The distance between New York and southern California can be measured in more than miles for Tony Nakhla, MD.
“New York City is a true metropolis,” says Nakhla, a board certified dermatologist, and dermatologic and cosmetic surgeon based in southern California’s Orange County (www.OCSkinInstitute.com). “There’s really nothing like it; very European-style living. And then you come to southern California, and it’s beautiful in its own right.”
Nakhla did his residency in dermatology at Western University of Health Sciences/Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, Calif., but also spent two years as chief intern at St. Vincent’s Midtown Hospital in New York City. He loves New York — he grew up across the Hudson River in Jersey City — but the self-proclaimed “outdoors guy” found the lure of the Gold Coast State too strong.
“It’s coastal living, and it’s also majestic mountains,” says Nakhla, noting that the location also affords some unique and interesting professional challenges.
Variety of clientele
Nakhla’s practice blankets Orange County from three locations: Laguna, San Clemente, and Santa Ana. He offers VIP cosmetic concierge services to many high-powered executives and professional athletes, as well as some A-list entertainers. Doing so, he says, requires staying on top of the latest and best cosmetic and dermatologic procedures. It also makes his work a very exacting science.
“I have to be really precise; there’s no room for error,” Nakhla explains. “People are paying top dollar, and you’re giving them the highest quality service and care, at their own convenience and comfort — sometimes at their hotel if they’re in town, or in the privacy of their own home.”
But Nakhla doesn’t want to leave the impression that he only caters to ultra-wealthy clientele. He also sees elderly patients with skin cancer for whom he performs reconstructive surgery. And there’s a “back-to-basics” side of his practice that keeps him well grounded.
Doctor of mercy
Nakhla regularly volunteers his time with an organization called Liga International, The Flying Doctors of Mercy, traveling worldwide to provide care for those in need. He’s been to Egypt, Ecuador, Guatemala, and is currently planning a trip to the Philippines. Ask him why, and he’s not at a loss for reasons.
“I grew up in a single-parent home in Jersey City, N.J., in the ghetto, to a non-English speaking family,” he explains. “I have not forgotten my roots. I recognize the fact that there are people out there who are suffering. Lots of times these people who have no access to health care neglect their conditions, and I see extreme versions of conditions that you might only see in a textbook.”
In these foreign settings, Nakhla has removed skin cancers and treated other conditions that could be potentially fatal, in effect saving someone’s life. Once he treated a young girl who had six fingers on each hand, successfully removing the extra digits.
“Sometimes you’re operating in the jungle under conditions of duress,” Nakhla says. “It’s really an amazing thing to be able to do. There’s really no experience to compare to that. And, coupled with the fact that I do have an adventurous spirit, I get to experience amazing cultures that I probably never would have been able to. But most importantly, you get to improve someone’s quality of life.”
Back to nature
Nakhla says he’s a fitness enthusiast, and in southern California, especially in the Laguna area, he has access to beautiful ocean front vistas as well as mountain hiking and biking trails.
“I hike several times a week,” he says. “I also like to surf and do water sports, and snowboard in the winter. In southern California, I can do a little of both.”
But his focus always returns to his craft and his patients. It’s why he recently published The Skin Commandments: 10 Rules to Healthy, Beautiful Skin (Reedy Press).
“I wanted to offer people their own skin care and health and wellness manual,” Nakhla says. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. A lot of celebrities are launching their own skin care lines and all sorts of magic facial brushes. A lot of stuff out there is absolute nonsense, and people are wasting a lot of money on it.”
Nakhla also hopes to increase patient’s awareness of the importance of their own skin care. He recalls a 32-year-old female patient, a fair-haired mother of three, who came to his office for removal of a tattoo. While the woman was obsessed with the tattoo removal, Nakhla focused instead on a black mole right next to the tattoo.
“She ended up having level 4 melanoma, having to undergo chemotherapy, and she almost died,” Nakhla says. “She feels forever grateful that she came to me and I was able to save her life. It was a great moment for me in my career, to know that you can really make a difference in someone’s life.”