The Apprentice is what gave me the ability to realise my dream and to found Dr Leah Clinics. I have been asked the same question repeatedly since appearing on the show: "Why did you want to do The Apprentice?" I hope this blog goes some way to answering that question.
I was 23 when I qualified top of my medical school with a distinction in medicine, which remains my proudest achievement to date. I was already practising as a doctor in a busy London A&E when I applied to be on The Apprentice. With limited business experience at that point and a skill set more suited to an operating theatre than a boardroom, I didn't for one moment imagine that I would actually appear on the show and go on to win it.
My interest in aesthetics started long before I applied to be on the show. I have always been image-conscious - I am a female in her twenties, and I am not ashamed to admit that I care about how I look. Nor am I ashamed to admit that, like most women (and increasingly so men), I too feel pressure to look a certain way. I am not advocating that this societal pressure is correct, but let's not deny that it exists.
The increasing popularity of cosmetic procedures was clear to see, but it was only when a family friend had a botched facial filler procedure that I first realised the issues in the industry. I was still in medical school at the time, and this friend's bad experience was at the hands of a non-medical practitioner, who was not performing in a clinical environment. I was inquisitive by nature, and read way too much on just about everything, so I started researching the sector and was horrified to find that no law had been broken! There was NO regulation regarding where these treatments should be performed, or by whom.
I was appalled, and this fuelled my intrigue in the sector. Upon qualifying, alongside my full-time NHS work (and there is actually no formal training programme for aesthetic medicine), I began what turned out to be two-and-a-half years' training and mentorship in aesthetics. This mentorship will not doubt be life-long - learning is my passion, and I hope I never stop.
The Apprentice itself was harder than I had anticipated. The hours were almost as bad as A&E's and the tasks were tough, but it was the filming aspect of it all that I found particularly difficult. I would love to say how much I enjoyed it all, and there definitely were parts that I loved (namely winning!), but mostly, it was work! Still, I met some wonderful people (who will be lifelong friends) and I got a fantastic business partner and a unique opportunity. So I'll never forget how lucky I am.
When I won, I was overwhelmed with excitement but also realistic about the enormity of the task I now faced. Lord Sugar was incredibly supportive and continues to be so.
As any healthcare worker reading this will know, it is a vocation, so they will also know that it broke my heart to leave my full-time NHS post. But I believe I can make a real change to this industry and create not just a chain of clinics to sell on in the future, but a business that shines a light on the issues in this industry, establishing a standard and forming a brand that will represent a safe haven for people to have cosmetic procedures.
I hope that my personal passion for this industry, my care for my patients and my dedication to excellence come across to everyone who is treated at a Dr Leah clinic.