Combining art and science in a medical practice

Dr. Andrew Dargie works in emergency medicine and medical aesthetics

  • Jan. 27, 2020 8:30 a.m.

– Words by Kathy Michaels Photographs by Phil McLachlan

“My life has been simple — run fast, turn left,” Dr. Andrew Dargie said over coffee one day in late fall, offering up one last thought on his work in the Okanagan and the path he took to get here.

It was an endearing understatement from someone who is clearly more comfortable with taking on big tasks than boasting about how he completed them. As a former All-American sprinter who earned a full-ride scholarship at Stanford University, speed is certainly one of the defining points of Andrew’s life. He competed for Team Canada numerous times, turning left over and over again as he rounded a track with some of the fastest people on the planet.

“Simple,” however, is where the sports metaphor falls apart.

For all his athletic abilities, academics were a priority for Andrew, who, after Stanford, obtained his medical doctor designation from the University of Calgary. In a newspaper article about him from that time in his life, a third dimension of his personality became clear. He is a compassionate individual. During medical school he found time to take on a meaningful volunteer commitment with the school’s aboriginal health program. For this work he was awarded the Canadian Student Athlete Community Service Award.

His next step was entering vascular surgery residency in Manitoba.

Ultimately, he said, “I realized that I loved acute care medicine, but I didn’t love the operating room. So I transferred residency programs and obtained my CCFP designation and moved to the Okanagan.”

Since arriving, he’s worked as an emergency room physician at Penticton Regional Hospital as well as South Okanagan General Hospital. At the latter location, he is the department head of Emergency Medicine.

While in the Okanagan, Andrew took on another passion and is bringing to it the same focus and dedication he has for everything else. This passion is medical aesthetics. In addition to his ER work, he now practises advanced medical aesthetics in both Kelowna and Vernon.

“I decided I love performing procedures and found something to help balance working in emergency,” he said. “It’s personally satisfying. I’m able to offer procedures that are a blend of art and science and people are appreciative and happy.”

It’s an interesting time in a rapidly expanding industry. Not so long ago, cosmetic surgery was the clear-cut facial rejuvenation strategy.

This can be a definitive solution to reduce the signs of aging, albeit an invasive, sometimes painful experience typically reserved for the socially elite and requiring significant down time for recovery.

Now, more people are seeking anti-aging services that are less invasive, have less down time and are more affordable. Just a few facial rejuvenation techniques that Andrew offers are botox, dysport, fillers and platelet-rich plasma injections. The clinics he works at offer lasers, CoolSculpting, microdermabrasions and chemical peels, amongst numerous other procedures and skin-care treatments.

While minimally invasive rejuvenation procedures are in high demand, the relative newness of the industry has created some issues and it is not as closely regulated as it perhaps should be. This was made plain in recent months as a non-medical civilian in the Vancouver area passed herself off as a doctor and injected dermal fillers into countless unwitting clients at a spa. She used an altered photocopy of a College Certificate of Licensure to convince medical suppliers that she had a medical licence and was certified to practise in British Columbia. In any other field of medicine it would sound ludicrous, but that it happened at all lays bare the fact that checks and balances are lacking.

That’s something Andrew worries about. And this is why he founded Aesthetics Training Canada, which offers “the botox course” and “the filler course.”

“Ensuring medical professionals are properly trained is of the utmost importance. There are people injecting without any formal training in facial anatomy or rejuvenation. I said, how can I change this and provide a safe and standardized way for medical professionals to expand their scope of practice to include medical aesthetics?” That was the impetus for offering these new comprehensive courses.

There are also clear gaps in proper medical care.

“We have patients come in who have been getting procedures elsewhere for years, and when I go to take them through the consent process, they say, ‘Wait, there are risks with these procedures? I was told there were zero risks,’” Andrew said. “This shocks me. That’s not proper medicine and it really bothers me. Some people think about patients in terms of syringes or units. Or some prioritize how fast they can get a patient in and out of the door. This type of practice doesn’t warn patients that there are, in fact, risks to consider.”

To start creating the change he wants to see in the industry, each of Andrew’s treatment rooms has anatomy cards so he can take patients through what he’s doing, what the risks are and how they can be mitigated.

“There are all sorts of things we can do to optimize patient care,” he said. “If I’m in emergency, whether it’s something as simple as cutting out a mole, or something more complicated like a cardioversion, we always take people through the risks and benefits, and it should be no different in medical aesthetics. Patients must consent and they must be educated that these are not completely harmless procedures and should be performed by experienced medical professionals only.”

Adverse events can occur and these can be devastating, Andrew said. The results of shoddy, haphazardly conducted work can be disfiguring or worse — even blinding — and he wants to prevent this.

He also wants to bring back a more natural look.

“People that come to see me get full transparency, and a natural look,” he said.

The day before the interview, Andrew said he had turned away four patients who had come in seeking lip filler treatment.

He’d told them, “I think your lips are already full enough and we want you to look natural.”

“They may go down the street and get that duck lip. But our patients aren’t getting that. They’re going to get an honest and fair assessment and can expect a refreshed, natural look.”

Interestingly, the four who were turned away were receptive to feedback and appreciated hearing his honest and clear communication.

Andrew has accomplished a lot in his life and is bound to take on more. What makes him different than others, however, is that he makes things look easy. He has a light and pleasant demeanour that puts people speaking to him at ease. If you didn’t know better, it would be possible to believe that he did have a simple life, remarkable only by his ability to go fast and turn left.

More info at www.drdargie.com

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

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