Skin diseases are common, and some may consider them a “minor ailment,” but not to those who suffer from it. Having skin disease can lead to a marked impact on one’s confidence and quality of life. Some sufferers may even withdraw themselves from socialising or avoid from being photographed. Apart from constantly worrying about their condition, they may have to deal with discriminating reactions from others. Often, people living with skin conditions report that their skin problem negatively affects their career and livelihood.
Having seen this need, Dato’ Dr. Ko Chung Beng set up a personal goal to help people with skin diseases by offering quality, innovative, and up-to-date dermatology and medical aesthetic treatment. As a skin specialist doctor, Dr. Ko strongly believes that his service can improve his clients’ self-confidence and empower them to achieve more in life. In an interview with Top 10 of Malaysia, the distinguished founder of Dr. Ko Skin Specialist talks about his background and journey in establishing his skin specialist and medical aesthetic clinic and academy.
Born in Kepong in 1961, Dato’ Dr. Ko studied in a Chinese primary school in Kepong and Chung Hua High School in Seremban. At 17 years of age, he traveled to the United Kingdom (UK) to study his A-Levels. After that, he attended Glasgow University, Scotland (1981-1986), and thereafter proceeded to work in Internal Medicine in various hospitals in Scotland and England (1986-1990).
He passed the Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (MRCP) examinations in 1990, which is a postgraduate medical diploma in the UK. He promptly became a dermatologist in Hull Hospital (1990-1994). In the spirit of lifelong learning, Dr. Ko went on to obtain a Diploma in Scientific Basis of Dermatology from the University of Wales, Cardiff, in 1993.
In 1994, he returned to Malaysia to work as the Head of the Dermatology Department in Hospital Seremban until 1997.
“When I went to the UK at the young age of 17, everything looked exciting and new. However, after 14 years there, I realised that I missed my family and friends, and even the Malaysian food. In 1994, I decided to return to Malaysia. During that time, Malaysia was prosperous and experiencing an economic boom. It was a great place to be,” recalls Dr. Ko.
He opened his first clinic, Ko Skin Specialist Centre, in his wife’s hometown of Klang in 1997. It was initially a small clinic, offering treatments in skin diseases and aesthetic treatments. Over time, it grew to include plastic surgery, laser treatments, hair treatments, slimming, and other relevant treatments. “It was my dream to have my own practice, and I came back to fulfill my dream. When I started, I wanted to offer good and effective treatments for skin problems and good skincare products to promote healthy and beautiful skin. I didn’t expect it could grow to this size. We have centres in every state in Malaysia, except Perlis,” he says.
“Branches were set up in response to demand and for patients’ easier access. Today, we have close to 50 centres all over Malaysia and Indonesia. We have four centres in Indonesia – two in Jakarta and one each in Palembang and Medan. Another 20 centres are in the process of being set up in the coming months,” he adds.
In fact, Ko Skin Specialist has been recognised as the largest skin and laser centre in Malaysia by the Malaysia Book of Records. It is also one of the largest skin and laser centres in Asia.
In 2020, Dr. Ko branched out into skincare retail, DR.KO Dermaceutical. DR.KO Dermaceutical offers Dr.Ko’s exclusively formulated skincare products in shopping malls. “The first outlet opened its doors in Sunway Pyramid Mall, followed by The Mall Mid Valley Southkey (Johor). More DR.KO Dermaceutical outlets are scheduled to open soon. These include one in Mid Valley Megamall (Kuala Lumpur), Pavillion Mall, Bukit Jalil, Gurney Plaza, and Sunway Carnival Mall in Penang,” says Dr. Ko.
In 2021, Dr. Ko achieved another milestone when he opened Ko Academy, a training centre for doctors and beauticians in the field of aesthetic medicine. In this regard, Ko Academy has also partnered with MAHSA University’s School of Medicine in offering courses in aesthetic medicine.
“I hope to have 100 centres all over Malaysia in the next 5 to 10 years so that everybody can have access to good skincare and the best treatments,” says the enthusiastic skin specialist. “In addition, I am looking to expand to Vietnam, Cambodia, China, and Myanmar during the same time. Product-wise, I hope to enter the supplement market as well as the aesthetic machinery market.”
“For some skin conditions, the medical books said there was no treatment available, but I refused to believe there was no way to treat the patients. I refused to give up and to accept that nothing could be done. I kept thinking of new ways to treat my patients, thinking out of the box to find solutions. I persevered and came up with new ideas and my own approach and treatments. I have patients who told me that their disease had disappeared and they felt good for the first time. That was the most rewarding thing for me,” says Dr. Ko.
“Our patients shared that our results are good and better than their previous treatment experiences. Besides that, beauticians and GPs like to refer cases they can’t handle to us too,” he adds.
In terms of leadership style, Dr. Ko emphasises on great teamwork and collaboration. He welcomes all talented people to work together. He prefers not to put too much stress on his employees and encourages them to be creative and innovative. He hopes that they can put their hearts into their work and have a passion for it.
“We need to have trust and be able to delegate duties to suitable and capable employees. I treat them with compassion, love, concern, and patience. I encourage innovative ideas and embrace differences in opinions. I don’t shut them down. Instead, I give them a chance to prove their idea is the right one,” says Dr. Ko.
“With a company this size, I can’t do everything myself. By trusting my employees and delegating duties, only then can I lead a balanced life and have quality time to spend with my family. I identify their strengths and assign suitable work according to that,” he adds.
“I would like to advise fresh graduates who are just starting to build up trust with others and take good care of their reputation for their long-term success,” he says. He also emphasises upholding integrity, cautioning against cheating others, and dragging payments. “They should look for the right kind of business that is suitable for them, and aim for a business that is scalable, which can grow over time.”
Dr. Ko is happy to be one of the pioneers of aesthetic medicine in Malaysia since he came back from overseas 24 years ago. He has built up the largest skin specialist and medical aesthetic company in Malaysia and one of the biggest in Asia. Doctors and patients come to see him from overseas like Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and even the UK. He takes pride in showing that “Malaysia Boleh!”