Medical Director of M.A.C. Clinic (formerly Malaysian Aesthetic Clinic), Dr. Hew Yin Keat is one of the pioneers in aesthetic medicine in Malaysia and is the first doctor selected as a trainer in botox and fillers treatment. He has helped many people achieve optimum skin health using minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. Dr. Hew shares his life story and why he believes that ethical practice and quality diagnosis and treatment are needed in aesthetic medicine.
While we like to believe that beauty is more than skin deep, studies have shown that aesthetically-pleasing features provide measures of overall attractiveness, health, intelligence and success. As such, women (and men) have gone to great lengths to find the right product and treatment to make themselves look better.
Dr. Hew Yin Keat is no stranger to the business of making people look better and feel more confident. He is an aesthetic medical practitioner and one of the founding members and former President of the Malaysian Society of Aesthetic Medicine. Garnering an impressive reputation for more than a decade in non-invasive aesthetic medicine, Dr. Hew is the medical director of the M.A.C. Clinic (formerly Malaysian Aesthetic Clinic) in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur which has served a variety of patients comprising Malaysians from all over the country, expats, VIPs and celebrities including Formula One race driver Kimi Raikkonen and pop and R&B singer, Ning Baizura.
Now having a successful career, the journey that Dr. Hew undertook to be where he is today hasn’t been easy. Born in Ipoh and raised in a village near Kampar, Perak, Dr. Hew moved with his parents to Kuala Lumpur (KL) when he was four years old. He shares, “My father was a printer while my mother was a homemaker. When we first moved to KL, we stayed at the YMCA in Brickfields for a while – we were not very well off.”
When he was in Form 3, Dr. Hew’s father encouraged him to apply for an ASEAN scholarship. Dr. Hew was selected for the scholarship at the age of fifteen and moved to Singapore. He studied at the Raffles Institution for two years and subsequently, at the renowned Raffles Junior College for another two years. He was in the medicine stream in junior college but did not apply for the medical course at the National University of Singapore due to limited places for foreign students. He was advised to consider the chemical engineering course instead.
“I went ahead to apply for the chemical engineering course but at the same time, I looked for medical courses in other universities. And then I came across the Irish universities roadshow in Malaysia, enquired and applied for the medical course at the Royal College of Surgeons, passed the interview and eventually I obtained a place in medicine.”
However, to study in Ireland required financial support which his parents were not able to provide. Determined to pursue his goals to study medicine, Dr. Hew drew managed to secure the necessary funds from relatives and sponsors such as Kuok Foundation and Sports Toto Foundation and completed his medical studies.
Dr. Hew underwent housemanship training in the United Kingdom in 1997 but returned to Malaysia in 1999 due to family circumstances. He worked in a government hospital and was placed in the anaesthesia department for three and a half years. Although he was interested in internal medicine, he actually enjoyed the anaesthesia specialty which also has relevance to aesthetic medicine – accuracy and precision in using small amounts of potent medicine on patients.
“I wanted to remain in the anaesthesia department but it was tough to get further training in Malaysia. Alternatively, I could have gone abroad to study but I wasn’t earning a lot of money at that time,” he says.
A significant turning point happened in 2001 when a friend contacted him about a Singaporean doctor wanting to set up a centre in Malaysia to improve and enhance people’s looks using aesthetic medicine like botox and laser technology. Dr. Hew was initially hesitant but after much research and study, he found aesthetic medicine relevant and rewarding and began training with the doctor.
He obtained his Diploma in Practical Dermatology from the University of Wales, continued to pursue trainings in cosmetic dermatology by attending international workshops and conferences to learn the latest technology, findings and techniques.
Two years later, he met the previous owner of Malaysian Aesthetic Clinic, who is considered one of the pioneers in aesthetic medicine in the country. He underwent further training from him and upon the doctor’s retirement, he took over the clinic in Bangsar Shopping Centre and the Lorong Maarof bungalow.
