After years of practising medicine, Dr Liza Osagie-Clouard knows a thing or two about providing the care our bodies often desperately need, but more than anything, she believes that health care should be personal, discreet and delivered always with an individual’s specific needs in mind. Oftentimes, race, cultural backgrounds and education are factors that affect the way we, as a society, approach our health issues and this is something the senior clinical lecturer understands very well.
It’s for this reason she founded Solice Health, a bespoke concierge medical service that challenges society’s ideas of what ideal healthcare provision should look like. SCHICK chats with the award-winning orthopaedic surgeon about the unique members-only service, how modern medicine is evolving and what ‘wellness’ really means.
Why did you decide to practice orthopaedic medicine?
Orthopaedic surgery is such an honest form of medicine. Relieving pain and returning function is its core. I did not come from a long line of medical doctors, but it was clear from an early age, and throughout medical school, the huge role a doctor plays in the life of their patient. They act as a truly trusted advocate, be it your GP or your orthopaedic surgeon and when practised perfectly, medicine has the power to truly restore health.
When did you first realise there was a gap in the beauty market that Solice could fill?
Solice was created simply to understand. Providing a medical service that delivers the very best, specific to each client. Too often patients are pigeonholed and treated neither holistically nor uniquely; instead, doctors will treat the symptom they hear without truly listening. Solice tailors every aspect of our clients’ health – delivering the best for them as an individual.
One of the first things we realised our patients needed was expediency. Many of them are busy or in London for short periods of time and are only able to have consultations at odd hours, and so we ensure we facilitate this every time. In combination, privacy and discretion are key when caring for them; nobody wants to be seen walking into a plastic surgeons clinic or in the waiting room at a cancer centre.
One of the things the business prides itself in is catering to the needs of minority groups in the UK, where “cultural differences mean they have not expressed their pain and needs in the same way.” Can you elaborate on this?
Many of our clients grew up outside of the UK where cultural differences are greater than one might imagine. Oftentimes, the way a person learns to express their needs and symptoms is very different from the “average patient.” If the doctor does not recognise this difference, the subtle cues are missed and so, easily, mistakes and misdiagnosis can occur. Sadly, this is inherent in medical training and translates to the consultation room.
Regardless of affluence and education, one’s initial presentation, from a visual perspective, tends to incite stereotypes and conclusion. This is the case based on race, gender-even age, and can lead often to delays in treatment, but also complete dissatisfaction. Ultimately, our members are assured time and more importantly, are listened to, not simply heard.
Specifically, in what ways have you seen these cultural differences and biases affect Black women, as it pertains to their health?
Nigerians, for example, will often not seek medical help until their pain is chronic, our culture dictates we “manage” the pain instead of complaining. This then affects even the descriptive words we use when telling a doctor what our pain is like, often making it sound less severe than it really is.
This is most plainly seen in the statistics surrounding maternal mortality in Black communities, and the lower amount of analgesia prescribed to Black patients in accident and emergency compared to white counterparts. This data is regardless of socioeconomic background and so profoundly shows some of the inherent bias still prevalent in medicine and healthcare. Furthermore, there is a knowledge gap when it comes to caring for Black bodies. Even the most celebrated dermatologist may have little knowledge of Black skin. For instance, the number of times clients have been told they don’t need sunscreen, or their hyperpigmentation is simply part of life, is immeasurable.
Simply put, there are differences between races and genders that require different approaches; not lesser, but comparable and specific.
Regarding the structure of the business, why did you decide to create a members-only service?
Solice is bespoke. In order for us to truly be tailored to our patients, we get to know them and their families, we are integral to their wellbeing and their health is our primary concern. The better we understand the individual, the better service we can provide, often even preempting their requests before they have made them, noticing subtle changes and picking them up before it becomes a problem. A membership structure keeps us small and caps our numbers allowing us to really ensure an unrivalled level of service.
What do you say to critics who condemn controversial beauty treatments such as Botox, fillers and the like – services which you provide?
Our personal ethos means we will not always direct you to the most Instagram-famous surgeon, but instead will take the time to find the surgeon and doctor who really understands what the individual wants. Many of these treatments are not medically controversial when done by the best but hold a social stigma. For us, there is no controversy in using simple procedures to improve aesthetics and self-esteem.
We are luckily placed to form honest relationships with our clients, and thus be able to really understand what they want and to an extent why. I will often have members request a facelift when simple less invasive treatments will give the desired effects.
Within the last few years, ‘wellness’ became of one the biggest buzzwords, but in your own words, what does it mean?
For us, wellness is the journey of not simply living, but thriving. All too often, medicine is separated from traditional and complementary therapies, in the same way that physical health is seen separate to mental wellbeing. Solice firmly believes no treatment is ever “alternative,” but instead we term everything complementary. Your migraine medication should be supported with complementary nutritional advice; your fibroids surgery, with complimentary massage and vitamin support.
By being a boutique service, we can piece together the puzzle that is our clients’ wellbeing, drawing on their environmental factors, stress levels, diet and lifestyle, as well as relying on conventional investigations and treatments to really support their journey to the best health possible.
How would you say consumer habits are changing in regards to overall health and wellness?
Generally, we are much more aware of health and wellness than any generation before us and are inclined to take it more seriously. People are normalising talking about health and healthy practices and this makes our job easier because it makes clients more receptive to understanding when we make suggestions. Now when we suggest to a man taking up yoga as a stress reliever, he is less likely to think of it as something “girly,” or when we stress to our clients the importance of vitamin D supplementation, they no longer see it as a fad.
As socially norms shift towards being more liberated, and education on healthcare and mental health are more commonplace, people are more self-aware and willing to really explore and nurture their health.
In what ways would you like to see modern medicine evolve in the next few years?
The current pandemic has really forced us to looks closely at our health as individuals, and also of the family around us. The speed with which healthcare had to react to Covid – be it with testing and now vaccinations – has set the tone for modern medicine to be adaptable, and even more so-personal.
In three words, how would you describe the quality of care Solice provides?
Put simply, our service is unrivalled, unparalleled and unmatched.