Leadership in Facial Plastic Surgery with Dr. Kay Durairaj

October 18, 2023

In this episode, we are joined by facial plastic surgeon Kay Durairaj, MD. Dr. Kay, also known as the “Facial Artist to the TikTok Stars”, used the power of social media and has become one of the key faces in aesthetics. Join us as she shares what it takes to lead in this industry, the role of creativity in her practice, and how to maximize a team’s talents for the best results. 

Listen to the full episode using the player below, or by visiting one of the links below. Below is the episode’s transcript which has been edited for readability. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, email us at info@byrdadatto.com.


Intro: Welcome to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. Legal issues simplified through real client stories and real world experiences, creating simplicity in 3, 2, 1.

Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto, with my co-host, Michael Byrd.

Michael: As a business and health care law firm, we represent clients in multiple business sectors, Brad, especially health care. This season, we are finding common ground for our audience, regardless of your background, our theme is Leadership, where each episode we’ll talk about leadership from a different perspective.

Brad: Awesome, Michael. Hey, Michael, how do I look today?

Michael: You look dashing, Brad.

Brad: Thank you. I’m trying to look good. We have a super famous person on our show, and I need to look sharp and really bring my A game today.

Michael: You do realize, Brad, that our guest can hear and see you right now. And by the way, you asking me [00:01:00] if you look good in front of our guests, kind of reminds me of when my kids would ask if they could have a friend sleepover while their friend is standing right there next to them. I don’t really feel like I could give you the answer you really deserve.

Brad: Good point. So, I hear I look good, but I really do need to bring my A game.

Michael: I’m not sure if that’s possible, but for the benefit of today’s guest, I will be nicer than usual to you.

Brad: Thanks. And before we bring on today’s guest, I will try and sound more mature discussing. Maybe on even a more, a very mature topic.

Michael: I’m really afraid to ask you what you think is a more mature topic, but go for it.

Brad: Okay. If we discuss wine, does that make me seem more mature?

Michael: Well, I’ve known you really well Brad, probably more than most, and which can be scary sometimes. And I know that you are impressed with the packaging of boxed wine, but you do not sound more mature when you talk about how you don’t have to mess with the cork to pour a glass.

Brad: [00:02:00] Okay. Thanks for the tip. I will no longer be wowed by the image of the boxed wine. And Michael, I know you don’t drink anymore, but when you did drink, did you even have a favorite type of wine?

Michael: I was never much of a wine person. I was more beer, as you know. As I shared, I worked for Miller in college, which was a dangerous combination. It was a dream job at the time. I guess I would drink, well, I would say this, I had a preference for Hall Wines because that’s where my wife is the general counsel for that company. Yeah. so that would be what I used to drink. I know your favorite bottle of wine is anything from Caymus.

Brad: Yes, that is correct. I do love me a good red wine. And Michael, did you ever do some type of wine tasting class?

Michael: Man, talk about not looking good, that would be me on that. I have been to several wine tasting events and as I mentioned with my wife being general counsel for Hall. [00:03:00] And I definitely felt the imposter syndrome when I would sit there because they would ask me to smell a flavor and I could never smell it. They would ask me to taste some certain taste, I could never taste it. I’d just pretended.

Brad: Okay. Well, I’ve actually done this more than once because I need a lot of practice and I did learn some helpful hints about drinking wine.

Michael: Okay. Is that stop using a straw when you drink wine?

Brad: That was one of them also, no umbrella in your glass of wine. That was again, a good, helpful hint. But besides that, I did understand like how to Aerate the wine or why a wine glass has a stem, or why the top of a good wine glass is very thin and how to breathe in the wine.

Michael: In other words, you’re trying to act like a sommelier today for our guests. You’re just trying to show off.

Brad: Yes, is it working?

Michael: Doubtful. I’ve been around you long enough to know that you’re no wine expert. Well, other than you like it. [00:04:00]

Brad: Okay, that’s a fair point.

Michael: That might make you an expert.

Brad: Okay. Well, before we walked in today, I was reading one of the saddest stories I’ve read in a long time.

Michael: Earthquake, hurricane, natural disaster. What are we talking?

Brad: It’s pretty much on the same level. It’s the French in me just is so upset. France is destroying 80 million gallons of wine, Michael.

Michael: Why did it go bad?

