General practitioner Dr Lisa Chan shares her thoughts on beauty, her professional and personal missions, and how she endeavours to balance a busy career with time for herself, family and friends.
In conversation with general practitioner Dr Lisa Chan
What’s your take on beauty?
I think beauty is a form of self-love and self-expression, and is deeply related to how our inner selves appreciate the world around us. Standards of beauty are different for everyone, and everyone’s criteria for what they find to be beautiful will be different, depending on what they’ve been through and what they need in their lives at that moment. When something is done out of pure love and authenticity, it usually finds a way to be beautiful.
I do feel beauty is very personal, affected by culture and influenced by the love we’ve received in our lives. For example, to me, the most beautiful dishes in the world are my mother’s scrambled eggs with tomatoes. Whenever I was upset about something, she’d make this dish without my even having to ask for it. It’s nothing fancy, but it evokes an irreplaceable feeling of home, love and devotion. When you’ve experienced something beautiful, it lingers in your mind, triggers an avalanche of emotion and feeling within, and changes you for the better.
Even in medical aesthetics, perfection isn’t guaranteed and nor is it encouraged. Medical aesthetics can help with boosting confidence, but true beauty should be holistic and also radiate from the soul and the body.
Have you been interested in beauty since you were young?
I’ve been interested in all forms of beauty for as long as I can remember – even as a child I was inspired by nature, art and music. There’s something about beauty, whether physical or spiritual, that just rejuvenates my soul. This goes for people’s inner beauty as well – discovering the depth of kindness, goodness and honesty in others always fills me with gratitude. I’m blessed to be surrounded by beautiful things and people at work – I’d go so far as to say it’s an integral part of my life these days.
Did you play with make-up, or start incorporating skincare regimes when you were young?
Make-up and skincare didn’t really become an interest of mine until my university years, after I’d recovered from Graves’ disease and come out of my shell. I used to be really self-conscious about my appearance, and I guess that’s partly why I was drawn to things like art and music. With make-up, I mainly learned through reading magazines and watching beauty vlogs.
When do you feel most beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I’m balanced, happy and in tune with myself. That means taking time to care for myself, managing my emotions and surrounding myself with the people I love. I see beauty in the love I witnessed among my family members and their relationships, which has taught me how to love and formed a great support system for me to build my dreams. I also feel most beautiful when I’m in nature, when I’m reminded that I’m connected to all living things, and that I’m part of a much larger universe. This fills me with gratitude for the life I have and the beauty that surrounds me.
What’s your mission in life?
My mission in life is to make good use of my passion, perseverance and small talents to touch people’s lives in whatever small way I can as a doctor. As the Hippocratic Oath states, “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.”
Everyone has a dream near and dear to their heart. As a doctor, I’m privileged that patients trust me enough to share their deepest fears, insecurities and longings with me. It’s truly an honour to be able to give them reassurance and confidence as they carve their own paths, and to be part of their lives and the important decisions they make. Therefore, I hope to build a sanctuary to which my guests can retreat anytime, safely share their dreams with me and be themselves regardless of their age, disease, disability, creed, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor – they shouldn’t let those factors dictate how they present themselves to the world or how they perceive their own beauty. Throughout my many years of medical training, I’ve taken the Declaration of Geneva to my heart, and applying that to the notion of diversity of beauty and helping people find the power within to be their true selves and bloom into their own kind of beauty beyond imagination is my ultimate goal.
What would you share with women entrepreneurs who face obstacles?
We don’t always have the wisdom we require at the time we need it, so it’s normal that we don’t always get things right the first time. Don’t let obstacles or mistakes define you. They’re the condiments that give success its flavour.
Don’t be afraid to dream big and take the risk in creating your vision (if you’d regret not trying). Building a great support team with good people – hire for character and values, and not just the skills. Stay true to your values in whatever you do and let your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.
Which philosophies do you hold dear as a doctor?
Always be kinder than you think you need to be, because everyone you meet is fighting a terrible battle that you know nothing about. Also, always be genuine and show gratitude to patients and fellow colleagues.
You clearly lead a very busy life. What advice would you give to young women struggling to balance life inside and outside of work?
I have the great good fortune of having a career that’s also my passion and close to my heart (so my life and my work can be combined), working with my family and best friends as a dream team (a huge time-saver!) and having everything come together magically. Yet, I do feel my work and life aren’t yet in perfect balance, and I’m still learning to be a better time manager (learning is ongoing and lifelong). Over the years, I’ve been reading books and discussing this topic with my mentors and colleagues.
I try to live by two basic principles. The first is to apply the 4Ds of time management: do, defer (delay), delegate and delete (drop). I learned to place each task into one of those categories, which enables me to manage my limited time more effectively and stay focused on what matters to me. Secondly, I log my daily activities, as this helps me understand how I spend my time and where it’s being wasted. No matter how busy I am, I always make time for myself (my wellbeing, such as exercises, hobbies, self-development, deliberate rest and leisure) and the members of my family.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career so far?
My colleagues in the medical profession. I consider them my brothers and sisters, and their hard work, their innovation, and their unfaltering dedication to their patients’ wellbeing inspire and guide me. One of the biggest challenges in the field of aesthetic medicine is that it’s new and isn’t fully established in Hong Kong.
There’s no formal medical college for aesthetic medicine and nor is it being regarded as a speciality. Doctors mainly practise in isolation, and the challenging shift in practice from working in a multidisciplinary environment to a solo practice may pose some stress to newcomers, but fortunately we have a tight community with many wonderfully friendly colleagues who are selflessly devoted to teaching, scientific research and the development of this growing community. I’m honoured to follow in their footsteps and to be able to share their kindness and knowledge with those who follow me into medicine.
My amazing father-in-law is also my core pillar of strength. He’s an exemplary doctor who’s a strong believer in lifelong learning and has passed on his many nuggets of wisdom.
Last but not least, my patients shaped me in becoming who I am now. They’ve taught me that each person and situation is unique, and that being a good listener is important. I’m also filled with gratitude for all the trust and love I’ve been given by my patients. Upholding this trust requires hard work – as much as possible, I need to keep up with recent guidelines, studies and lines of inquiry in evidence based medicine.
The human aspects of patient care can’t be taught in medical school. They can only be taught to us by those we care for, and I can’t wait to pay it forward and offer patients the same goodness, light and encouragement that my colleges and patients have given me. My biggest hope is that I can always uphold the finest traditions of my calling and never lose the thrill of healing and helping the patients who come to me. And my biggest dream is that I can take them with me on a journey to holistic beauty that embraces their minds and bodies and every aspect of their extraordinary diversity and uniqueness.
Access stories by Dr Lisa Chan here