The process of taking over an established clinic was challenging. Having only worked less than two years and with no external business investors, Dr. Hew was forced to manage cash flow, hire qualified doctors and acquire cutting-edge machines to stay at the forefront of the industry. A laser system from a reputable company can cost some MYR300,000 and from just having two basic laser machines, M.A.C. Clinic now has twelve laser machines across different platforms and more than twenty medical devices like the CoolSculpting machines for body contouring and shaping.
One of the major challenges that he had to overcome was the misconception that the public and other doctors have about aesthetic medicine.
“Aesthetic medicine was viewed as ‘non-evidence-based medicine’. Many assumed that beauticians make people look good while dermatologists help with conditions related to skin disease. Doctors then didn’t understand that they could also help patients to feel better by improving and enhancing their skin health.”
He adds, “Nowadays, there are more and more clinics pushing beauty packages to patients with the primary aim of making money. Such clinics don’t provide proper diagnosis whereas we emphasise on ethical practice and quality treatments. We diagnose our patients properly and help them make the right choice based on their budget.”
In addition, Dr. Hew had to address concerns raised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) about botched aesthetic procedures performed by non-medical or non-qualified medical practitioners. He explains, “There were patients who had consulted at places that did not have or claimed to have doctors but were not suitably trained and had bad experiences because wrong treatments were given or procedures used were too invasive. Our procedures are usually minimally invasive, produce remarkable results and have faster recovery times. We have taken the efforts to be properly trained and have been doing this for sixteen years.”
After a few years of engaging with MOH and its stakeholders, Dr. Hew was appointed to be on the board of the Medical Practice division of the ministry to oversee aesthetic medical services in Malaysia and to help draft Guidelines on Aesthetic Medical Practice for Registered Medical Practitioners. The guidelines help serve as a framework for all doctors intending to practise aesthetic medicine to safeguard public health.
All these challenges had taught him to be more positive, optimistic and to come up with creative ways to overcome challenges. Most of all, he’s indebted to his team and patients who have stayed with him for many years, trusting his diagnosis, treatments and service.
“My patients are discerning people and I take care of them well. I have had patients telling me that they prefer my treatments even though they have undergone the same in US or Europe. Some of them travel to Malaysia for my treatments on a yearly basis. That’s when I realised that I’m doing things right,” smiles the medical director.
“I believe I have come a long way – from accidentally stumbling into the field to running a reputable and multi-award-winning clinic, leading the aesthetic industry and spearheading its growth. As a key opinion leader for some medical devices and lasers as well as delivering regular lectures for aesthetic medicine courses to doctors newer to the field, I keep abreast of the latest findings as well as help educate my colleagues. Because I am regarded as a thought leader in the field, I have also been invited to be a visiting consultant for other clinics including international brands.”
Aesthetic medicine is now a big business, attracting many young doctors to specialize in the course as they assume that they can earn a lot of money quickly. However, Dr. Hew urges young practitioners, “Be a doctor first and be ethical. Work hard and have a good judgment in delivering treatments to patients based on what they need. Also, don’t overclaim and make false promises.”
The demand for non-invasive cosmetic procedures is increasing in Malaysia. Does Dr. Hew wish to expand his business further?
“I’m always looking at expanding my business and growing my reputation but I want my practice to be ethical and my treatments of high quality and world-class. As much as I would like to have more clinics, it’s not easy to find suitably qualified doctors with a high degree of integrity and passion in this field. Nevertheless, I’m open to partnerships to perhaps open a major regional aesthetic centre and to have satellite clinics in other areas throughout Malaysia and beyond our shores.”
“Achieving all this is not possible without a passion and a keen eye for aesthetic or beauty. To that end, beauty in all its forms has immeasurable value in a universal way … and my passion is in finding and unlocking it.”
For an extra-ordinary talented doctor, one who had also participated in the 200 mile Dublin to Belfast Maracycle when he was a medical student and was a part of the Mercy Malaysia team of 5 doctors sent to help out after the Gujarat earthquake in Bhuj in 2001, the future certainly augurs well for Dr. Hew.