As part of our series of ‘Inspirational Women’, meet Miss Sherina Balaratnam – highly accomplished surgeon and owner of S-Thetics, the multi-award-winning state of the art clinic in the heart of Beaconsfield.
Sherina was born in Kuala Lumpur into a medical family. Her Father a neurologist and her Mum a nurse. ‘Medicine is in my DNA’ says Sherina, as she recalls how at the age of 8 years old, she would observe her Father as she sat quietly in his clinic as he diagnosed and treated his patients.
Sherina became fascinated with the diagnostic tools that became her focus as she swung around in the clinic chair playing with empty syringes and tendon hammers.
Her curiosity was continually challenged as she witnessed patients of all ages coming to see her father with a multitude of ailments. There were always lollipops for the kids containing Vitamin C she recalls which she also enjoyed.
The medical team were all female, and Sherina’s Mum had by this time elected to give up her career to support her family, and did so with great aplomb, bringing food and sustenance into the clinic on a daily basis, and looking after her three children, Sherina and her two elder brothers.
Sherina explains how her Father listened attentively to every patient and how each member of his team was skilled in the unique practise of treating each person individually, a value she has adopted throughout her own medical career. It is no surprise to that the Clinic is still operational today with her Father at the helm and the same team of female practitioners as when Sherina was a child.
‘Love has got to come into it’ says Sherina, ‘I could never understand when my Dad would say he didn’t consider it work, but now I do’.
The legacy of her Father, who was given a Datoship by the Sultan of Terengganu in his 50s has followed her throughout her own medical career.
Sherina now runs a flourishing aesthetics practise in Beaconsfield which is reminiscent of her own childhood memories. As you are greeted by her team of ladies, you feel that you are in good hands, but in addition that you are being taken into a family full of love and genuine support.
Sherina was also inspired by her Mum at an early age who would sit with her to read and make sure she studied. She would take her to school which was a 45-minute drive away from their home and would also advise her ‘Education will give you freedom’. ‘Sleep well and study hard, and exercise every day’.
Sherina spent five years in the UK at medical school and enjoyed everything – all topics and tutors. But her main inspiration came after graduation, when she found herself working in the A and E Department of a hospital stitching up wounds and lacerations. ‘It seemed like fun’ Sherina says with a dry smile ‘plus the feeling of instruments and tools, of steel and the dexterity that comes with that’ reminiscent of her childhood.
‘It was also a challenge of making the stitch work beautiful as well as the healing and the aesthetics, and then the Plastics guys would come along and do more, and it took me to a different level in what I could achieve’.
It was an evolution for Sherina to put wounds together for reconstructive surgery and she became fascinated by it and it became again not just treating the burns and injuries but treating the families too and helping them holistically with issues like children swallowing after a cleft palate or their general nutrition.
Sherina then took time out to do a Masters for two years in Surgical Sciences following her Mother’s advice in education, and following her passion in different areas of skin treatment and discovering light therapy whilst becoming curious about energy-based devices for wound healing and scarring.
She then began to question ‘what else is out there, and what else could I be good at?’.
Sherina’s decision to leave the NHS was not made lightly, as she loved her work, but sitting in a park in Ealing she made a decision for a life change. As she did, she questioned herself ‘Am I going to let my parents down?’. She braced herself to call them.
As Sherina delivered the ‘bomb shell’ to her parents she broke down, but was astounded at their reply.
‘Why are you crying?’ said her Dad ‘we don’t mind what you do as long as you practise medicine every day’.
Sherina now practises aesthetics in the same way that her father still runs his clinic, taking each patient individually and listening to their story before planning the treatment.
S-thetics is situated in the beautiful town of Beaconsfield, which she describes as the perfect setting for her clinic, and relishes the fact that she lives and works in the same town. Every detail is covered from start to finish, even with the colour of copper as a healing element in their interior design.
Sherina, together with her team of highly skilled female practitioners and her husband Jonathan, run a tight ship, and you are greeted at the door as a valued individual and leave feeling cherished and supported with all of the state-of-the-art technology to administer the treatments.
