Growing up, my father taught us Arabic prayers and both of our parents taught us hard work and discipline. My earliest heroes were Martin Luther King, Jr , John F. Kennedy and Ghandi. I was determined to follow a non violent life. I had other heroes: Billie Jean King, Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem. They lived and spoke the virtues of feminism. I passionately supported equality in all forms and realized the critical need for non-objectification and zero judgment.
When I was 10 years old I resolved I would never wear make-up, never dye my hair, and never be fake about anything, because the world is full of dishonesty. I vowed to always be simple since, in my mind, “dressed up folks never will understand poor folks and material pursuits will not bring me closer to family or to God.” I was determined to become a physician and to learn how to take care of people in the way I wished my grandmother had received care. She had died slowly, after a physically and emotionally crippling life, knowing that there was no cure for her painful and progressively deforming rheumatoid arthritis.
One decade old and I had set a massive challenge for myself.
Much has changed over 40-plus years of adventures and growth. I have prevailed through the physical, emotional and intellectual challenges of medical school, residency and working as a physician for many years. I now wear make up. My early heroes remain important to me but I have added new ones so that I may always strive to become a better person. I haven’t dyed my hair (YET!!!) . However, I still work to develop relationships emphasizing non-objectification, zero judgement and building trust.
On a daily basis, if not hourly, challenges arrive. Through each challenge and clinical revelation I work to develop my own style of care to help patients achieve their optimal health.
One of these clinical revelations was the dreadful realization regarding cardiovascular disease; the number one cause of death and disability. Despite our recurring recommendations patients continued to decline or stop treatment on a scale that was incomprehensible for this number one killer. My own father’s demise from cardiovascular disease was the last straw that impassioned me to search actively for ways to help folks understand what is happening inside their bodies and WHY we make the recommendations we make to prevent heart disease. As fate would have it, after dad’s passing I was introduced to, what we lovingly call, our “crystal ball.” The “crystal ball,” or, the bicycle stress test, looks at EACH PERSON’S ability to use oxygen and has helped me speak clearly and simply with our patients… leading them to many “Aha” moments surrounding our care recommendations. It is personalized medicine at its finest.
We were on a roll helping our patients understand medication recommendations. We had nutritionists and emotional health providers to whom we referred our patients with weight loss challenges. We had dance classes, dances and self defense workshops to inspire people to move. The piece missing from this professional network was a bariatric presence for folks who were overweight and, as a result, had diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol but simply could not lose weight. —
Throughout the years, studying aspects of health beyond what we do as physicians, it has been no secret that, if there is a way for folks to bypass “Western” medical care and look for alternative forms of improving their health, they will do so. Look at the billion dollar market in vitamins, herbs, acupuncture, massage, reflexology etc. We wholeheartedly support holistic care at Healthy Steps. That is a reason many folks COME to us. We collaborate, educate and negotiate around health care decisions.
One year ago I received a surprise visit from an aesthetic representative. I planned a brief hello and a quick return to my mountain of clinical and administrative tasks. Instead, intrigued by his words, we actively shared information for almost an hour. As he spoke I began to visualize the possibility of a non surgical bariatric program. After going through the pros and cons, the biggest con being the price of start up, I made the financial jump. After all, if my patients were intent on doing this they would pursue Aesthetics with others and they would be left to their own devices to make the right decision. Though financially a steep jump it would be a further convenience for our patients and we could guide them with their overall health in mind. They could pursue aesthetic care and, my hope; Healthy Steps could have a “reward” system for them to focus on the overall benefits of weight loss and healthy living….. IF IF IF they wanted or chose to do so.
Since the onset of this component of our trend to veer off the beaten path the feedback has been either overwhelmingly positive or overwhelmingly negative.
“Why would you bring such a treatment which leads to objectification of women into your practice? This is the one place people should feel free to be who they are and confident that they are not judged.”
My hope is that it is clear this move is not to objectify, judge or force anyone to do anything they are not interested in doing. As well, these opportunities, to “reward” themselves externally while we fine tune their internal health, are for both men and women.
“Why would you bring in a procedure that is not covered by insurance?”
My goal is to give our patients choices in how they would like to pursue their quality of life. It is important to do labs, educate and present a treatment plan for patient consideration. However, why NOT be a practice which offers more choice and thinks “outside the box”? There are multiple choices that patients, as consumers, make everyday which don’t involve insurance. At the risk of being viewed negatively we wanted patients to have those choices through a reliable source.
The POSITIVE: “We trust you because of the many ways you have taken care of our health and the health of our family. Thank you so much for bringing this procedure into a place where we feel safe and know that you are considering our overall quality of life. I will speak to Gloria (Aesthetic Director) to find out if the procedure (I’m interested in) is right for me.”
My hope in writing this has been to share with our patients, and any persons considering joining our practice, the evolution of a vision, since childhood, which continues to evolve. This note is to inform anyone interested in being informed of our intent; not to objectify and judge but to give a choice to our patients who wish to have the choice. If you want to be proactive about your heart health, and improve your ability to use oxygen optimally, then jump into our Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease program. If you feel special putting on make up, dyeing your hair, body sculpting, decreasing skin blemishes/ wrinkles or getting rid of what you perceive to be excess body hair, then explore our Aesthetic program. These are options that we provide, along with our usual detailed and thorough medical care, to help you achieve your overall quality of life.
– Husna R. Baksh, M.D.