Even with the pandemic still going on, people in Los Angeles still want to look their best, whether for those zoom meetings or virtual castings, from the facemask upwards, or just to feel good on the outside while being stuck indoors.
And while people are still willing to go into various doctor offices to get procedures done, Los Angeles-based Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Michael Hakimi has been able to innovate his services, and actually bring some of them to the comfort of people’s homes.
From being an immigrant and selecting to open up shop here in LA, working on some of the top celebrities in Hollywood, to new precautions he takes at his offices because of COVID-19, to his new innovative at-home services, we spoke to Dr. Hakimi about it all!
How has running a plastic surgery practice here in Los Angeles been during the pandemic?
Like many other businesses we closed for a few months until guidelines came out. All in all, I have not noticed any decline in the number of surgeries. There are some surgeries that are even on the rise, for example liposuction. There is a recent study that showed Americans on average gained 30 pounds since 2020. Gyms were closed, people stayed home, worked from home and did some emotional eating. Then vaccines came along and suddenly, we could travel again. People flocked to plastic surgeons asking for liposuction to get bikini ready because no diet worked fast enough for them to enjoy the summer.
What new things have you had to put into place to ensure the safety of your staff and patients because of the pandemic?
We make sure at each time there was only one patient in the office so nobody would be waiting in the waiting room. People liked that actually, since their office visit was really private.
We incorporated virtual visits via zoom that I think forever has changed the way we practice medicine. Majority of consults were done over Zoom first and if patients were good surgical candidates or decided to have a procedure only then we would meet in person. Many of the follow up visits were and are done now over zoom. This saves patients a lot of time and gives them flexibility to have a quick doctor visit even on their lunch time. They usually send photos to my office a day before and then we discuss everything on zoom. Of course, every surgery requires a negative recent COVID test just like your flights.
Why did you select Los Angeles to be where you operate out of?
I am an immigrant. My family came here to Los Angeles in 2001 and our first home was a townhouse in Santa Monica. L.A felt like home from day one. Not many cities are as diverse and welcoming, not to mention such great weather. So on a personal level most of my friends and family are all in LA and I consider it home.
On the other hand, it is almost funny, but even before coming to the U.S, my dream was to go to UCLA for Medical School, of course not knowing how competitive it was. L.A stands for a lot of things for me and to the world. Even more so when it comes to plastic surgery. Some of the best plastic surgeons in the world are in this town, some of the biggest names travel to L.A for plastic surgery. Not surprisingly the bar is very high in this town and being an L.A plastic surgeon you are held by higher standards. That is why I picked L.A.
How has it been working on various celebrities and knowing they trust their faces/bodies (overall image) with you?
It is a humbling privilege when anyone, celebrity or not, trusts you with their face or body. It is tedious work in the operating room but truly a joy to be able to make such a positive impact on someone’s life which most often goes beyond just looks and improves their self-esteem and a lot more. I have to say though, during consultations I am always amazed how similar they are to my other patients. we are all so similar, same insecurities, same concerns and goals…
What trends when it comes to cosmetic surgery have you seen happening more of and being requested by patients these days?
It is the facelift for the more mature patients and liposuction of the neck to remove double chin and buccal fat removal in the younger patients. And it is mostly because of social media and zoom. Psychologically, when you talk to someone at a conversational distance your eyes are less likely to notice “flaws” or criticize someone’s, or your own for that matter, face because you are also interacting with that person and are distracted by his / her presence. That is why we notice “imperfections” much easier in photos and videos. Now on top of this, you add odd camera angles and bad lighting we have when on Zoom or other online meetings, you can see why people are increasingly asking for facial rejuvenation procedures such as facelift, necklift, neck liposuction or skin tightening with radiofrequency technology. Afterall, we usually don’t look at ourselves during a conversation unless we are online.
What advice do you have to anyone looking at getting some work done and selecting the right doctor?
These days we have more options than ever as far as the procedures available to people and also people performing them. It is very confusing and difficult for people to do a thorough research on different procedures let alone surgeons performing them. Some are plastic surgeons, some cosmetic surgeons, some double triple board certified and some are dermatological surgeons just to name a few. Board Certification is very important. It mean that your surgeon has done specific training in plastic surgery for at least five years after medical school and is held by the highest standards in the industry. These plastic surgeons have gone through very rigorous training and in order to maintain their board certification have to perform surgeries in very regulated and safe environments and continue to provide that level of service. This is as opposed to other titles that would allow physicians trained in internal medicine or emergency medicine for example to perform cosmetic procedures after taking a brief course.
Do your research and don’t rush. See a few plastic surgeons. You will find one whose results you like, also the way they do the surgery and their personality. In plastic surgery, there are different ways of achieving your desired results. For example three plastic surgeons could give you three different types of tummy tuck and all three could deliver a good outcome. See which method and its downtime fits your lifestyle and expectations better and with whom you feel more comfortable.
Since things keep changing daily here in LA with the pandemic, tell us about your new at-home services you have been offering people?
Since Med Spas had to close early on during covid before we had vaccines and knew anything about the virus I got a lot of phone calls from my patients asking if we could send a nurse to their house to do their Botox or fillers. At that time we didn’t do it to be safe and avoid transmission. Then when we had guidelines and vaccines came along I started this concierge service. It is an on-demand Botox and fillers service where you go online and book a nurse to come to your house, work or hotel to give you your Botox, fillers or IV therapy. Why take a few hours off your day to go to an office for your Botox? Why not get it tonight when you are home after work? You had a fun weekend and need that IV therapy to get you ready for Monday? Now they are all available to you online (www.WIVOHEALTH.com) and you can get them 24/7 at your house, hotel or at work. All patients are interviewed by me via a HIPAA compliant video conferencing system and the treatments are rendered by nurses that I personally pick from the best in the industry.
When not working, where in LA do you like to go out and enjoy your time at?
During the week if I leave work before dark, I go to Barry’s bootcamp after work. I like their outdoor gyms at the malls. Before COVID I was more into dining out and the nightlife scene. I like good food and equally, if not more, I enjoy a good ambience on weekends. I like West Hollywood and Santa Monica restaurants and bars. I try not to repeat the same restaurant twice, so it is hard to name a favorite spot. During the lockdowns, I started exploring more. It also helps that I like driving and photography. Now I try to at least fit in a hike on a weekend. I really enjoy Palos Verdes and Malibu hikes.
What’s your goal as we head into the rest of 2022?
Personally, I want to focus on my health. More gym, no work on weekends. I think one thing we all took away from COVID is how fragile this life is and how we took so many simple things for granted… simple hug from your loved ones, being able to travel, hang out with your friends and family.
Professionally, now that my Beverly Hills practice is a well-oiled machine and runs very smoothly, we are going to expand by focusing on patients’ before and after surgery experience. For example, all liposuction patients will receive lymphatic massage in the office as part of their procedure and soon will also receive IV therapy to really optimize them for surgery and recovery. The science is there on the importance of preparation and post-op adjust treatments in surgical outcomes. The goal is to incorporate a very comprehensive and unparalleled pre and post op care program for all patients.