“I think many women who are successful in their careers and also very involved in raising their families feel so happy that we now have the possibility of “having it all”, but are also burdened by feeling that we have to do it all perfectly. I’d love to take a movement like #ILookLikeaSurgeon one step further and have a space for women to feel safe talking about their real experiences juggling everything, both good and bad, and feel supported and grow stronger from other women facing the same challenges.”
As part of my series “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Doctor”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Anne Peled. Dr. Peled is a board-certified plastic, reconstructive, and breast surgeon in private practice in San Francisco. Originally from Washington, DC, she moved to San Francisco after attending Amherst College and Harvard Medical School to complete a plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at University of California, San Francisco. During her surgical residency at UCSF, she completed a two-year research fellowship focusing on outcomes after post-mastectomy and oncoplastic breast reconstruction and multi-disciplinary strategies for minimizing post-operative complications. She then completed a clinical fellowship combining breast oncologic surgery and breast reconstruction techniques. In addition to her clinical practice, she serves as the Co-Director of the Sutter Health California Pacific Medical Center Breast Cancer Center of Excellence. Her clinical and research interests include education and new techniques in oncoplastic surgery, improving patient outcomes and satisfaction after breast reconstruction, and breast cancer risk reduction.
I’m a board-certified plastic surgeon and breast cancer surgeon in San Francisco. I’m originally from Washington, D.C. and moved out here for my plastic surgery residency at University of California, San Francisco in 2007 and am happy to now call the Bay Area home. I’ve been around healthcare my whole life- my parents are both also physicians (my mother’s a radiation oncologist and my father’s a medical oncologist), as is my sister, so we joke that it’s our family business. My husband, Ziv, is a busy plastic surgeon who specializes in migraine headache surgery, and we have three young kids and two energetic dogs, so juggling all of it is wonderfully chaotic!
Certainly the most memorable was meeting my husband. He tells the story better, but essentially he saw me at a medical meeting when he was a chief resident in plastic surgery and I was doing a research year as a medical student and through asking enough people finally managed to figure out who I was. Instead of asking me out on a date, he creatively asked me to help him with a research project instead, which was on a completely obscure plastic surgery topic that I knew nothing about. But, his strategy totally worked! We laughed at the time about how it was a little “Grey’s Anatomy” and we definitely had some awkward moments telling our research mentors, but we’ve been together ever since.
One of my passions is increasing awareness around breast reconstruction and improving options for women. Right now I’m involved in several projects looking into new technologies to improve outcomes for women having breast cancer surgery and educating women and other surgeons about lumpectomy reconstruction. Many women don’t know that the option for a “better lumpectomy” exists, and that their surgery can be done in a way where they’re not reminded that they had breast cancer every day when they look in the mirror.
A major part of the mission statement for my practice is to provide the kind of care I would want to have if I were on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship. It sounds simplistic, almost like the “treat others the way that you would want to be treated” lesson you learn as a child, but I really believe that weaving this ideal through medical care not only helps patients thrive, but also makes providing medical care more rewarding. It can be hard to find the time, but patients really appreciate getting phone calls with their test results Friday night so they don’t have to worry through the weekend, or being able to e-mail with any question large or small, or receiving phone calls the night after surgery to check in.
I really credit most of my drive and career success to the lessons I learned from my mother and what it was like growing up with her as a role model. My mother went to medical school at a time when less than 5% of her medical school class was made up of women and her stories from medical school and residency are filled with examples of ways in which women were excluded and discouraged from pursuing medical careers. Despite these experiences, she has always been an incredibly empathetic and compassionate physician whose patients absolutely adore her, and she clearly loves being a part of their lives. Growing up, she showed the same amazing commitment she had for her patients to being an incredible mother to me and my sister, which definitely shaped both of us and has allowed me and my sister to be the involved “doctor-moms” we are today.
I recently read “The Innovator’s DNA” and found it inspiring and motivational. As I’ve realized that I want to contribute to healthcare on a greater scale in addition to my clinical practice, I’ve found learning from innovators and thought leaders in other fields to be incredibly helpful as I come up with a roadmap for my own ideas and innovation.
There’s not a day that goes by without some moment when I’m thinking about how to improve the experience for women with breast cancer. Through my own practice, as well as community outreach, patient and other physician education, and partnering with industry, I’m constantly working on ways that women with breast cancer can move beyond their cancer to get back to their lives more quickly and more smoothly with less psychological and physical impact from their treatment. Contributing in this way is definitely the most rewarding part of my job as a physician.
1) Enjoy and appreciate the quiet moments in your practice. When I first started my practice, I was so focused on building it and seeing more patients that I didn’t appreciate how important the quiet time is to establish a foundation, think about your goals, and find some time to re-charge.
2) Starting your own private practice is in more like founding a startup than you might imagine. Although I felt really good about all of my clinical and research training when I started my practice, I literally had no experience with what is was like to start a small business. It’s been an incredibly fun challenge to figure it all out, but it has definitely made me wish that I’d had training on the practice management side of it in residency!
3) Try to cultivate several mentors with different types of practices and clinical skills. When you’re first in practice (and really throughout your career), it is so helpful to have more senior surgeons to talk to about operative cases and surgical plans and managing patients. It is also invaluable to hear about their experiences with starting their practices and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. The more different types of mentors you have, the broader these experiences will be.
4) It’s okay for you as a physician to set whatever boundaries with your patients feel right to you. When I started out in practice and would give patients my e-mail address and tell them to check in with questions at any time, several more senior physicians told me that it would “take over my life” and that I needed to set clear boundaries with my patients. For me, though, the personal connections with patients and making them feel secure are one of the most rewarding parts of my job, and so I’ve found that this approach works in my practice- patients are overall very respectful and appreciative of this access.
5) Be open to unexpected opportunities that present themselves along the way- you might end up finding a new passion. When I was in medical school and residency, I spent a lot of time doing research and always assumed I would end up at an academic medical center with research as a major part of my career. However, I soon realized in my private practice that while I can still do some research, the environment isn’t as conducive to large-scale research projects. What it is great for, though, is collaborating with industry to develop new technology and programs, which has been an exciting and fulfilling addition to my clinical practice.
It’s hard to pick one, but Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” really resonates for me right now.
I think many women who are successful in their careers and also very involved in raising their families feel the same way I do about being so happy that we now have the possibility of “having it all”, but are also burdened by feeling that we have to do it all perfectly. I’d love to take a movement like #ILookLikeaSurgeon one step further and have a space for women to feel safe talking about their real experiences juggling everything, both good and bad, and feel supported and grow stronger from other women facing the same challenges.
I’d love to have a chance to sit down and talk with Sheryl Sandberg. I find that the longer I’m in practice, the more ideas I have about ways I want to grow my “startup” and develop larger scale healthcare delivery programs and would really appreciate getting her input and talking about her experience. I’m also incredibly impressed by her commitment to supporting women in achieving their goals and love engaging in conversations about the unique challenges and rewards of being a career-driven woman.
Originally published at medium.com