Meet Dr. Shehla of Afterglow
MEET SHEHLA. When Dr. Shehla Ebrahim came to Canada as a young medical graduate, the hurdles seemed overwhelming. Since then, Dr. Ebrahim has become a leading physician, entrepreneur and founder of Afterglow Physician Directed Medical Aesthetics and Ambleside Dermedics Health Centre, two award-winning medi-spas on the North Shore. She shares her thoughts on encouraging women in business and using her skills and energy to help improve the lives of others.
Q: What’s important to you about giving back to the community?
One of my passions is helping women in business because I know how difficult it can be. I came from Pakistan in the late 80’s as an immigrant with no money in my pocket. There were many hurdles and hardships that I had to overcome and so I feel like if I can do it, anyone can.
Q: What was it like for you when you started out?
At the time, they were not really accepting foreign medical graduates so I had to do some retraining. I went down to St. Paul's Hospital and was able to get a position working there for free to get the experience. I was also going through some personal challenges with a painful separation and difficult divorce. And I remember many times when I used to walk on Burrard Street, you know, just walk, I didn't have a car, and say to myself, "One day I'm going to walk through those doors of that hospital wearing my white coat, my silk cream blouse, my brown checkered pants, my suede shoes … and I will walk into that hospital as an intern."
Q: You had a really clear vision.
Yes, I had a clear vision. And that's exactly what happened. It was a defining moment for me because I thought, OK, you know what, you can manifest anything in your life if you really want to do something. Realizing that was what helped me keep going and eventually overcome the family court issues … and ultimately move forward towards creating a business that would help women thrive.
Because of those experiences I have a very profound appreciation for life. I'm so grateful because those days were really tough. So now I spend as much time as possible trying to help other women achieve a better, healthier life, both here and overseas.
Q: How do you do that?
By trying to combine my passions, I guess. For example, I love climbing mountains and I’m passionate about helping other women succeed, so I’ve done some charity climbs to Everest Base Camp, K2 and Mount Kilimanjaro raising money for nonprofits, mainly for schools and for women in third world countries to get micro-financing loans. One of the organizations I’ve been helping is the Salama Mamas, a social enterprise started by a group of mothers in Nairobi. It’s a wonderful project.
I come from a third world country where women and children endure abject poverty, living in villages with no access to anything. But if you help even one woman, she will become a leader and role model who will educate the children and lift the next generation. Women are the backbone of our society.
I’ve also been exploring ways to provide help closer to home for scars and burn victims, and by helping vulnerable or at-risk women feel more confident when they apply for jobs. I’m interested in giving back in different ways and that’s next on my list of things to do.
Q: What inspires you about helping women specifically?
I think women approach leadership from a unique position of strength, leading by compassion, collaboration and wisdom. I try to use the things I’ve learned in medicine, in business and in life to help other women feel good about themselves, believe in themselves, and become more successful at whatever they choose to do.
Q: Any words of advice for young female entrepreneurs?
Be confident, take care for your health and believe in yourself, but make sure to put your staff and your employees first. Look after them with dignity and respect, give them encouragement and honour them. If you look after them they will look after you. To me, my team comes first.
Q: Thank you for giving us some of your time today and sharing your story. It’s been wonderful to talk with an entrepreneur who puts her team first, and hear first-hand from a leader who gets how to give.