On building a medical brand in Surgery
After studying Art History at McGill University and graduating with an Honors Degree, Dr Thibaudeau completed her medical studies and specialization in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Montreal. During her medical training, she obtained a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, and won several awards during residency.
She continued on with complementary training in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery after graduating. In addition to her aesthetic practice, she has been practicing general otolaryngology since 2016. Her background in Art History and her artist’s eye give her a unique perspective in analyzing your aesthetic needs. Using a personalized approach, Dr Thibaudeau will favor subtle results, allowing your natural beauty to shine while still looking like your unique self.
Tell us about your background and how you got into the medical industry?
I am from Montreal; I grew up here and I went to an international school where most people were expats, so I was always surrounded by people from all over the world. I think that shaped who I am, and of course I got the travel bug very early! I grew up in a family of readers and scholars, surrounded by books. As a teenager, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, it was very clear to me that I needed to stay in school. My father was a doctor, so I grew up in the medical field, but I didn’t want to just follow in his footsteps and take the obvious path. He was one of the first oncologists in Quebec. He was more medical, whereas I turned out to be surgical.
Quebec is one of the only places where you can go to medical school at such a young age, and I think making such life decisions (committing to a career) when you are 18 years old is very, very tough. How is one supposed to know what to do for the rest of one’s life when one has barely started living it? I certainly felt I wasn’t ready to commit to a profession at eighteen years old. I went into Art History because I had a very developed artistic side, I loved to travel and it was a fun program. So I did an Honours Degree in Art History at McGill University, and I really fell in love with Italian Renaissance art and architecture, so much so that I went to Summer school in Florence, Italy twice during my undergrad.
I intended to go into Art Conservation, so medicine wasn’t even on my radar at the time. My plan was really to restore the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I was missing some science classes to apply to a Master’s degree in Art Conservation, and it’s while taking those classes that I realized that medicine had always been in the back of my mind. I decided to apply, but I didn’t tell anyone because I was too afraid that I wouldn’t get in and I didn’t want to be embarrassed, impostor syndrome and all, and then I got in! So I just went for it and never regretted it.
What made you decide to choose your specialty in surgery?
It became clear from the very beginning that I was more surgical than medical. I have always been manual; I used to draw and paint. Surgery was an obvious choice, and I always hesitated between plastic surgery and ENT because I really loved facial reconstruction and aesthetics, which is in the curriculum of both specialties. I chose ENT mostly because of the mentors and role models I met. I completed my ENT residency at the University of Montreal; along with a Master’s Degree specializing in head and neck cancers during my residency, but I always intended to have an aesthetics practice as well. So after residency, I did extra training in facial plastics and reconstructive surgery.
Did you have any women mentors in the industry?
Yes, there were so many women who inspired me during residency, but one particularly stood out on the academic side. Her name was Marie-Jo Olivier and she is a friend now. She really broke some glass ceilings, as head and neck surgery was dominated by men, even recently, and it still is. She is one of the best head and neck surgeons I know, and she was a great mentor; she definitely inspired me on the ENT side. Then on the more entrepreneur/aesthetics side, I have two friends who are doing great; Dr Amanda Fanous and Dre.Genevieve Caron. One of them is a plastic surgeon and the other is an ENT, they are both really good friends and I think they are such amazing entrepreneurs on top of it, they truly inspire me.
So when you say business side; is this because you have started your own clinic?
I partnered up with Victoria Park. Dr. Nikolis, who founded Victoria Park, was one of my mentors when I was a medical student . Partnering up with Victoria Park felt meant to be because Dr Nikolis has been a mentor for a really long time, and because I love the brand’s approach to aesthetics.
I am one of the three doctors at the Montreal East clinic. I do aesthetics injections (neuromodulators like Botox, as well as filling agents) and minor surgeries such as lip lifts and blepharoplasties (eyelid surgeries) . I love that I get to focus on the medical practice more than the business aspect because I have a wonderful team to handle that part.
When it comes to the professional side of your work, what is your vision for aesthetics?
I think there is a paradigm shift happening these days, where people are striving for more natural results, which is wonderful. I don’t think anyone should look overdone, and it’s important for patients to stop focusing on negatives aspects of their appearance and instead enhance what makes them unique. So that is how I see aesthetics, I don’t want anyone to look fake; I want them to look like themselves, just more confident.
