Born in Zanzibar, Africa, and raised in Uganda, Dr. Riyaz Hassanali migrated to New York with his family when he was near the end of primary school. He moved to Buffalo, NY to attend Buffalo School of Medicine in 1982, where he remained for his internship and his residency in dermatology at University of Buffalo Consortium Hospitals. He then moved to Minneapolis, MN to do a fellowship in cosmetic surgery with Thomas Alt, M.D. In 1992 he moved back to Buffalo to open his own practice.
Dr. Hassanali, world renowned surgeon and father of two, received an award from the White House in recognition of the work he did in Bosnia and the mayor’s award in Buffalo, the Congressmen’s Award, for the charitable work he has done overseas.
In his spare time, Dr. Hassanali enjoys painting, sculpting, and gardening when the weather is good.
Dr. Riyaz Hassanali has been at his practice for 27 years working exclusively with cosmetic surgery.
How did you get started in this career path? What inspired you?
The decision to go into medicine came at a very young age, I must have been six or seven years old. I would watch my uncle, a physician in Uganda. I’d make rounds with him at the hospital and go with him to vaccinate people in the villages. I admired how much respect he received and that he was helping people, something I also enjoyed doing, so I felt it was my calling.
Specializing in cosmetic surgery resulted from my interest in medicine combined with my creative side. I had no idea there was such a field where you could be creative at the same time, only now your canvas is the human body. So, it came as a natural fit for me to go into this field and open my own practice.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Yes and no. When I first started out, I was in practice with a plastic surgeon. So, in the beginning, there was always the fear of, “will I get patients?” But within a year I was beginning to establish myself and I became busy very rapidly.
How did you get your first customer?
One of my first customers, I remember, came in for a hair transplant. He played for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and since has become one of my best friends. He even played at my wedding. In this industry you never know who you will get to work on and the relationships you’ll build.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Social media has played a large role in generating new business, as well as keeping up with the latest cosmetic procedures. But I have always believed that the best way of generating new business is by word of mouth.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Realizing that technology is becoming a necessary tool for gaining new patients. I used to believe that I’ll get patients if I treat them well, but nowadays that’s not enough. People are going to social media and online to gain access to me and that’s been a challenging transition for me. I just assumed that at my age I didn’t need to do that.
What do you think it is that makes you a successful cosmetic surgeon?
Being at the cutting edge of my field, doing good work, and being honest with my patients. And also making it as affordable as possible for the patients. All of these things have led me to become a renowned surgeon in my field.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
When a patient comes back and brings me a homemade pie or baked goods or something to thank me for helping them feel better about themselves.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
The future is becoming very competitive, to be honest. A lot more people are entering or wanting to enter this field, some skilled and some not as skilled. With more people becoming cosmetic surgeons, there are fewer clients for the rest of us. So, I’m not too optimistic about the future, but I will continue to stay on the cutting edge of science and offer optimal care.
How have you noticed technology is affecting your current practice?
When I started out my practice, there was no laser treatments or technology used to achieve the results we are seeing today. The laser has played a huge part in my field. But the problem is everything six months there’s a new machine or device that’s supposed to be better than the previous one, so some of it is really questionable whether or not they’re meeting their expectations. I’m very cautious about adopting new technology into my office when something else is working and is shown to be beneficial.
The other thing is I’m very cost conscious for my patient. I don’t want them to think that they have to rob the bank to achieve this. I’m extremely cautious about adopting new technology without seeing long-term benefits with these machines and devices.
What is the best thing about your current job?
I have a boutique-type practice, so I don’t have a large-volume practice. I have the opportunity to get to know my patients on a personal level and they get to know me. The way my office is designed, every patient that comes in sees me rather than another staff member who would be doing the procedure. I’m very much hands-on and that’s the kind of practice I’d like to maintain, and that to me is the best part of my job.