On November 6, 1847, Elizabeth Blackwell arrived in Geneva, New York, to attend Geneva Medical College. In doing so, she became the first woman to attend medical school in the United States. She had applied to and been rejected at countless other medical schools, and it turns out that the Faculty of Medicine in Geneva only accepted her because she deferred the decision to her students who approved her application as a joke.
I guess the joke is on them.
Blackwell would later write, “I had no idea of the commotion created by my appearance as a medical student in the small town. Very slowly I noticed that a doctor’s wife at the table was avoiding all communication with me, and that as I walked back and forth to college the ladies stopped to stare at me like a curious animal. I then discovered that I had so offended Geneva propriety that the theory was fully established either that I was a bad woman, whose designs would gradually become evident, or that, being mad, an explosion of madness would soon be related.
Two years later, in 1849, Blackwell graduated from medical school, opening the door to all female doctors who followed her.
Turn the clocks forward 175 years and women now make up the bulk of the student body in US medical schools, 52.7%, according to a 2021 report produced by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Yet women make up only 22% of all general surgeons, and that percentage drops among more specialized surgeries. We are left with the question, why?
Board-certified plastic surgeon Kriti Mohan has some answers. Immigrating to the United States from India at the age of eight, Mohan faced ethnic and racial discrimination in elementary school. But in medical school, the discrimination was different.
“When I was in medical school and in residency, the hardest thing was actually being a girl,” Mohan recalled. “[My] the race went well. Being a woman was what was difficult.
Yet in the 21st century.
“I remember hearing when I was in medical school about to start my residency, ‘You shouldn’t wear makeup. You should minimize your femininity.
“And I was a little flabbergasted. I don’t do makeup for you. I wear makeup because I want to wear makeup. I’m going to brush my hair because I feel like brushing my hair. And I’ve seen a lot of women in this residency program who have become extremely aggressive and dominant to counter these things.
“It became very important for me to accept the fact that I was a woman. It gave me certain advantages and certain disadvantages, but I was going to own who I was.
What were the benefits?
“It gave me the opportunity to interact with patients in a unique way, a little differently. Male patients, female patients, their custody is a little different when you’re a young woman. They’re more likely to be open with you, talking to you, telling you things that they might not otherwise say to a doctor.
What were the downsides?
“It was assumed that because you were a girl or because you were pretty, certain advantages were granted to you, in particular in plastic surgery. I always went above and beyond to prove that was not the case. I always made sure to be the one who shot first and left last. Honestly, I think it made me work harder and get more done.
“And I think it paid off in the end,” Mohan continues.
Today, Dr. Mohan oversees Ciaravino Total Beauty, one of the world’s premier plastic surgery centers in Houston, Texas, specializing in breast augmentation. Dr. Michael Ciaravino has built his practice from the ground up into a household name in breast implant surgery, performing over 800 breast augmentation cases per year. After resuming his practice, Dr. Mohan surpassed Ciaravino’s numbers in his very first year.
“He entrusted his practice to me to continue what for him was like a third child. Even through the daily struggles that occur in any business, I can pioneer that legacy. »
Dr. Mohan hopes that one day Ciaravino will be a household name in implants and an authority on beauty and injectables.
For her, the standard for the clinic is clear:
“It should be like an institution of philosophy in the surgeries you do…how you do them, how you take care of the patients before and after, how you give them those results that last a lifetime without them having issues with . It has always been the Ciaravino way. The Complete Complete Care Package.
Medicine as (big) business
I asked Dr. Mohan how she managed to turn her medical prowess into a successful business owner.
“My first year, I arrived at work at 5:00 a.m. and I didn’t leave until 9:00 p.m. I was determined to make this job work, and there was no detail I didn’t leave out or patient I wouldn’t personally call after the operation. From patients to running the business, there was nothing I didn’t have my eyes on – finance, marketing, whatever I needed.
Dr. Mohan’s most successful marketing has been through social media.
“We had social media, Instagram, Facebook, but it was more stock photos. We had this great culture of women taking care of women and a fun staff, but we didn’t showcase it, in my opinion. So growing our social media presence was probably my biggest push.
What advice would you give to aspiring women leaders?
1. Be prepared to work hard
“I would say it’s a matter of hard work and dedication. I would tell everyone that if you are not willing to put in the time, no one else will ever do it for you.
2. Lead by example
“I have a group of more than 10 women in my team, and I’m always the first to arrive and the last to leave, because you have to lead by example. And you can’t expect someone to do something you’re not ready to do.
“If I want my staff to be nice to our patients or have some type of rapport with them, if I don’t demonstrate that myself, it’s not going to happen. And it goes with everything else too. If I talk badly to my staff or anyone else, well, they’re going to talk badly to each other. So it kind of goes with everything, really, really leading by example.
3. Be true to yourself
“I always tell my staff, never do or say anything that you don’t feel comfortable being published in a front-page newspaper. This is how I live my life. And luckily for me, I can be true to myself by doing that. Because in this time we live in, the truth will come out. Everyone knows everyone’s true personality, and I think you have to be true to yourself.
4. Find a mentor
Find the people who truly inspire you and help pave your way to success.
5. Be passionate and love what you do
“I really love what I do. I love everything about it. Even the things that I don’t love doing that much, I’m willing to do them because I love all the other things around it. I love operating. And I know that if I don’t run my business well, I can’t operate. So find that true passion for yourself.
“When they say if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life, that’s absolutely true. Because it’s going to be hard. And in those times when it’s so hard and you don’t want to do it anymore, if you didn’t really like it, then you’re not going to last very long.
Dr. Mohan certainly followed his own advice in becoming one of the most prominent plastic surgeons in Texas. It is staggering, however, that while 92% of all plastic surgery patients are female, only 17.2% of plastic surgeons are female.
Why we need more female (plastic) surgeons
A 2022 study published in the medical journal JAMA surgery found that both male and female patients fared better under the care of female surgeons, with female patients experiencing a notable decrease in surgical complications, readmissions, and deaths.
Statistics did not predict Dr. Mohan’s success, and although some of her medical school peers fired her, Dr. Michael Ciaravino saw Mohan’s unwavering dedication and talent. Ciaravino didn’t just see a “girl”; he saw a doctor whose commitment to his craft and his surgical prowess was so clear that he would entrust his entire inheritance to him just before his death. The story of Dr. Kriti Mohan proves that a dedicated, hard-working woman can transcend the barriers of misogyny and prejudice.