A familiar and bubbly face we have all seen on Britain's TV show Lorraine & Good Morning Britain NHS GP turned TV Doctor-Amir Khan catches up with Celebrity Make Up Artist Kaniz Ali before prepping to go on set for an exclusive photo shoot with Grazia Pakistan
Creative Direction: Kaniz Ali
Photography: Sanae Rasul
Creative Styling: Kaniz Ali assisted by Iman Chana
Wardrobe/Outfits: Bibi Man
Men’s Grooming: Clinique UK
Location: Bombay Social Restaurant, Esher, UK
Interview by: Kaniz Ali
Edited by: Nashmia Amir Butt
Grazia: What encouraged you to head into the world of medicine to become a doctor?
Dr Khan: Like most Pakistani children, my parents wanted me to become a doctor. They suggested it from an early age and encouraged me to take the subjects at school that would allow me to apply to medical school. But it was more than that, from the age of 16-23 I worked in a care home every summer looking after older people who had various disabilities. It felt rewarding to be able to help people, even the simple things like preparing their meals and helping them to the bathroom felt good. So finding a job that combined my passion for science while being able to help people felt like the right fit for me and medicine allowed me to do this.
Grazia: You became a GP, what inspired you into heading down the General Practice route?
Dr. Khan: General practice is great, it allows me to see a variety of conditions and patients, from new born babies to the elderly. I initially wanted to do paediatrics, and worked for two years in children’s wards. I did enjoy it but I missed interacting with adults and managing some of the conditions that adults present with. So I decided on a career change and applied to do general practice. I certainly feel like I made the right choice, now I get to see a variety of things every day and it is never boring!
Grazia: What’s the best advice you would give to someone who is considering going into the field of medicine?
Dr. Khan: Make sure you are applying for the right reasons, it is all about patient care. If you genuinely care for the well-being of other people and want to make a difference then medicine is for you. I sometimes come across students who have gotten into medicine because their families made them or because they think being a doctor will make them feel important, these are the students who struggle because medicine and working as a doctor is hard so if you are not doing it for the right reasons you won’t enjoy it.
Grazia: Talk to us about your future goals and aspirations.
Dr. Khan: I am lucky as I have achieved a lot of what I had set out to do. I am a partner at my practice and have specialised in diabetes and medical education. In terms of my medical career, I want to be involved in projects that improve the lives of the community I serve. Where I work is very deprived, people are suffering because of poverty. I am working with charities to improve this, especially for children. I hope some of the work I do will lead to the kids that are being born to have a better future. I am also writing my second book, it’s hard to do with all my other commitments but I am hoping to finish it soon and get it out for everyone to read next year!
Grazia: You’ve achieved an incredible amount at a young age of 35, what would you say has been your highlight and most memorable achievement?
Dr. Khan: My GP work will always be the most important work that I do, but the last few years have been a rollercoaster. Getting to work on one of the UKs biggest breakfast shows each week still feels surreal. I go into the studio and interact with such famous people, and I still can’t quite believe I am there. Going to the National Television Awards was a really memorable experience as I have only ever watched them on television before, so to be there amongst all those famous names was incredible!
Grazia: A huge congratulations!! You have recently had a book published called “The Doctor Will See You Now” which is available online and in all bookstores in London. Since it’s launch it has become one of the best selling books. What inspired you to write it?
Dr.Khan: I am just as surprised as anyone that the book was so successful! I have always thought the public’s perception on General Practice needs to change, for so long it has been thought that all the “real” medicine and drama takes place in hospitals, but that isn’t true. I have worked at the same surgery for over ten years, we see some incredibly interesting and surprising things. The book started off as a way for me to reset the balance, to highlight some of the incredible work that takes place in primary care and how it is not just doctors, but nurses and healthcare assistants as well as a whole raft of other healthcare professionals that play a vital role in patient care. The stories in the book are varied and I think that’s what has struck a chord with the readers, everyone can identify with at least one of the characters in the book be it a healthcare professional or a patient. I am really pleased with how it turned out and so grateful that people are enjoying reading it.