After all she says ‘It is beyond aesthetics – it is what I have learned from my Papa, treating the patient and not the problem. To bring value to someone, you really have to listen’. Sherina administers a variety of treatments, and is proud of her ability to have a vision for her patients and works with them to develop their full potential.
‘We don’t save lives but help lives every day’ – but to me Sherina is saving lives as she builds relationships with her clients and brings value to their everyday, leaving an imprint of her parents’ legacy with love and dedication.
SIX-NIGHT ‘VIRTUAL’ SHOW AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL – AUG 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 – 2021!
Dean Friedman, one of the pre-eminent songwriters of his generation, announces the release of his ninth studio album, ‘American Lullaby’ – released August 27th, 2021 on Friedman’s Real Life Records label.
Friedman will be premiering the album with a six-night ‘virtual’ show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival titled, ‘Dean Friedman’s American Lullaby’, running August 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 2021 [8pm].
The crowdfunded album touches on a broad range of topics including: the calamitous pandemic, looming environmental disaster, racism, sexism, our fractured politics, and an intractable culture war. The title track ‘American Lullaby’, a moving account of America’s original sins and 400 year love affair with guns; ‘Halfway Normal World’, a poignant yearning for release from perpetual lockdown; ‘The Russians Are Coming!’, a 100% factual narrative based on the ‘Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election’; ‘Welcome to Stupid Town’ and ‘On a Summer’s Night’. The album also offers up ‘Just Another Birthday Song’, Friedman’s hilarious contender to replace the ubiquitous ‘Happy Birthday’ song, written 125 years ago by the Hill sisters.
“The new album, ‘American Lullaby’,” Friedman explains, “reflects my personal take on all the crazy stuff that’s been happening in America – and around the world – for the last six years. Like all lullabies, it’s filled with tales of dark deeds and disaster, but couched in soft, gentle tones, meant to soothe and comfort the listener, while gently bracing them for the potential terrors that await.”
The album will be available in stores and digitally on all the main streaming/download outlets. Friedman will be promoting the album during his ‘virtual’ Fringe run, via his regular DeanZine ‘LiveStream’ webcasts, plus a 40-city ‘live’ concert tour which kicks off April 2022.
All For You is the stunning new single from Soviet-born singer-songwriter/pianist Valentina Keys.
The song was born in the summer of 2020 during a tricky time for everyone and a period where Valentina had her own life crisis. It slowly evolved as a healing and uplifting ballad, which was then really brought alive with beats and energy added by the acclaimed producer Alex HarDrum in 2021, with whom Valentina was working remotely.
“For me the song is about the perfect relationship I have with music – my faithful friend that I can always turn to no matter what. We have lived through everything together and I can honestly say that this love is forever. Of course the song as a whole is about unconditional love and many people will be able to relate in their own individual way.” – Valentina
Born on the Black Sea in Odessa, USSR, Valentina Keys was a child prodigy. At age six, she was accepted to study the arts of singing, piano, music theory, ballet, painting and composotion. Classes would take place twice a week after normal school and on Saturdays. Add to this her private tuition in English and French, along with tennis lessons and the young Ukranian had little time for play.
Growing up in the shadow of the Chernobyl disaster informed Valentina’s other passion – the environment and the law. She was aware from a young age that the catastrophe could have been prevented if the right checks and risk assessments had been in place. She saw first hand the irreversible damage that environmental and health and safety incidents can cause when laws are either not enforced or observed.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, a 13-year old Valentina moved to St Andrews, Scotland with her parents who gained employment at the University teaching Russian. It was a huge culture shock and she was terribly homesick, struggling to make new friends: –
“I remember that I struggled to make friends at school at first because I could not understand the Scottish accent. Other kids at school would try to talk to me but I could not answer as I didn’t understand them and would ask them to repeat. But they had no patience to repeat so it was frustrating for both sides.”
Valentina poured her emotion into music and writing songs. Her first was in Russian and titled Odessa after her home, but she soon began writing in English and performing her material. It was these songs and performances that broke down the cultural and language barriers and built bridges. She became popular with the other children and known as the talented and musical one, even picking up a Scottish accent!
