We had a chat to a passionate surgeon; Dr. Dilip Gahankari from Advanced Aesthetics on the Gold Coast has a desire to help others in need and give back to those that don’t have access to basic medical care. Dr. Gahankari can do up to 5 operations on any given day, working up to 60 hours a week on life saving plastic surgery procedures and cosmetic operations. Read on to learn about Dr. Dilip Gahankari’s inspiring story.
I grew up in a small town in central India in the state of Maharashtra. My parents were lower middle class and had a very limited income. My father believed that his greatest assets were his children – my sister and I. He spent all that he had as disposable income on getting us an education. I had all my education in basic public school but with hard work, persistence and home tutoring I provided myself with a good academic platform. The house I lived in was so basic that, for 2 years during my schooling we did not even have electricity and I had to study either with a kerosene lamp or under streetlights. I was top of the class through my career and I was able to qualify for medical school. Even though it was a Government Medical School my father had to take a loan out to pay my college fees.
I completed my Bachelor of Medicine from a Medical College in a smallish city called Nagpur, in India. I joined the General Surgery program to start with but I was primarily interested in serving in remote areas to provide medical services to people who had no access to doctors and surgeons. I temporarily deferred my surgical training to spend some time in such areas and this experience was what encouraged me to pursue my surgical training. However when I finished surgical training, I was at a crossroads; on one hand, I became very interested in furthering my quest for training and on the other hand I did not want to give up my interest in serving in remote areas. I decided to continue with more specialised surgical training. Later however, it became obvious to me that doing general surgical procedures such as appendectomy and hernias was not stimulating enough and I became desperate for some challenges in my career. This is when I discovered Plastic Surgery.
I joined the plastic surgery training program in Mumbai and I knew almost immediately that this is what I wanted to do. Plastic surgery provided me constant stimulation for thinking outside the square. I did some research on laboratory rats and invented a new technique for microscopic method of joining arteries. It was this time that I became confident enough to talk about my research in conferences, publish my innovations and research in reputed scientific journals. In 1993, I qualified as a Plastic Surgeon in India and I came to a crossroads again. I had become so specialised, that I could no longer work in remote areas for full time work and I was hungry for more specialised work. I decided to join the reputed KEM hospital Plastic Surgery department as a lecturer – where I was involved in performing difficult and challenging procedures such as clefts, cranio-facial surgery (working usually on small children with birth defects of the skull, eye sockets and face) and micro-vascular reconstruction. I however continued to visit my friends in the remote areas and provide some surgical services.
In 1996, I got an opportunity to work as a plastic surgeon in Malaysia and this provided a window of opportunity to step out of India and look around the world, which had always been a dream of mine. I enjoyed my experience in Malaysia, but academic stimulus was lacking in this experience. I then had an opportunity to spend some time in the prestigious Canniesburn Plastic Surgery Unit in Glasgow, where I spent nearly a year. This certainly gave me a wider exposure in Plastic Surgery and in 1999 I was offered a position in Brisbane in the Hand Surgery Unit, at the Princess Alexandra hospital. I jumped at this opportunity – initially, just to, travel, work and visit Australia. But I enjoyed the Australian way of life – particularly the mateship and hospitality. For the first time in my life I felt like settling down. I was fortunate enough to get a strong support from my senior colleagues at the PA and the Royal Brisbane Hospitals, they encouraged me to stay and provided me the opportunity to serve in various Senior Registrar level jobs until, I was able to qualify as a Plastic Surgeon in Australia, at my first dig at the FRACS examination. In 2003, I was awarded the FRACS degree and I qualified as a plastic surgeon in Australia.
Longing for independence in practice and with a growing interest in cosmetic plastic surgery I decided to start my plastic surgery practice on the Gold Coast in 2004. Although, today most of my practice is in the private domain, I still continue to do public work for New South Wales.
All the while in this long winding journey, I still could not give up my long-standing desire to work in remote areas in India. So I established a Plastic Surgery Camp (Dr. Dilip Gahankari and a team of professional sought out and operated on some of the country’s poorest villagers in the remote area of Maharashtra state) This camp conducted annually, is now in the 8th year and has grown in terms of number of procedures, professionals who volunteer from Australia and my dear colleagues and friends from India, who I have been in touch all this while.