Brad: No. Apparently France had made some poor choices and produced more wine than they actually needed. Officials said that they have this lingering pandemic hangover. There’s a war in Ukraine. There’s inflation causing the price to go up, and consumption just basically is falling all over Europe. And with the surplus and the tanking prices, France will spend 216 million to demolish almost 80 million gallons of wine.

Michael: That’s crazy. They should just ship it to your hometown of New Orleans. I’m sure they [00:05:00] could put that to good use pretty quickly.

Brad: That’s a great paint. You know what? I think I should fly to France after today’s show and maybe negotiate on behalf of New Orleans. And Michael, what’s even more upsetting when I was reading the article is, instead of just shipping to New Orleans like you suggested, the leftover alcohol will be repurposed into hand sanitizer. I mean, that is horrible.

Michael: Oh, wow.

Brad: Hopefully none of the wine destroyed will be screaming Seagull.

Michael: Brad, you do not have to worry that any screaming seagull was destroyed For two reasons. First, the real wine is called Screaming Eagle. And That is from a vineyard in California. And second, Screaming Seagull is a made up wine that you and our partner Jeff Siegel, try to order every time y’all are together at a restaurant, and it definitely reflects your maturity level.

Brad: So after all this wine talk, I don’t seem more mature?

Michael: Correct. Brad, you do not. [00:06:00] In fact, I think we should move on and just start talking about things other than wine, and you might maybe can redeem yourself.

Brad: Okay.

Michael: Okay. Well, let’s bring on our guest today before she leaves us after listening to our wine talk.

Michael: Today, Brad, we are honored to bring on Dr. Kay. Dr. Kay completed her surgical training at USC and UCLA. She’s a facial plastic surgeon and ENT she specializes in faces, including surgery for eyelids, rhinoplasty, facelift, and neck lift. Her practice is located in Pasadena, California, with the practice known as Beauty by Dr. Kay. She’s the Vice Chairman of the Department of Ear, nose and Throat Surgery at Huntington Memorial Hospital. She serves as an advisor to multiple aesthetic industry organizations such as Mers, Allergan, Evolus, Proline, and Galderma. She’s a prolific speaker and educator who we’ve had the pleasure [00:07:00] of being connected with on the speaking circuit. Dr. Kay has a podcast with over 500 episodes, “Beauty Bites, with Dr. Kay: Secrets of a Plastic Surgeon”. She has an Instagram following of over 350,000, which Brad, if I’m keeping score, that’s about 350,000 more than you. Is that right? She has a TikTok following, TikTok, Brad, is not a clock. It’s a social media platform that’s pretty popular of almost 400,000 followers. So we have a giant in the industry here today, and we’re so excited. Dr. Kay, welcome.

Dr. Kay: Thank you so much for having me, guys. I loved the wine talk. I think we should go out and have some wine and you can teach me some of those tips.

Brad: I like that. So, do you have a favorite glass of wine then?

Dr. Kay: Well, you know what, my family has a little winery in Temecula. It’s called Emerald Creek Wine. Wow. So I’m going to have to bring you both a bottle.[00:08:00] I’m a fan of a good red, just, I have a husband who’s a cardiologist, so heart health and the resveratrol that’s in the red wines is really one of the things that keeps you young, the Fountain of Youth.

Brad: I love that.

Michael: It’s fascinating.

Brad: A great answer.

Michael: Yeah. Well, very good. Well, we’re so grateful to have you on. I’d love to start by hearing a little bit about your medical practice.

Dr. Kay: Well, thanks for the great intro. I think it takes 20 years to be an overnight success and to be popular on TikTok and the Gram. And literally, I’ve built my practice on the principles of being very knowledgeable about anatomy and safety and putting the patient experience first. And so, I’m in Los Angeles, California, like headquarters of facial plastic surgery for the world. And I have two locations. One is Pasadena, one in Beverly Hills. We have about 15 staff members, including four or [00:09:00] five people for marketing, a couple nurse injectors, an aesthetician, and just a great team of people. I’ve been very grateful to discover my entrepreneurship because I really think when… I started out doing a lot of medical head and neck surgery, like facial reconstructive surgery, plastic surgery for cancer and trauma patients, and that evolved into aesthetics. And from that came the idea of like all these ideas, any of my hair-brained ideas and schemes have monetary value and worth. And so, starting a skincare line, I have about 20 different skews of skincare, started a podcast, I’ve been teaching an online course for injectors around the world to teach some of my techniques too. So, I’ve loved discovering that entrepreneur side.