Grazia: During the pandemic you played a vital role in the UK, tell us about your experience throughout that time?
Dr. Khan: It was hard. Initially when the pandemic hit we set up one of our GP sites as a “red hub,” this is where we would see anyone with a cough or a temperature. As a doctor, you get on with the job and see the patients, but it was scary going into work knowing you could catch a potentially deadly virus but my main concern was bringing the virus home and infecting my family. One of the hardest parts was seeing my patients in care homes die from the virus. I had several very difficult conversations with relatives of those who had died from Covid-19 and who were not able to visit their loved ones in their last moments. My job was to reassure them that we had kept them comfortable during their final moments. Even though I am trained to have these conversations, it is never easy and I was having them at a frequency and volume that I had never had to do before and that was hard for my mental health.
The vaccines have brought hope, our surgery is a vaccine hub and I have done several shifts in our vaccine clinic. I really enjoy it, the atmosphere is incredibly positive and the patients coming in are incredibly grateful to receive their vaccines. I was also responsible for vaccinating our care homes, on the first day that I was due to go out and give the first dose of the vaccines to our care home patients. It snowed really heavily. The roads were at a standstill and many vehicles had skidded off onto the pavement. So instead of driving, I had to walk in the snow carrying a bag full of vaccines to the home. I remember arriving absolutely freezing and in need of a hot cup of tea. But it was worth it, knowing that these vaccines could potentially save people’s lives and allow their relatives to visit them again.
Grazia: We have the pleasure of watching you on TV on the “Lorraine” show and “Good Morning Britain”. How did that come about?
Dr. Khan: It all started around 3 years ago, when a TV show called “GPs Behind Closed Doors” was filmed at our surgery. The show filmed real consultations with patients as well as interactions with staff. It was a huge success and I was asked to host a couple of other television shows as a result.
The producers of “Lorraine” and “Good Morning Britain” saw me and asked if I would like to be part of the team, and of course I said yes! It’s great because I have found a balance that allows me to continue my work at the surgery and dip into television too.
I feel incredibly blessed to be able to appear on such big TV shows. I watched “Lorraine “growing up, so now to be able to sit in the studio is just incredible!
Grazia: If Amir wasn’t a GP – what would he be?
Dr. Khan: I love animals and so it would have to be a vet. That way I could still be a doctor but also spend time with animals.
Grazia: What do you love doing in your spare time?
Dr. Khan: I don’t get much spare time to be honest, if I am not at the surgery, I am rushing to catch a train to London to do television. I am constantly on the go. But I do try to keep fit and go for a run every morning before work, it’s a great way to clear my head and set me up for the day. I also love gardening, if I get any time off you are guaranteed to find me in the garden, either planting or pruning. I am a big believer in getting people to spend time in green spaces and amongst nature to improve their mental health, and on days when it got really tough at work during the pandemic, I would come home and spend a few minutes in the garden to destress.
Grazia: What are your favourite holiday destinations and why?
Dr. Khan: I love travelling, but I can’t sit on a beach. I have to be out and about doing things. My favourite holiday was when I travelled through Central and South America. We visited ancient temples, the Inca Trail, the Amazon Rainforest and trekked in the Andes. It was just mind blowing, from the people we met, the nature we saw and the stunning landscapes, there really isn’t anywhere else quite like it.
Grazia: You are a senior lecturer at The University of Leeds School of Medicine and The University of Bradford. What inspired you to go into teaching?
Dr. Khan: I want to inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals, looking after patients is hard work but it is rewarding and I think future generations have to be prepared for both aspects. I also learn from the younger generation, they ask such interesting questions that really make you think.
We are short of GPs in the UK, so part of what I do is show students how good working in General Practice can be and why they should think about doing it. My job is to highlight how much of a difference you can make to people’s lives being a family doctor.