space is great, but it’s not really a training environment. When clinics do have a separate space it’s always an afterthought, but I want training to be the forefront. When you walk into the training facility at Yorkshire Skin Centre [which is within the clinic building] you know that it’s a space purely for education.”
In his own words, what Dr Thethi really loves is creating beauty. This is evident in his approach to his patients’ treatments, but also in the design of the new space. Before going into medicine, he says he wanted to become an architect, so the opportunity to design and create the clinic of his dreams was a real gift. “The fact that I could design a space and take it to the artistic level that I wanted it to be at, that level of style and sophistication… I just haven’t seen it that often. There are very few clinics in the north that are like that. Often, you find mediocre design and I’ve worked in many places that looked like decaying hospitals. I really didn’t want to bring that vibe,” he says.
The clinic’s luxurious yet tasteful interior lends a certain sparkle to the patient journey, reflecting how seriously Dr Thethi takes his work but on a level that is genuine, welcoming and comfortable – exactly the way he makes you feel when you speak to him, and, presumably, why he has a clientele large enough to justify such a big space (at the time of our interview, Dr Thethi had no availability for two months and patients were having to be turned away who didn’t want to wait). “I think it just reflects better when a place is more beautiful,” he says. “People walk in and they instantly feel confident that you’ve invested time, energy and money into their experience, that I’m confident in helping them achieve their aesthetic goals.”
Dr Thethi is in the process of obtaining CQC registration for the clinic in order to get up and running with another element that sets it apart – its operating theatre, where visiting plastic surgeons will run some of their consultations and perform minor procedures such as upper blepharoplasties and mole and skin lesion removals. Mr Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal, consultant plastic surgeon at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is one such surgeon, while Dr Thethi is in contact with others interested in providing specialisms like minor vascular surgeries.
He’s also already planning on adding women’s-health services covering hormones and vaginal rejuvenation with a focus on the menopause. “I really want this to be a true centre of excellence; a place where patients can come and have the best treatment no matter their concern,” says Dr Thethi. “I happily refer patients to other people if I think they’re better at something than I am. Now, I can have all these experts under one roof.”
This vision of bringing together expertise in multiple areas of aesthetics, health and beauty is the reason behind the name change from Skin Radiance Clinics – Dr Thethi’s first clinic which he founded in 2017 – to Yorkshire Skin Centre. “We needed to rebrand, and I wanted the new name to be pertinent and almost respectful of the space. Skin Radiance Clinics was when I was a novice injector and I think I was probably naive in what I wanted; at that point the long-term plan was to set up lots of small clinics, hence the plural, ‘clinics’ in the name,” he says.
Part of the reason behind this shift in vision is down to how the NHS has evolved to combine multiple small centres for trauma, for example, into larger hubs that key specialists work out of. “I’ve been looking at the way the NHS is unfolding, and I think it’s important because they’ve been running a lot longer than our small clinic models and we can learn a lot of lessons from that,” says Dr Thethi.
“They discovered that the overall level of care that people received was less than if they were taken to a larger tertiary centre where everyone with those needs is referred, with a few experts in those certain procedures. Now, I’d rather people travel to me at this one location, and I know that when they come here, I’m going to make their experience worthwhile.”
Behind every great doctor is a team of equally great staff, and Dr Thethi speaks incredibly highly of his staff members, brought on board as much for their skills and experience as their energy and personality. His wife Sharan, a dentist, is the clinic manager, while Charlotte Dewhirst and Olivia Horne make up the admin team. Alongside Dr Thethi, aesthetic practitioner and semi-permanent make-up artist Egle Ambraskaite (known as Elle) – who, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Cosmetology and Medicine and more than 10 years in aesthetics, he describes as “really, really experienced” – also performs treatments, providing laser, IPL, radiofrequency microneedling, cosmetic tattooing, chemical peels, and more.
“I’m the only cosmetic doctor at the moment,” says Dr Thethi. But we’ve got all these empty rooms so potentially we’re going to rent them out to other medical aesthetic practitioners. We’ve already had loads of interest from people who want to utilise the space because they like the design and how forward-thinking it is.” However, he’s understandably cautious about who else works from Yorkshire Skin Centre, especially when many of the most skilled and reputable injectors already have their own clinics. “I need to make sure that the person I bring in is very moldable and coachable so I can get them to a level where they’re independent but would make the same decisions I would make. And that’s really, really, really hard to find,” he says.
Another reason for eventually bringing other clinicians on board is to free up some of Dr Thethi’s workload, though he recognises that the intensity of the early stages of owning a new clinic won’t last forever: “There are always going to be teething problems at the beginning, and at the moment one of them is that I’m having to stay here so late at night, working literally until two o’clock in the morning every day, then back up at six to work again,” he says. “I think it’s just the initial phases of figuring out the logistics of a clinic more than anything else, but at the moment, I’m missing my kids a little bit.”
TRIED AND TESTED
Dr Thethi uses the Teoxane HA dermal-filler portfolio for injectables alongside Ellansé from Sinclair Pharma, and is a trainer for both, while for skin treatments, the clinic uses ZO Skin Health.
He says his favourite treatment to perform at the moment though, is InMode’s Morpheus8 radiofrequency microneedling (see page 66 for a case study with the device). “I love it so much,” he says. “If I can smell what I’m doing [from heating the skin] that means I’m doing something deep and I’m doing something serious for the patient. That’s where I feel very comfortable in treatments.” The media buzz around Morpheus8 and the transformations of patients who have had the treatment is evident during consultations, says Dr Thethi. “They walk in already having some knowledge, which makes our job a lot easier. They’re informed and half the hard work is done because that social proof works, there’s evidence,” he says.
Dr Thethi places much importance on consultations, spending at least an hour with each new patient before he agrees to work on their face. “I don’t care if I spend an hour and a half with someone and not inject them,” he says. “It doesn’t matter, because the amount of time that you put into that initial consultation, the patient values that, they’re going to feel more comfortable taking your opinion, and it builds trust.” If his most recent award win – Global Health and Pharma’s 2021 Most Trusted Aesthetic Clinic – Leeds – is anything to go by, Dr Thethi’s approach is clearly working.