Coming from a family of academics, musicians and artists, Valentina had seen how they had struggled and was determined to find her own independence. She studied Spanish, Russian and Catalan at Cambridge University and then opted for a career in Law in order to pay off her student debts and gain the financial security she realised she would need in making her musical dreams and aspirations a reality.
Given her experiences growing up in the USSR, Environmental Law was a clear and obvious path for her passions: –
“Law provides the means to offer the right level of protection. Environmental Law is connected to the nature and health of the planet. The realities of today – climate change, climate emergency, global pandemics and biodiversity loss – are wreaking havoc on human life and our planet and were all preventable had the human race behaved themselves more responsibly. So my job is to educate and advise businesses and people on how to be responsible citizens who take care of the environment and conduct business and operations in an environmentally sustainable manner.”
Along with her Law career, Valentina has independently released two albums Love is.. and Love is Love and is now working on her third album. She loves to mix genres and to cross musical as well as cultural borders. Her love for raw, honest lyrics and stripped back acoustic recordings can be heard throughout her music. Whilst her songs strive to break down convention, lyrical and musical expectations, borders and rules, she always stays true to her Russo-Ukrainian, James Bondesque roots and this will shine through in her much awaited third album (expected 2021/2022).
Valentina is also a regular on the London gigging scene having played at some of the top songwriters’ favourite venues including the Cobden Club, the Luxe, the Old Queens Head, Soho Pizzeria, the AAA, the Water Rats, the 15 Minute Club, Raffles Chelsea, the 100 Club, Sessions 58, the Cellar@ Finborough Arms, The Good Ship, The 229 Club, Nottinghill Arts Club, the Troubadour and the O2 Academy, amongst others. Her music is the stuff of films and takes you on a journey. Be ready to escape.
This is the first of a series of articles by Alex Shewan – a journey of discovery and a resonant voice for women everywhere.
Inspired by a conversation I had online, I was left asking myself what does it mean to be a woman in 2021? Why is this question so relevant? This led me to think, not about attitudes to women, but about my own place in society as a woman. What is my identity and is there such a thing?
For me, identity and society’s expectations of me has haunted me since my childhood. I was very fortunate in my upbringing. At home, being a woman was never considered to be a barrier to life. The concept that it might be did not exist in my head until I became older and ventured into the outside world. As I grew and began to forge friendships with other children, the pressure began and I found myself part of a societal thinking which was alien to me. The expectation that I look a certain way. The expectation that I dress a certain way. The expectation that I should have a boyfriend. The expectation that one day I would marry and have children; on the surface, all of this is perfectly harmless and innocuous. But the question this raises is what happens when these expectations are not met? What happens if life simply does not provide these opportunities? What happens if this is not the individual’s chosen path?
And this is what happened to me.
As a single woman in her forties with no children, I essentially go against society’s ideal. My life choices and experiences did not lead me down the path of social conformity. As a result, life can be difficult for me; the feeling of constantly having to justify myself or excuse myself. Almost apologising for who I am. The constant judgement and the feeling that I have failed. That I am not good enough. That I do not fit in. The result of this has the power to be damaging and devastating to the human soul. This raises the question as to how far this is a societal issue and how far is it something within myself? Is blaming society too easy? Do I have a choice?
Yes, society creates expectations, barriers and likes to define who we are and what we should be. Conformity is powerful and becomes engrained in our psyche and our culture which makes fighting against it very difficult and often very frightening. Going against the norm is difficult. It takes courage and strength, something which is within us all but is sometimes very hard to unleash.
Recently, I have come to realise that my non-conformity is my strength. The things I felt were my weaknesses and failures are actually my power. I have learnt that my mindset is a choice and that choice gives me empowerment. I have also learnt that I am not alone. The battle against conformity is one which individuals are fighting every day, the desire to fit in and the need for acceptance. After years of searching my place and yearning for that elusive feeling of “fitting in”, I realised that this is an illusion; a concept but not a reality. Fitting in is a state of mind, not an actuality. I have spent much of my life searching for my place in society, finding the box in which I could fit and feel a sense of belonging. Belonging to what? And eventually I realised that there is no such thing. The feeling of belonging and the feeling of fitting comes from within. It is to do with self-acceptance and inner peace.