Meet Dr. Gabriela Lewin, a Medical Doctor with a private practice on Broadview Ave. in Ottawa. Having grown up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she did her residency in Family Medicine and ended up in Canada. She met her husband who is Canadian, and they settled down with her two children. Her story is one of pure passion, dedication to her medical practice and wanting to make a difference in her community all whilst making women look and feel beautiful!
When did you start your medical practice?
I graduated in ’95 in Buenos Aires, and I did my residency there in Family Medicine. I was doing my Master’s degree and ended up coming to Canada. I worked at CHEO in Ottawa doing research. I became a licensed physician in 2006 because I had to do the exams and the residency. As an International Medical Graduate doctor, at least in Ontario, I had to work in an under-serviced area. I worked in Kemptville, ON as a GP (general practitioner) doing outpatient and hospital care. I commuted to Kemptville every day. I then decided to take over a practice in the city (Westboro) to work close to my home.
When did you decide to launch your own practice?
While I decided to work close to home, I also decided that I wanted to do cosmetics. It was 2017 when I took my first training courses in Barrie, ON. My mentor was Dr Bernie Lalonde at Chrysalis Rejuvenation clinic in Ottawa. In 2019, I worked for JNY cosmetics until 2021 when I decided to open my own clinic.
Doctors always say that it is like relearning a new industry because you go from being an MD to an entrepreneur. How was it for you?
Absolutely. Even though, as doctors we are small business owners when we have our practice, we do not have a lot of education on how to run a business in med school or residency. In Kemptville, I worked with a group of doctors and I only paid rent. But when I moved to Westboro, I had to learn everything about owning a business (payroll, labour laws, performance reviews, etc).
With all the learning experience that I gained working at Chrysalis and JNY Cosmetics, now I feel like I’m ready to be on my own. Now, I feel like I can do it– I understand what a business is about and how to promote myself through social media.
We noticed you do injectables and cosmetic procedures. Do you want to keep it that way?
At the beginning, I was curious about what it was all about because I was in my 40s and I wanted to start looking after myself. I just thought it was fascinating. The whole rejuvenation idea, doing things that are not permanent and that are low risk. I think I have an eye for it and have the skills to do these procedures due to my experience doing other types of procedures in my family medicine practice. I’m like “why not?”. I felt it was a low-risk activity within medicine, different from family medicine yet fulfilling.
Did you keep your family medicine practice as well?
I love Family Medicine and I am not ready to quit that at all. As a rural doctor in Kemptville, I had the opportunity to work in a hospital setting as well. Since I work only in the city, I am now only doing family medicine clinic and teaching family medicine residents. (doctors in training). Family medicine makes me feel like I’m contributing to my community at a different level.
When you first wanted to be a doctor, when did you develop that wanting to heal other people?
When I was a kid. In many photos that I have when I was little, I had Band-Aids all over. I was always playing doctor. I think it was since I was very young. That was almost pre-determined. I don’t have any doctors in my family; I’m the first one. I thought it was so cool having the lab coat and the idea of being a doctor fascinated me.
Did you have children while you were in residency?
I had my children when I was in the process of getting into the Canadian medical system. I was still taking exams and doing interviews when I was expecting my first son. I got in right when I was due. I was told that I got in and I was literally nine months pregnant.
I took maternity leave for one year and then I started my residency at the University of Ottawa. When I finished my residency, I had to start working in Kemptville and that first year is when I had my daughter.
Photo Credit : @tiamacpherson35
Do you believe it’s possible to do both at the same time?
You can. You can do everything you want if you have the support. I have done many things in my career. For example, for eight years I was part of the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care. I helped to develop guidelines for prevention like screening for breast cancer with mammograms, pap tests etc. I was the Vice-chair of that Committee for 2 years. It was on a volunteer basis. On top of that, I had my family medicine practice and my family.
How have you managed to balance everything today?
I make a schedule. That’s the only way we can do it. We have to be super organized. For kids activities and school, now they’re at home doing school. You have to block time off and see if it fits. I know myself very well, and if I feel like I am tipping over when you feel like you’re just doing too much, I take a break. I take an afternoon off and start thinking about what I need to cut back on and what I need to modify. I’m constantly sensing if I am overdoing it, then I back off and adjust.
Do you also take off e-mails and your phone at a certain time? Do you have certain rituals like weekends with your kids?
Yes. It’s important, the organization of the schedule and trying not to go too much off of it, and taking time off for yourself, doing things that are fun, incorporating those things during the day. Otherwise, you can get depressed or anxious. You have no idea how easy it is to tip over. Everything is good then all of a sudden everything is not. It’s like that. It’s super important to be in tune with that feeling is coming. You have to be very aware. You can’t just not listen to your body or that instinct that tells you you’ve had enough.
What inspires you to keep going now and to develop this new practice?
I think it’s the feeling of independence. Throughout my career I was relying on others opinions, you know , always checking in, “is what I do okay?” Always asking for approval somehow. It’s like going back to your mom and dad telling you that it’s okay what you’re doing. I reached a point where I feel like I know what I’m doing and I don’t need to ask for permission, and this is the time where I can take off and I feel confident and I feel that what I do is good quality and people like it. I have good reception, good feedback, it’s all good.
When did that happen where you stopped asking for permission?
It was a very slow process of knowing that I wanted to do this. There was a lot of back and forth in my mind, “Is this something I really want to do in the long term?” There was a lot of thinking and processing to see if it’s a career that I wanted to do. The opportunities started coming to me. I gained confidence and experience over time. Then, I realized that it was time for me to be on my own, be myself.
It’s almost like [women] are not allowed to go into the world and be ourselves and be independent and make mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes, that’s how you learn. I post things on Instagram and sometimes they don’t take. I learn from that. Sometimes I post something I don’t even think about it and it’s a boom. That’s how you learn what are the things that work and don’t work. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re never going to learn anything.
What advice would you give a doctor who hasn‘t yet opened a clinic who wants to go in that direction?
I think you should do it. You should take the leap of faith and just have a plan. I sat down with my husband who’s a health economist, and we made a business plan. We thought about everything that we wanted the business to look like, the mission, every detail of it. Once you have a plan, it’s easier to implement. There is a stage of gathering information and financial information, where? How? Name? Mission? You have to get it all planned out before you jump. And then jump. Do it. The reward is great.
What is a big goal you would like to achieve in the next five years professionally?
To keep growing. I’m super open to what the future brings. I don’t have a very rigid goal. I found a place in Wellington Village (Ottawa) that I will move in the next year (hopefully) to settle as a small boutique spa. By the end of the year, I will hopefully have an aesthetician and offer more services. I want to make it a unique place in Ottawa that is more intimate and personalized.
Book your consultation to get services done by Dr.Gabriela Lewin here.
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Cover Photo Credit : @tiamacpherson35
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