Wellness Warrior: Dr. Sharad Paul

May 15, 2017

The Salonpas® “Wellness Warriors” series connects with people on the forefront of health and wellness.  In this installment, we speak to Dr. Sharad Paul, a Skin MD, Scientist, Storyteller and Social Entrepreneur who Time Magazine dubbed the “Open Heart Surgeon.” Dr. Sharad P. Paul, MD is a skin cancer surgeon, skincare expert, evolutionary biologist, author, and an adjunct professor at Aukland University of Technology. Born in England, with a childhood in India, he is a global citizen who lives Down Under. He recently won the acclaimed Ko Awatea International Excellence Award for Leading Health Improvement on a Global Scale, and is the author of multiple books, notably the upcoming book, The Genetics of Health (Simon and Schuster, April 2017)

Why did Time coin you as the “open heart surgeon”?  “I guess they meant ‘open-hearted,’ says Dr. Paul. “Time Magazine found it unusual that a busy MD and university academic still ran a bookstore and taught creative writing to economically disadvantaged school children. I guess being a writer; you learn to put things in perspective.”

Few medical doctors venture into writing books and into retailing. Why have you pursued these alternative paths? “I just do things I am passionate about, without worrying about the money — that’s a recipe for some risk and lots of fun,” says Dr. Paul.   “I was always a writer, so bookstores were a natural extension. I’m also a bit of a cafe connoisseur — therefore my bookstores were each like a coffee shop, wine lounge and library rolled into one. Profits from my bookstores used to fund my literacy programs in schools.”

Tell us about how you are starting a new health RXevolution with your new book The Genetics of Health. “Medicine and Law are ancient guild-like professions,” says Dr. Paul. “Just like law sometimes doesn’t translate into justice, medicine isn’t health. Medicine is useful, but good health is something one can achieve by taking some personal responsibility and this book is essentially about how we can all walk down that Rxevolutionary Road. Of course The Genetics of Health book is also about the 2D’s: Diet and Diaspora; i.e., how migration of ancient humans across our planet and the diets they ate ended up shaping our genes. It also teaches us to ‘eat for our gene type’ and how we can indeed modify our genes for better health.”

Tell us about what we can learn by taking your 21 Gene Test?  Will this be available to people in the United States? “Firstly, while the 21 gene-test I have developed complements the book, one can simply read the book and learn many ways of achieving better health even if one isn’t undergoing the test,” says Dr. Paul.

“The 21-gene test will be available in America as we will soon have a local partner lab sending out testing kits. People will be able to order this gene-test online via my website drsharadpaul.com very soon. In my 21-Gene Test panel, we test for a comprehensive array of genes including drug metabolism genes including anti-coagulant drugs and anti-inflammatory medication; sluggish genes which play in to our motivation, or lack therein to exercise; stress genes including pain sensitivity and anxiety; as well as fat, pigment and food genes and intolerances.”

“In about a month’s time, we email you an individualized report with specific measures on how you can take care of your health better.  Many people are concerned they may be gluten or lactose intolerant and we test for these genes too.”

What is the focus of your private practice? “My main practice is to do with skin cancer, especially reconstructive surgery following skin cancer,” says Dr. Sharad.  “I also teach skin cancer diagnosis and treatment at two universities internationally. I even co-authored a US textbook on the subject. However, my main interest is in personalizing healthcare and looking after people’s overall health — I like to think I’m like a caretaker of health for people who allow me that responsibility and privilege.”

“Truth be told, one cannot have bad health and good skin,” says Dr. Sharad. “I therefore also develop bespoke skincare, and we should have our range of serums and natural sunscreens available in America later this year.  We manufacture our skincare in America.”

Why did you decide to become a doctor and specialize in the area of dermatology? “In my family, everyone is a doctor — father, mother, uncles, aunts, grandmother, etc.,” says Dr. Sharad. “My original training was in plastic surgery and I later also trained in family medicine. I also have a Master of Philosophy majoring in Medical Law and Ethics, so I am full of useless information!”

“I realized early in my training that most people that sought cosmetic surgery really needed surgery to their mind; i.e. very few people really need it, even if they think they do,” says Dr. Sharad.  “If you spend enough time with patients seeking cosmetic surgery, you’ll find insecurities or pressure from others. I realize that I am generalizing a bit, but overall that was my impression regarding surgery for vanity.”

“ My real passion was reconstructive surgery and science-based skincare, as my original training was mainly in the areas of burns and trauma plastic surgery where the work could make a massive difference to people’s lives,” says Dr. Sharad.  “When I moved down under to New Zealand, given the high rate of skin cancer in Australia and NZ, I ended up a skin cancer specialist and skin researcher as I could put my talents to good use. So, I have never worked as a cosmetic plastic surgeon but mainly deal with skin cancer.”

What did you discover about your own genetic makeup by taking your 21 Gene Test that helps you in your daily life?  “My gene tests show that I have abnormal salt and folate genes; i.e., if I have too little folate in my diet I will end up with a high risk of heart disease; if I have too much salt in my diet, I will have a high risk of blood pressure. Thankfully my coffee genes were fine!

How have you found the time to write so many books including a biography and works of fiction? “People always ask me this question. Truth is I don’t know — I just do what I am passionate about and I’ve ended up with 3 novels, 3 non-fiction books, 1 poetry book and 2 medical textbooks! Maybe I do sleep a little less than most people. Regarding the biography — it wasn’t my biography, it was the biography of skin! I was actually asked to write my biography a few years ago, but in the end, I pulled the plug as there was plenty more I wanted to do in life, and I felt it wasn’t the time … I felt my story wasn’t interesting enough (yet) …”

What goals do you have for 2017 and beyond to share your Wellness Warrior philosophy with the world? “I just live in the moment, so am a hopeless planner and allow things just evolve naturally,” says Dr. Sharad. “Of course, I want The Genetics of Health to be a bestseller! Longer term, I have a vision for wellness centers based on my book that will incorporate gene-testing, movement training, and eating for your gene type etc., and am looking for partners. I am also very excited about finally bringing my skincare range to America as (in my view) the products are quite different to everything else out there. It should be available in America by the middle of 2017.”

“’Wellness Warrior’ — I like this moniker you’ve given me, even if I am more like a ‘Caretaker of Health’ and I like to emphasize that it takes both ‘health’ and ‘care’ to achieve good healthcare outcomes. Sometimes medicine seems like any other business. Like “Open Heart Surgeon”, I can only guess why you’ve called me this …”

Last year, I received the Ko Awatea International Excellence Award for Leading (Health) Improvement on a Global Scale and I was humbled to be honored in this way.”

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