Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan Redefines The Term ‘Dermatology Clinic’ With ODE

Where luxurious spa meets skin clinic.

Melbourne has a new skin destination; ODE Dermatology has officially opened its doors after a few lockdown-induced postponements, ready to welcome clients. In fact, the dermatology clinic has so rapidly grown its following, mainly due to word of mouth referrals, that it is booked out weeks in advance, I learn as I chat to founder Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan and clinic manager Lexus Lian.

“The vision that I had was very strong. Having worked in dermatology for 15 years, I knew what I wanted and what I don’t want. But it was stressful. Things like getting the electrical upgrade to operate 12 lasers, we pretty much had to pay for the whole street to get upgraded,” Dr Gunatheesan tells me.

Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan

“Thankfully lockdown didn’t really affect the medical side of our business, and ODE is very much medical. My vision is: Healthy skin is beautiful skin.”

ODE is the first transformative dermatology practice of its kind in Australia to offer patients holistic, bespoke treatment solutions for wide-ranging dermatological conditions, as well as body treatments all wrapped up in a luxurious, high-end experience.

“We don’t want ODE to be classified as another cosmetic or aesthetic clinic,” says Lian. “Where we find our niche is that we are a medical clinic, but we didn’t want our clients to have a ‘medical experience’.”

“We treat medical conditions and are very much a tertiary referral centre for a lot of dermatologists, so I see everything from a man coming in with a rash on his penis to a little girl who’s got warts, and then a lady for a skin check – it’s that variety that I like,” says Dr Gunatheesan.

So what exactly differentiates the client experience?

“95% of our patients come in because of a medical condition, and once we’ve treated that, we can introduce them to the aesthetic treatments, and we want to make that disruptive shift within the medical industry, so instead of saying ‘receptionist’, we use the word ‘concierge’, and instead of ‘waiting room’, we use the word ‘decompression lounge’,” Lian explains.

“The air is filled with this unique blend of essential citrus oils that have a relaxing effect. When you walk into the decompression lounge, which is at the heart of the building, it’s like a serene enclave – no TV, no water cooler, just fresh flowers, beautiful furniture, and a hanging garden and dim lighting, so you feel like you’re immersed in the garden, which is growing every day.

ODE stocks Rationale skincare

“We offer patients a glass of collagen water, and, coming from a luxury hotel background, it’s that experience we bring to ODE in the way we speak to patients, the way we move them across the building, and the way we conduct ourselves on the phones and in e-mails. Also, our specialist appointments are 20 minutes instead of 15, to increase the consult time spent with the patient – no one else does that. It’s important because we want to provide all the information the patients need and we also go into the holistic angle of treatment, like their sleep, diet, supplementation,” Lian elaborates.

“Something that’s really taken off is our Signature Hair Protocol, where Dr Shyamalar injects pure growth factors into the scalp to stimulate the follicles – with great success, and bookings for that are coming in left right and centre.”

Empowering patients holistically

For Dr Gunatheesan, it’s all about treating holistically. “I’m obsessed with the gut-skin health link, so I will treat a medical condition, but I will also encourage my patients to maybe try intermittent fasting or MCT oil, so then as I wean them off the drugs, they are empowered to maintain their skin health,” she says.

“But we’re not charging more than what you would have paid in my previous practice, this is just the way [a dermatology appointment] should be,” she concludes.

The decompression lounge at ODE

In terms of treatment offering and devices, Dr Gunatheesan says she only wants the best on the market and cares about results over cost.

“ODE is about every part of aesthetics – face and body. So we’ve got the Sciton BBL and Halo platform, the 1064 ClearSilk and ClearV, we’ve got the Pico, we’ve got the Ultraformer – so every kind of facial concern can be addressed. And for the body, we’ve got the BTL EmTone for cellulite, and the EmSculpt Neo for fat melting and muscle stimulation. And with all our body protocols, we layer them with an LED treatments on the LightStim bed,” Dr Gunatheesan explains.

And while this list of devices is undoubtedly comprehensive and impressive, “it’s important not to sell a specific brand,” Lian says, “because that’s when patients start to shop around for lower prices, but we sell the treatment protocol and right combination of treatments.”

When I ask Dr Gunatheesan if, looking back, she would do anything differently, she says she wishes she had opened ODE two years earlier instead of waiting for ‘the right time’. Not a bad regret to have.

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