About beauty and charity


Interview by Sandra-Stella Triebl (LADIES DRIVE_NO. 58)

Sabine Bruckert is a phenomenon. When I met her for the interview in a restaurant at Zurich Airport, she attracted everyone’s attention. The 46-year-old is the founder of the Dermis Dermatology Clinic and a specialist in dermatology and venereology, with a specialisation in dermatosurgery. The specialist has, however, also proven to be an extremely smart entrepreneur. Because she wasn’t content with just one location outside of Zurich. In 2021, she opened a branch within the medical centre at the luxury hotel Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, and a third in a central location in the heart of Zurich is also set to follow. But Sabine is not only a true beauty, she is also surprisingly approachable. No wonder her patients love her for that very reason. Because she loves to listen. An extremely underestimated talent, we think.

Ladies Drive: You are a medical specialist, an entrepreneur… would you say that you tend to lead with your head or your heart? Do you rely on the facts or is your head up in the clouds?

Sabine Bruckert, MD: My parents had to drag me away from the meadow countless times when I was a child. Instead of running along to nursery, I would sit there peacefully collecting flowers, counting butterflies… (laughs). I was in my very own world. So I would say that I’ve got my head in the clouds by nature!

You were born in Finland and came to Switzerland at the age of four. How did growing up being surrounded by different languages and cultures influence you?

I think that you look at the world with a wide-angle lens. Even as a child, I was an extremely open and inquisitive person. Teachers always described me as a little sponge. I could also spend hours looking at anthills (laughs). What it also did was make me very accepting of being different. I don’t like norms, or sentences like “Don’t do that” or “Don’t eat that”. People should be allowed to be their true selves.

But, as a doctor, you are exposed to many rules, rituals, procedures and standards that you have to adhere to. How well do you cope with that?

My great fortune is my Dermis clinic – and that I’ve been able to put people at the centre of my philosophy. I see medicine as a service-based sector, and what I do is characterised by charity, even if that sounds naïve. But life in a large, hierarchical hospital is obviously an entirely different world. I do, however, find these hierarchies rather outdated and often unnecessary. Based on my own observations, mistakes can creep in more quickly in a pronounced hierarchy than in an operation with open communication where everyone is on an equal footing. For me, it is more important that we act as a community – without hierarchy in our clinic. You know, when you’re completing your surgical training, you get thrown into a hierarchical cauldron, it’s unbelievable. The chief physician is the boss, and when you’re below that in the hierarchy, it’s not easy to address mistakes. And I don’t feel that that’s fair. It also bothers me that there are people who think that, just because they have a title, they are better than everyone else. No matter what title you have, you should always make an effort and not be able to rest on your laurels. I grew up with a very open, very loving mother. She grew up in poor conditions in Finland and had a mum who herself worked. My mother taught me to keep an open mind and would always tell me, “Men are not better or stronger or bigger by default. We are all the same!” She was also the one who always told me not to get myself into a situation where I depend on others – neither in my job nor financially.

How important would you say you are?

Sometimes, when people ask what I do, I just say that I work in health care. I’m not that important. As a doctor, I’m self-assured – I know where my strengths lie. As a woman, not so much. I usually find what others tell me more exciting – I’m super happy to listen. To be honest, I don’t think there’s much about me that I have to tell everyone. That’s why I don’t have a problem if others think I’m a nurse or a beautician (laughs). Many people like to pigeonhole. I’m probably not your typical businesswoman. And the issue is often that, as a mother of three children, you often have to justify yourself as to how you make it work. It’s quite rare that someone says: “Oh wow, that’s really cool”.

But what you do is really cool. Soon to have three locations, 33 employees… What do you do differently from other private clinics? What is the secret to your success?

We practise holistic medicine. We don’t keep our patients at arm’s length – and we have a really cheerful, relaxed manner. Maybe that’s why we have all sorts of people coming to us – from managers to hotel directors to farmers and teenagers. On average, we treat 100 people a day. We have, however, been able to grow through word-of-mouth advertising. And I’ve often heard that people recommend me to others because I’m so sweet and funny (grins).

