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Women in Aesthetics

Nicole Kanaris, MD: Navigating the Path to Aesthetics

Article-Nicole Kanaris, MD: Navigating the Path to Aesthetics

For as long as Nicole Kanaris, MD, can remember, she wanted to be a doctor. “At the end of school, I remember my classmates feeling so unsure of what they wanted to study next,” she said. “For me, it was always medicine.”

Compared to her peers, Dr. Kanaris could see her path forward clearly, but she soon had to take an unexpected detour. Due to changes that affected the university’s admittance policies, Dr. Kanaris was not accepted to medical school straight away. She chose to enroll in a program to obtain her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and did one year before applying to medical school a second time. “Being a type-A personality, this was a hard pill to swallow,” she admitted. “It was the first time in my life that I had to face something that was completely out of my control.”


This was not the only detour Dr. Kanaris took as she pursued a career in medicine. While she currently owns and operates two clinics in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she practices aesthetics, Dr. Kanaris originally dreamt of being a trauma surgeon. “I completed community service at Johannesburg General Hospital when I was 16 years old, and – even then – I wanted to be in the trauma unit,” she said. “But due to regulations, I was only allowed to work in casualty and maternity. I still remember standing at the red line, looking over into the trauma unit and wishing they would let me in.

“I have always wanted to help people,” she added. “I used to make my parents stop when we drove by an accident so we could try to help. I got such an adrenalin rush from being in the thick of the action!”

Her love of trauma care ended when, during her medical education and training, Dr. Kanaris experienced two finger prick incidences. “The first finger prick happened during my fifth year of medicine,” she said. “I had to start antiretrovirals due to the risk of HIV – something many South African doctors experience.”

“Then, during my first call as a surgical intern, I had to suture a 22-year-old woman who had been stabbed over 20 times in the head by her boyfriend,” she explained. “The ward was dark. I only had the bed side lamp for light as I began suturing her. That is when I pricked myself again. And from that moment on, I avoided treating traumatic injuries.”

The Path to Aesthetics

A difficult time in her life led Dr. Kanaris to discover her passion for aesthetics. “I was struggling to become pregnant and keep the pregnancy,” she shared. “I took time off after completing my internship and community service to focus on growing my family. During that time off, a couple of my mom’s friends asked me to take a course in neurotoxin injections so I could treat them. That was my first taste of aesthetic medicine – and I loved it!”

DrKanaris and her family.PNG

Dr. Kanaris also has a passion for sharing her expertise in aesthetics with other physicians. She runs a mentorship program – the first of its kind in South Africa – which offers comprehensive aesthetic training to doctors who are new to the field. “I really love teaching,” she said. “My students spend six months by my side learning everything I know about aesthetics. Then, at the end of the program, they have a chance to join the clinic.”

Finding Her Footing

In addition to being a business owner and physician, Dr. Kanaris is also a wife to a loving husband of 17 years and the mother of 11-year-old twin boys. But running two practices, a mentorship program and a household has not been easy. “It can be incredibly difficult,” she noted. “If I am not at work, I feel that I should be with my kids, and vice versa.”

Early in her career, Dr. Kanaris would set her own schedule so that she worked when her children were at school. Then, at the end of the school day, she would pick up her kids and spend the afternoon with them. However, Dr. Kanaris found that this was not sustainable.

“Only recently have I put my foot down and made a point to take time for myself while my boys are at school,” she shared. “If I did not, I would have no time to exercise or do things I enjoy.”

“So, on Thursday, I take the day off; I play padel, paint and spend time with friends before fetching my kids from school,” Dr. Kanaris added.

Her husband also takes an active role in the family, and shares parenting and household tasks. “I am very blessed to have an incredibly supportive spouse. He is flexible with his time and is a very hands-on father,” she shared.

Good to know DrKanaris.PNG

Dr. Kanaris believes that a happy life is one that is balanced and encourages her colleagues to make time for themselves. “We are often encouraged to push ourselves and do more, but it is exhausting, and you get burnt out,” she explained. “Carve out time for yourself. Having time for yourself will make you a better doctor, mother and wife.”

The Path Forward

When envisioning the future of aesthetic medicine, Dr. Kanaris sees many challenges ahead. “The field is growing and attracting more and more practitioners. Stiffer competition, in addition to stricter rules and regulations, could make it harder for practitioners to enter the field and build their business,” she said. “On the other hand, raising the bar will also make aesthetic procedures safer for patients by ensuring that providers have the proper medical background to perform aesthetic procedures.

“Practitioners will also need to stay up to date with the latest technologies so they can provide cutting-edge care for their patients,” Dr. Kanaris continued. “This requires significant investments in time, education and money.”

Above all, Dr. Kanaris believes that the new generation of aesthetic practitioners must be adaptable. “The landscape is becoming increasingly complex and competitive,” she explained. “They will need to learn to navigate it if they want to succeed.”

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