Brad: That’s awesome. And this is one of the reasons why we’re so excited to have you on our show this season because we’re really focused in understanding leadership, and [00:10:00] as a leader in the industry, we’d love for you to share some of your thoughts. And so, we’re going to start with a couple questions. So let’s start with the beginning. What was your first leadership position ever?

Dr. Kay: I’ve always created my own leadership position. So like way back in high school, I started a literary journal and made myself the president of that. And like, really just got teachers involved and students involved. That was maybe my very first time where I knew I could start something and lead it.

Brad: That’s awesome.

Michael: That’s amazing. Well, we can relate. We wanted to be leaders, so we started a firm.

Dr. Kay: Right. I think from there, like once you realize that you can inspire, you know, leadership is an everyday challenge. It really is. So when I come to work in the morning, I have to put on my attitude and spirit of being the captain, cheerleader team captain, but also the visionary. Like, I am the pilot of this airplane. Where are we headed? What are our goals? [00:11:00] Who wants to get on board and fly it with me? And so, that’s kind of how I like to put myself in the mindset of projecting what I want people to feel. Make people leave all their life problems at home and come into this place and be creative and be thoughtful and know that your opinion can change the course of the airplane because I really rely on everybody around me to give their great ideas.

Brad: I’m curious, did you see yourself that way kind of in the early years, like high school and college? Did you see that mindset, that leadership mindset in yourself?

Dr. Kay: Not at all. It takes so long to discover that confidence. And I think being a woman is an additional handicap because as a woman, first of all, going into science and medicine, I remember one time my dad took me to meet one of his good friends who is a surgeon. And I was like, oh, yes, Cindy, I’m going to be a surgeon. He is giving me all this great advice. [00:12:00] And then at the end of the conversation about like medicine, he was like, “But you don’t want to be a doctor. You should be a mom. Enjoy your life. Have kids have a good life. Why do you want to be a doctor?” I was like, what? This is the motivation you want. I was so immortally offended and wounded by the fact that he told me like, go enjoy a good life. And now like 20 years into medicine, I realized he was just being so kind. He didn’t want me to have worry about bureaucracy, worry about prior authorizations, worry about HMOs and like the people that are killing health care. But that’s funny because you fight that challenge of the mental stigma of women should do this or that. Then you go into surgery and you’re surrounded by kind of all your professors who are these distinguished, elderly gray haired gentleman. And so, to see yourself as a leader, to compete on that platform, to go to meetings where everybody, the lectures is the same kind of older, distinguished crew, it’s very challenging. [00:13:00]

Brad: I bet. Who did you learn from to become a leader?

Dr. Kay: I definitely have parents who are both doctors. I think seeing them in private practice kind of having to learn how to innovate to run a practice was so that’s motivational and that’s so helpful. And I think that the female role models that motivated me most were – there was a woman surgeon at UCLA had a neck surgery who had four kids, publishing literature, scientific review papers, and like managing everything in her life. And so, seeing another woman capable of doing that, that’s kind of what motivated me.

Brad: That’s awesome. And so from there, we have this great – you have your parents helping you through, mentoring you, you have this other UCLA physician helping you, but unfortunately, we all have had this experience. Was there a time where [00:14:00] you had some really bad or some of the worst leadership experience you’ve ever seen?

Dr. Kay: There is.

Brad: You don’t have to tell names.

Dr. Kay: Definitely not you. You’ve motivated me to run a straight tight ship here. But like looking back at myself as previous versions of leadership, like in the beginning and when you’re barely starting out and you have a small practice and it’s like you and a front desk grill and a back desk person helping you, that’s when your leadership suffers because you’re literally running around like chicken with your head cut off. You barely have time to think and you’re just kind of in survival mode of keeping the practice running and figuring out protocols and things. So that’s where I feel like, you know, that was my worst leadership time trying to – The second worst leadership time would be when Instagram popularity hit our office. And literally, we did not know how to handle the flow of phone calls. Because like when we post a video and you have [00:15:00] 350,000 followers, the phone might ring 50 times in the next one hour. And it’s a lot for a staff to understand. And I feel like we, at the beginning of the social media popularity, we basically had to innovate every single day. Like, we’d get the plane flying, we’d stabilize and figure out a protocol. Okay, we’re going to get all these phone calls, let’s have systems in place, then we’d do a viral video and the plane would be off track again. So, managing in this setting of constant change has been one of our biggest challenges.

