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In the continuous struggle against COVID-19, doctors and medical personnel are working around the clock, often to exhaustion. These are our frontline heroes, who deserve nothing less than our utmost respect and gratitude. However, we often get a chance to gaze only at their mountainous amount of work and forget about their difficulties, their fears, and their struggles.

In the hectic world we live in, some doctors find the necessary strength to rise to the challenge by looking out for the community and by giving something back as well – they truly are our modern-day heroes! That is the case of Dr. Divya Shokeen, a Board-Certified Dermatologist, and her husband, Dr. Raj Shokeen, a Vascular and Interventional Radiologist, who more than joyfully agreed to talk to us about their uphill battles during the COVID-19 pandemic, which, from time to time, brought them little drops of true blessings. Let us tune in to Dr. Divya and Dr. Raj and learn more about how they made their contribution to the battle against COVID-19 while Dr. Divya opened up a second practice, launched her own skin care product company, and brought a small angel into this world!   

The Challenges of COVID-19

Although the year 2020 seemed to begin under good auspices – Dr. Divya had founded the Ocean Skin and Vein Institute in May 2019 – initially, the arrival of COVID-19 has put a great strain on her practice. A complete shutdown was in effect between early March and the beginning of June. “I continued to do telemedicine so that I could be there for my patients who wanted to be seen but who unfortunately couldn’t be.” Aside from telemedicine, Dr. Divya made sure that she took care of emergency patients by keeping her practice open one day/week.

Resuming On-premises Work and Keeping Patients Safe

As private practices gradually opened up at the beginning of June, Dr. Divya took every single step to protect both her patients and her employees. Constant temperature check, constant COVID-19 tests for employees, restricting the number of admitted patients to one at a time, moving the offices into larger rooms, decontaminating surfaces, hyper filters – those were the measures put in place to effectively keep the practice virus-free. “We are trying to make sure that we are as safe as possible for our patients,” Dr. Divya tells us.  

Even though the waves of fatigue and uncertainty brought by COVID-19 affected every individual, Dr. Divya is proud of her patients, who respected every single rule put in place. “Everyone’s been very receptive and understanding, so I think our patients have been pretty good about it.”

COVID-19 and “Zoom Time”

Although the pandemic has hit numerous medical practices, in her opinion, Dr. Divya believes that people have become more receptive to cosmetic procedures, mainly because of “Zoom time.” “When people are sitting on Zoom, and they’re sitting all day, and at home, they kind of start to notice the things that they’ve been forgetting, and a lot of that has to do with self-care.” Because of “Zoom time,” patients are more attentive to their appearance, which led to an uptick in hair loss and acne scarring treatment requests. 

Furthermore, she believes that, at least in LA, people are starting to let go of previous misconceptions about her work and begin to embrace cosmetic procedures as means of self-care. “Everyone’s coming in asking: I’ve kind of forgotten myself. I used to spend a lot of time on myself. Now, I realized I spend a lot of time on my job or my kids or on my environment, where I’m not really focusing on myself.”  

The Challenges of Protecting Your Community during COVID-19

Although her Ocean Skin and Vein Institute experienced a comeback since June, the first few months of the pandemic put her resolve to the test. Unlike other employers, Dr. Divya saw her employees as members of the community, who also had to pay rent and take care of their families. For that reason, she decided to avoid layoffs and stick out for them, which put a strain on her family’s finances. In the end, they managed to survive the worst of the pandemic and emerge as a stronger community together.  

Dr. Divya admits that she often found herself in need of guidance in this hostile business environment. “There’s no guidebook to running or operating your business, and, unfortunately, they don’t teach that in medical school.” However, she tells us that the key to a successful business is not going to business school but understanding people. Whether patients, suppliers, or employees, it is people who are the foundation of a thriving business. “We’re trying to build something that is going to be a long-standing brand.” In this mission, letting people know that they can count on her is Dr. Divya’s secret weapon.

