Plastic Surgery - A Woman's Perspective

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Where were you born? What was your childhood like?

I was born in a small town called Chillicothe in Ohio. It was a friendly, midwest town and I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time in my early childhood with my grandparents and a very special aunt, who were supportive and loving. I have a twin brother and was the ultimate tomboy. My dad took a job with UPS when I was 7, and we began moving fairly often as his career progressed. We lived in four cities in Ohio, then Oklahoma, and I attended high school in Florida, I have always believed that it was a real advantage to experience different environments and get comfortable with meeting new people. All those life experiences give you a new understanding of your place in the world, and how much common ground we all have.

How did you decide to become a plastic surgeon?

I was always certain I wanted to he a doctor, but during my third year of medical school, I helped care for a wonderful man who had been in a horrible car accident. He sustained severe facial fractures and our team performed extensive reconstructive
surgery on him. I was just a small part of that team, but I got to know him and his fiancée very well during his recovery. Six months later I was invited to their wedding and saw a handsome, confident man walk down the aisle. His fiancée had shown me a picture of him before the accident and he looked very close to that in his wedding photos. I realized that plastic surgery was such an extraordinary part of medicine. Also, I had a great mentor in medical school, who taught me how to “sew” and told me I had potential. It was a powerful compliment and helped inspire my confidence and interest. There are days still, in the middle of a long surgery, when I recall some teaching I received from my role models. Since that time in training, it has only become more fulfilling to focus on cosmetic procedures and be a part of some personal transformations. It is probably not surprising that I love going to work.

Tell us about your college education and how many women were pursuing plastic surgery as a profession?

I attended Vanderbilt University for my undergraduate degree, and it was known as a pre-med university. Following college I attended Wake Forest University. I remember walking around campus in awe of the interns and doctors in their white coats. Medical school was a great experience overall, and I was fortunate in that my roommate was interested in surgery as well. We were definitely in the minority as women, but we never gave it much thought. When I was applying for residency in general surgery with plans to pursue plastic surgery, a female dean advised me that women just didn’t go into plastic surgery, and that it was very difficult to get accepted into a program. I told her that it was my plan and my dream, and she was one of the first to congratulate me when I got accepted. I believe her advice was more encouraging to women after that. I was the first female plastic surgeon that finished the program at Wake Forest, but far from unique. There were some incredible woman surgeons who had chosen that path many years before in other programs. The reality is that gender doesn’t much matter. A good surgeon has a set of skills and, hopefully, compassion to go with them, that will serve him or her well. There were a tremendous number of male colleagues who taught me some of those skills and encouraged me throughout my training.