As for what I love about plastic surgery is its diversity… it’s so different! It is truly in my opinion, a field with no ‘boundaries’, no ‘rules’ and no ‘stereo-typed’ techniques. Imagination, logic, reasoning with judgment and discretion help one plan independently of what has been previously done or described. It makes me think and keeps my brain stimulated. The favourite part of my job is literally my job. I enjoy completing a challenging cosmetic operation as much as I enjoy managing a tricky hand injury or a difficult skin cancer.
I enjoy my job so much now that work is my best hobby. I not only like to think out side the square trying to create improvements in my own techniques of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, but I spend a lot of time designing and creating new equipments and instruments.
As you already know I have always found time to incorporate travel with my career and this is something I continuously do with my family so that I can spend quality time my young children and my wife.
I would have to say my favourite cosmetic procedures are of breasts, abdomen and surgical procedures such as body lift, thighs and arms contouring as well as Gynaecomastia (man-boobs). Having said that, I do enjoy the other cosmetic surgical procedures such as facelift, nose reshaping and laser-lip sculpturing (SLIM-lipo).
The most common procedures that my patients seek are breast enhancement, reduction, abdominoplasty and gynaecomastia. I also get a lot of referrals from general practitioners about blepharoplasty (eye lid skin reduction).
I have a keen interest in knowing how cosmetic surgery has changed lifestyles in young patients. A few years ago I had a young lady of 16, with growth deformities of her both breasts. They were tubular or snoopy breasts, one was far larger than the other and both were very unsightly. She had always wanted to play in the school soccer team but could not even consider going to the soccer field. She was depressed and aloof. Her mum brought her in and after the approval from the psychiatrist; I proceeded to correct both breasts with asymmetric reduction and lift. When I saw her 6 months after surgery, I saw tan lines on her body and her mum proudly told me that she has become the vice captain of the school soccer team. Suddenly from a reserved, depressed, aloof, homebound girl, she was transformed into a confident and out going social teenager. I have seen such many transformations such as these in young women with flat chests or those with extremely large heavy breasts, kids with prominent (‘bat’) ears and boys with significant gynaecomastia. I must mention here that I do not encourage cosmetic surgical procedures to girls and boys under 18 (especially breasts related), unless the psychiatrist has recommended them.
I feel truly privileged to be able to cause these transformations and be a part of life changing events in their lives.
I do believe that cosmetic surgery is on a rise. Especially, where I live and practice on the Gold Coast, people enjoy outdoor activities, sports, social life, looking good, healthy and being young is an integral part of this lifestyle. But it is not all about looking good. There are several ‘cosmetic’ procedures, that I do which improve physical symptoms and discomfort, aches, pains, migraines and in many cases depression by improving body image, self confidence and their marketability for jobs and business. Breast reduction, body lift, gynaecomastia surgery, SLIM-lipo for excessive armpit sweating and seldomely talked about procedures such as labiaplasty are typical examples.
We asked Dr. Dilip Gahankari what advice he would give anyone to prepare for surgery;
- Be healthy and as fit as you possibly can be: stop smoking and other recreational drugs, excess alcohol, bring body weight within normal range for your self and have good control of any medical problems (such as diabetes, hypertension) that you may have.
- Be sure of what you want. It is well recognized that people who are dissatisfied with their cosmetic procedures often have had either poor perception of what they actually wanted or had unrealistic expectations.
- Once you make up your mind, find a qualified plastic surgeon who you can trust and who you think fully understands your concerns and expectations. Unfortunately, the cosmetic surgical field is poorly regulated and hence there are a lot of untrained or poorly trained and qualified doctors or GPs who offer these procedures. A good tip therefore is to seek a surgeon, who is a member of Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- Be positive about your recovery. I cannot emphasize enough, that all surgical procedures have inherent risks of surgery and anaesthetic. And in my view, patients who are unsure and are generally pessimistic, have poorer outcome than those who are realistic and positive.
Do you provide any support for patients after surgery?
We pride ourselves in providing a caring and comfortable environment to all our patients while they are recovering from surgical procedures. My self and my three well-trained nurses know that the first few days after surgery are most important for our patients when they have needs for pain relief, dressing changes, psychological support and compassion.
We also offer to see our patients at very short notice out of their appointment schedule if they have any sudden concerns.