And competent!

Of course. But you know, sometimes the patients are awake during an operation because they only have a local anaesthetic. And it sometimes happens that we tell a few blonde jokes in the operating theatre (laughs uproariously). Especially when we sense that someone is terribly nervous. It’s always a human being that is sitting in front of us – you must never forget that. And the most frequent procedure we perform is related to skin cancer, so you can understand why people are so nervous and anxious.

Do you have many people who come to you for self-improvement?

We do. I’m often asked what I think about this so-called self-improvement, and I always say: Who am I to judge how another person should and is allowed to feel? All I can do is lay out their options with sound medical knowledge and a clear conscience. I do not judge or condemn anyone. But, of course, there are things I find excessive – that’s why there are certain services that we don’t offer at all.

For example?

I would never do oversized breasts. Or lips that are insanely injected. The biggest compliment for me is when people look fresher, but no one has really noticed that the person has had something done. I understand that not everyone was genetically blessed with flawless teeth. That is also something that can be corrected. And when someone leaves the surgery overjoyed after an eyelid lift, that’s an incredibly good feeling for me – it makes me feel happy. But because of Instagram and the like, we doctors also see many young people who can no longer accept themselves as they are, and that makes me reflect. But many women and men are also increasingly concerned about getting older, because we have become much more visible thanks to social media.

There’s a fine line between taking care of yourself and having so many procedures that you lose yourself beyond repair. I don’t even dye my hair anymore… because I don’t want to define myself based on my appearance.

That is very admirable. Now if you could pass on that sense of self-esteem to all women and men, that would be amazing. And would do us all good. I think that would be great. But not everyone is at that point – and you have a beautiful outer shell, it has to be said. Not everyone manages to truly accept themselves.

I sometimes wonder who told us women that grey hair and wrinkles are unattractive.

You’re right about that. By the way, what I find absolutely attractive is when someone radiates health and vitality – no matter their age. As a doctor, however, I also want to heal, in the traditional sense of the word. But I can only really help if someone feels good in their skin. That, I think, is the quintessence.

Oh, how right you are… hmmm – I also think to myself sometimes: the challenge is certainly also that, the older we get, the more we lose this playful, almost childlike way of reflecting on ourselves and our actions.

Yes, it can be helpful not to take yourself and what you do too seriously. I like getting old, I have to say. I don’t want to turn back the clock, I don’t want to be younger.

But it’s not easy to let go of your youth, especially if you’re a leader who’s exposed.

The crux is that we form a judgement about another person within a split second – and that always has an enormous amount to do with visual appearance. I have respect for people who want to improve themselves. It doesn’t make you a better person, but it doesn’t make you a worse person either. That has to be said in all fairness. I myself bleach my hair – and have had Botox treatments in my glabella, the area between my eyebrows and my forehead. I also find Botox treatments in the armpits practical because they stop you from sweating. I’ve never had fillers – but who knows how I’ll feel about that in a few years’ time.

Speaking of years… how long do you want to keep working for?

Ten years. There are countless young, great doctors – I’d love to be able to hand over the reins when the time is right. There are so many things that interest me – and I want to do them while I’m healthy and enjoy this time from my mid-50s onward. That is my vision…

Emotional Leadership?
Dr. Sabine Bruckert, founder of Dermis Skin Clinics, at the Ladies Drive Bar Talk on 25 May in Zurich.
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Emotional Leadership?
Skin cancer self-examination and early detection
Dr Sabine Bruckert, founder of the Dermis skin clinics, in an interview with Annabelle
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Skin cancer self-examination and early detection
SIWF Certificate
The Swiss Institute for Continuing Medical Education (SIWF) will continue to recognise DERMIS Dermatology Clinic Bülach as a centre for continuing education and training in 2023.
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SIWF Certificate
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