Michael: Do you feel like there’s some pattern that happens? Like is it time pressure or emotional stuff that is a trigger when you’re not feeling like you’re performing at your optimum level of leadership?

Dr. Kay: Definitely. I think that I’m always – I’m a mother of four and having like 15 people in the office, three different like major revenue streams with the podcast, a skincare line, [00:16:00] an online course, and then seeing patients and operating’ the stress level can be intense and I really don’t sleep very much. But luckily, I had twins, I didn’t sleep at all for that. And then, just surgical training and whatnot, you kind of learn to really be efficient. I think I definitely have had a lot of stress in terms of being super busy with multiple channels.

Michael: I’ll stop complaining about just having to have Brad as my partner. I mean.

Brad: I was just about to say that. Dang it. I mean, I was trying to be nice to you.

Michael: Okay. Okay.

Dr. Kay: I think that having you two guys work together must be so fun. That’s something that I really enjoy in our office too, is the comradery and like the feeling that we have such a fun daily spirited team effort.

Michael: In all seriousness, and we give each other grief so much, but it is – I can’t [00:17:00] imagine running a business without having somebody to navigate. because to your point, when it gets stressful or when the emotions get high, I mean, you can react and that would be when I too would have my leadership not be what I would want it to be. But having Brad kind of there to work through things is huge.

Brad: I’m happy to be here for you.

Michael: Yes, thank you, Brad.

Dr. Kay: I thin in med spas and aesthetic practices and like small private practices, like that’s an everyday battle because every day has its new challenge of like, it’s okay, today the website went down and tomorrow the credit card processing’s not working. And like, there’s every day a fire drill and something to get in control, you know?

Brad: Well, and you keep talking about, you know, everyone hopping on the plane; when you were talking about make it fun, is that what your leadership style is, is always trying to think about getting someone on the plane, [00:18:00] getting the plane off the ground and putting them in the right seat? Or do you have certain elements that you’re like, no, this is my strengths of my leadership style?

Dr. Kay: I think to be a good leader, you have to really be good at recognizing people’s talents and delegating to them the things that spark their fire, but that also they’re good at, because you can assign work to someone, they can have no talent in it, and they can feel very unfulfilled if every day they can’t hit the mark. So really, to be a good leader, you need to know the person on so many levels, like their technical skills, their emotional mindset, and then where do they fit into that. It’s almost like we’re casting for a TV show. We have to have Jacob, my brilliant brainy assistant who keeps everything running smoothly. We have to have my amazing, you know, skin whisper Connie. Like, I have to think about everybody and their skillset and how they’re going to work together as an intricate puzzle. I think one of the most important parts of leadership [00:19:00] is sitting down, talking to people, understanding their strengths, and really being able to delegate. In this day and age, there’s so much information thrown at everybody, and we have to respond so quickly – digital emails, like we don’t have the luxury of snail mail where things ran at a more human pace and you can deal with, you know, five important tasks for the day. So I also, one of my techniques for great leadership is kind of helping people define what’s important for themselves to get done in a day. I’ll start every morning with the meeting of like, what do you guys have to get done today? What’s your top five priorities? And then we’ll talk about, well, these are my priorities and this is what we need to do for the practice, and then we’ll come up with kind of a happy medium.

Brad: Yeah.

Dr. Kay: Delegating and prioritizing and giving people long-term goals and rewarding success, all of that is really important.

Brad: Awesome. That’s awesome. Well, I’m going to transition a little bit and tap into some of your leadership [00:20:00] in the medical industry. So, I would love just to take a step back and hear some of the areas of concern you think others should be mindful of in kind of our industry and things that are often missed.

Dr. Kay: Well, I think every meeting that I go to, every aesthetic meeting is partly shocking because there’s always new products that are out there on the exhibit floor where people are making the most grandiose claims and there is very minimal scientific evidence backing any of those claims. And then I see the scariest thing is, I see people buying up the products and taking in all the propaganda without much due diligence and investigation of the reality, the law, are they allowed to use this product? And the reality is, scientifically does it work? And so, that is interesting at every meeting.

Michael: Yeah. And I think one of the things this year we’ve been hearing a lot about that [00:21:00] kind of fits that bill is, have you delved into the Semaglutide craze and do you have thoughts on that?