Skin Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Apart from caring for their patients on-premises, Dr. Divya found a way to help people take better care of their skin while also giving back to the community. In September 2020, six months later than originally planned and after 1 ½ year of testing, she launched her first line of skin care products to bring a comprehensive skin treatment to the market. 

By launching this product, Dr. Divya is trying to bring something new to the skin rejuvenation field while also helping those in need. “We want to give back, especially during this time, I think, we’re trying to keep it very cost-conscious, and we’re giving percentages to two different charities every year, and the best part is that the person purchasing can choose, so it also makes you feel like you’re part of it.” She intends to improve her line of skin care with four additional products by the end of January.

When asked about the product’s progress in terms of sales, Dr. Divya was happy to tell us that she has built a loyal community of patients who repurchase her product regularly. In her opinion, this has to do with women looking towards a mask-free future. “Women are really saying, You know what, I’m not spending the money to go to the hair salon as much, I’m not going to get my nails done, I’m not going on vacations, so I want to spend it on myself, I want to make sure that I feel and look better for when I do get to take the mask off.”

The Blessing of Having a Baby during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Putting their careers and work aside, Dr. Divya and Dr. Raj saved their biggest blessing of the year for last – their first son, Arien, was born just a few months ago! 

They admitted that starting a family, as a power couple in medicine during a pandemic, was not easy. Dr. Raj was always reluctant about coming home from the hospital or bringing stuff from work. “I know this has been especially hard on my husband because every time he comes home, he has to go and decontaminate for half an hour before he can even hug his child, and that’s tough on any parent.” However, after becoming a parent, he is more sensitive about newborn children or mothers as patients – “When it’s about newborn children or mothers delivering, he doesn’t even question it, he just goes to the hospital,” Dr. Divya tells us.

Besides becoming a parent during a pandemic, Dr. Divya was forced to face another stringent issue for any new parent, maternity leave. When asked about how many days of maternity leave she enjoyed, Dr. Divya confessed that she was happy to receive 4-and-a-half weeks of maternity leave while complaining about a colleague dermatologist in FL who spent only nine days with her newborn before returning to the field. “This is what happens for all physicians,” she tells us. The short maternity leave left Dr. Divya with no choice but to find a nanny who takes COVID-19 tests regularly. 

However, for Dr. Divya, the joy of bringing a baby into the world surpasses all difficulties. “It tests you in a different way, for sure, but I’m incredibly blessed and graceful, and I think we both can say that because we have a wonderful, healthy, baby boy, who we couldn’t imagine our lives without, so it’s been a tough year, but this has actually been the one silver lining that we’ve had through everything, and it’s a reason to get up in the morning because we want to make sure that he is taken care of.”

Hope is in Sight

With their practices coming back strong, a skin care line of products, and a healthy newborn baby, Dr. Divya and Dr. Raj are confident that the future has more sunshine in store for all of us. Their hope mainly resides in the vaccination program – Dr. Raj already receive the vaccine while Dr. Divya is on a waiting list. “I think that the vaccination is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Raj tells us, confident enough in the vaccine’s ability to neutralize the new COVID-19 strains that sprung up in Europe.

As for the medical field, both of them see a future with more technologically enabled care and more light-type hospitals for COVID-19 patients in a trend towards outpatient care and procedures.  

What Keeps Dr. Divya and Dr. Raj Going?

“I just look at her,” Dr. Raj tells us, always impressed by his wife’s hard work and dedication. “I don’t feel like it’s work because I love what I do. I think the day that it becomes work, I’m probably going to stop doing it,” Dr. Divya tells us, with a smile on her face. They hope to keep cultivating their energy, their excitement, and their thirst for knowledge for years to come.

However, spending more time with their newborn son is their true resolution for 2021. We wish them the best of luck in all of their endeavors, not only as a power couple in medicine but also as a strong, beautiful family! 

Brianna Connors
Brianna Connors