Do you think that’s also because it’s less stigmatized and isn’t a taboo subject anymore?
I think the fact that it’s more in the open is a good thing, because people should n’t be embarrassed or hide the interventions they’ve had. With social media, it’s nice when people are open about what they have had done, otherwise it sets completely unrealistic expectations, especially for younger women. It is important to be honest about the fact that what you look like on Instagram is not what you look like in real life and that you didn’t wake up that way, but injectors and filters were also involved . However; I think it is possible to look like the best version of yourself without looking like you fit into a mold (having the Instagram lips and jawline and brow lift etc.). Treatments should be individualized and cater to each patient’s unique needs.
What advice would you give to your younger self who was at the arts program at McGill and not really sure that medical was going to be the career choice?
I think in general just trust your instinct, go with your gut and when you’re young put your heart into whatever you’re doing. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself in terms of having a life timeline traced ahead of you, things will end up falling into place as long as you keep learning and moving forwards. Just take advantage of all opportunities that are being offered to you, there will always be time to figure out how to use what you’ve learned from them. This is what I would say to the person who was studying Art History.
What advice would you now give a medical student that’s choosing their specialty?
You need to work hard, apply yourself, and focus; but also stay open-minded. I think in retrospect, a lot of people are convinced that there is only one specialty that will make them happy. I believe that the real reward is to know that you have helped your patients and that you have done a good job at it, and in being an expert in your field. You can end up developing this in several specialities, even in some that never appealed to you initially (I never thought of ENT before starting medical school!), so I do believe that it is important to remain open-minded throughout your training.
What is your daily routine to set yourself up for the day?
Well, by nature I am not particularly a morning person, but because of my job I don’t really have a choice. The operating room and clinics all start early. My drive to work is my “me time”, while I sip my enormous coffee and listen to the news, and get in my zone. I am ready to go by the time I get to the hospital, but as soon as I am on vacation, my true nature comes back out and I like to sleep in.
In a typical week, I usually do outpatient clinic at the hospital, I have one day of OR at the hospital, and I have one to two days of aesthetics; and then there is also minor surgery and other clinics thrown in there. The week is very diversified, which I love; but in a surgeon’s world, everything starts early in the morning, alas.
What inspires you in your daily life?
I know it’s very cliché, but medicine is about helping people; whether it’s in aesthetics or in a medical practice, you always want to give your patients the best outcome possible, and that is very motivating and it inspires you to keep learning, whether it’s new techniques and technologies or new ways to treat complications.
If you are a surgeon, you know complications will happen because, as they say; “surgeons who don’t have complications are surgeons who don’t operate”. So managing your complications is really important, but also just wanting to give the best care possible to your patients is motivation in itself. In aesthetics you want patients to look their best, and give them confidence too. That’s also very motivating.
In terms of a medical practice, it’s about giving people the best care; curing their diseases and making them feel better.
Burnout is something that is not talked about enough in the medical field, and yet people experience it all the time. What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed and just need to unwind?
Travelling has always been my way to disconnect with the world, reconnect with myself and to let go of everything else. Obviously this has been very tough in the last couple of years with the pandemic, travelling hasn’t really been an option. My other “me time” is horseback riding. When I’m on my horse, I forget about everything else, and I focus on the workout. It is my happy place, and it is very important to have that because so many physicians and other professionals in the medical world are experiencing burnouts and depression. People do talk about it more and more, but still not enough. The last couple of years have been really, really hard and people are burnt out.
Do you enjoy reading books? If so, what are your favorite books to read?
I’m such a compulsive reader, it’s also one of my favorite hobbies and a way I disconnect from the pressures of life. Absolutely impossible for me to narrow down my favorites to one or two!
I’m currently reading the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough, a series of novels about the end of the Roman Republic. Historical fiction has always been a guilty pleasure for me, but this series is very thoroughly researched and covers a fascinating time of History, I’m sold.
Another one of my fall-time favorites is Maurice Druon’s Les Rois maudits series, I must’ve read it 4 times.
Up there on my list are also Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, to name a few classics.
What do you want to be remembered for in the bigger picture of your life and the things that you want to accomplish and will continue to do?
I think I want to be remembered as having made a difference in the lives of those I love. In the grand scheme of things, it boils down to being remembered as a good person! Pretty basic really. Hopefully I will also be remembered by patients whose lives I’ve improved.
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