Dr. Kay: I definitely have. I’ve tried to bring so much credibility to those shots because I worked really closely with the cardiologist who does weight loss medicine. And I brought her on my podcast twice, Dr. Danielle Biardo. And she is just very, very much evidence-based. And the idea that these drugs can improve health span and lifespan by 20% increase in survival statistics and improvement of your cardiovascular profile and health. Like, that’s crazy important for Americans to be able to lose weight and become healthy and get off your blood pressure pill, your diabetes pill, you know, all the medicines that we treat with. That’s the key. So I think Semaglutide itself is a great product, and I think the problems that we see in it are coming with people compounding [00:22:00] fake versions of it and not having the ability to prescribe properly, as well as like using it outside of its intended use and just maybe not being enough of a physician and thinking closely about side effects and how to use the drugs. It’s a great product. I just think that like anything, if people overdo it or throw it out there like candy, of course it’s going to get abused.

Michael: Yeah, I totally agree.

Brad: Yeah, it’s a great point. It’s almost going back to what you said earlier about equipment being sold or anything else being sold. If you don’t truly understand the purpose and how it should be used properly, it’s going to hurt everyone in the industry.

Dr. Kay: So true. Like every meeting I go to, I see an Exosome booth now, and don’t hear a single person buying these products, asking the questions of where’s this derived from? You know, how is it processed? How am I allowed to legally use it? Should I be injecting it? [00:23:00] Like, all these questions are there, and yet, of course the companies are not putting it out there. It falls on us, the consumer to make sure we protect our patients and learn about it, read about it, use them right, and maybe there’s law we need to know about it.

Michael: Yeah. Oh, for sure. Well, that’s super interesting. I cannot believe we’ve already gone through our time today. Dr. Kay that was amazing. Thank you so much for joining us. And what we’ll do next is we’ll go into commercial and on the other side, Brad and I, we can do a quick wrap up on any legal insights we have. Dr. Kay, thank you so much.

Dr. Kay: That’s it for now, guys. Stay beautiful.

Brad: Thank you.

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Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host Brad Adatto, with my co-host Michael Byrd. Now Michael, this season, our theme is Leadership. And boy, we had a great leader on today’s episode with Dr. Kay, and she brought up a lot of good points about being a leader, but one of the things I thought was interesting when she was talking about just the industry at large is, it’s great to become friends with these vendors who can talk to you about all these great things that a machine might do to help aging and other things. But you know, that’s just a piece of the puzzle. There’s a lot more that goes into it. And is the machine FDA approved or is the machine something that your medical board would allow you to utilize? So you have to be real careful about just [00:25:00] listening to – nothing wrong with you guys who are selling it like y’all and girls, but it’s a more important question on the medical side.

Michael: And jumping off from there, Brad, you’re deciding to implement this procedure into your practice and no matter what claims are made when you’re talking to the industry reps that obviously believe in whatever that new service is, you as the physician have to hold the standard of care. That’s the medical board’s expectation of you as the physician, and so, you can’t do that without understanding the science behind it. And Dr. Kay was making that point from a professional perspective. And that happens to translate into a legal risk perspective as well as that’s where we see people get themselves in trouble with kind of trying to stay on the bleeding edge of technology and offer the newest and lightest thing.

Brad: I don’t know the word term bleeding is good with aesthetics. [00:26:00]

Michael: Oh well, bleeding.

Brad: Bleeding?

Michael: But no, bleeding is even better than leaning.

Brad: Yeah. All right. Again, I don’t think it feels very aesthetic. Do you have any final thoughts, Michael?

Michael: Well, Brad, I guess I have to be nicer to you this time after you held your end into the bargain with Dr. Kay and didn’t embarrass yourself too much. I was really bracing myself that you were going to break out a box of wine at the end, but you did good.

Brad: Thanks. Well, maturity is, you know, I’m almost 14 now, season-wise with the podcast. Next Wednesday show we’ll continue our quest to learn about great leadership when we have Cathy Christensen, president and COO of AM Spa on our show. Thanks again for joining us today. And remember, if you like this episode, please subscribe, make sure to give us a five star rating and share with your friends.

Michael: You can also sign up for the ByrdAdatto [00:27:00] newsletter by going to our website at byrdadatto.com.

Outro: ByrdAdatto is providing this podcast as a public service. This podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by ByrdAdatto. The views expressed by guests are their own, and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Please consult with an attorney on your legal issues.

ByrdAdatto founding partner Michael Byrd

Michael S. Byrd

ByrdAdatto Founding Partner Bradford E. Adatto

Bradford E. Adatto