TBY talks to Osigbeme Awudu, Chief Medical Director of LaserDerm Clinics Limited, on the level of training in the local sector and Nigeria's regulatory framework for the medical profession.

Osigbeme Awudu
Osigbeme Awudu is an Oxford-trained and UK-based general practitioner and cosmetic dermatologist with years of experience in both specialties. He has a keen interest in treating skin, with vast knowledge gained from studying under some of the world’s leading dermatologists in treating skin of color in the US. He is a fully registered and licensed medical practitioner with both the Nigerian Medical & Dental Council and the UK General Medical Council.

How has LaserDerm Clinics Limited evolved since its establishment?

LaserDerm Clinics has been in existence for a little over four years. I ran a similar cosmetic medical practice in the UK for a number of years and wanted to replicate something similar in Nigeria as it was lacking at the time. In partnership with a few investors, we opened our first clinic in Ikeja in April 2012 and slowly grew to our current position. The aesthetic sector is an innovative one, and we have had to invest in extremely sophisticated equipment and ensure the equipment is appropriate for black and ethnic skin and constantly replaced or upgraded. We left Ikeja and set up in a location in Victoria Island due to growing demand from our clients. We finally moved into our ultra-modern office in Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, in 2016. With the equipment, training, and skillset required, the business is a capital-intensive one.

How would you describe the current level of medical training in Nigeria, especially in aesthetics?

In the aesthetics field, training can be improved tremendously. The field is still a new and novel area of practice. There is obviously some training here; however, when it comes to aesthetic medicine it is close to nonexistent. Those of us in the industry are passionate about training. We understand that the training of our doctors is critical to the success of our practice. We offer various treatments that require unique and particular skills and constantly need to ensure that we adhere to the global standard. We engage in rigorous in-house training for all our doctors and send them to the UK and US annually for training. We also fly in specialists to conduct in-house training. We have over four medical doctors and while training is always an expensive venture, it is vital to us to maintain a particular standard that can be cross-referenced with any foreign practice in the world. This standard of quality and innovation is what the LaserDerm brand stands for.

How would you describe the regulatory framework for this industry?

The lack of regulatory frameworks in this industry is a problem globally and not just in Nigeria. Through advocacy we seek to engage the relevant authorities to introduce some form of regulation and framework so that a minimum standard is maintained. This has been challenging, and understandably so, as it is such a novel industry. It is only in the last couple of years that other countries have sought to tackle this lack of regulation and put in place rules about what treatments can be carried out and by whom. It is about guaranteeing patient rights and safety. Lasers, botulinum toxin injections, fillers, and so many other procedures can do permanent damage. People carrying out these procedures need the proper medical backgrounds in anatomy and physiology. Regulation has been a key word in the industry in Europe recently. In Nigeria, the industry is in its infancy and hopefully we can create the necessary regulations here in collaboration with the medical council. We have, however, operated within the standards required for the medical profession in Nigeria and have gone ahead to register with the Medical Council of Nigeria, which regulates the industry.

What are your expectations for 2017?

Nigeria is now officially in a recession. LaserDerm Clinics falls into a service category that is between a want and a need. Some of the conditions we treat here are more in the class of want and in a recession people tend to spend less on what they want and focus on their needs; having said that, we find ourselves in a unique position because there are not many people offering the same quality of services that our clinic provides. As a result, I see us riding out this recession comfortably. Hopefully in 2017 we will continue to forge ahead strongly. The future is bright, and the economy will pick up. It always does after a bad cycle.