PODCAST: The Challenges for Women in Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgeon Dr. Diana Breister shares her perspective on the challenges and stereotypes women in plastic surgery face that their male counterparts don’t, and how being a woman and a mom influences her style of patient care.

Hear her thoughts on why such a small percentage of plastic surgeons are women and emphasizes that it is totally acceptable for women to venture into fields which require significant time commitment and training.

Read more about Dr. Diana Breister

Please request your free consultation online or call La Jolla Cosmetic, San Diego, at (858) 452-1981 for more


Speaker 1 (00:07):
You’re listening to The La Jolla Cosmetic Podcast.

Monique Ramsey (00:14):
Welcome everyone to The La Jolla Cosmetic Podcast. I’m your hostess, Monique Ramsey. And we are celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th and International Women’s Month for the month of March. And you know, it’s not just a hashtag, there are actually, there’s an organization that works on behalf of women around the world to, you know, help bring us up. So we’re surrounded by women here at La Jolla Cosmetic. Most of our patients are women. Our president Marie Oleson is a woman. And our CEO Austin Schroeder’s, also a woman. And, you know, we have a mostly female workplace. We do have some wonderful men that we work with, but you know, we’re, we’re mostly women, so we thought, you know, what better reason than to sort of talk to the women in our practice and to highlight some of the women in our practice is a great excuse. So I have Dr. Breister here with me today and wanted to welcome you, Dr. Breister

Dr. Breister (01:16):
Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

Monique Ramsey (01:19):
So before we start talking about International Women’s Day, I wanted to just have you introduce yourself and tell us, you know, maybe some of the women that you admire or you follow in either medicine or anywhere.

Dr. Breister (01:31):
Well, I’m new to La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Center and I’m very happy to be here. It’s been a nice introduction. I’ve been here about a month or so and it’s been very fun, and I’ve loved meeting all the people, and it’s a great work environment. So I’m excited to be here amongst all the women that are here. That’s number one. Um, as far as women that I admire or follow, I love Michelle Obama. Um, she’s just one of my favorite women. She’s just so strong, so unapologetically fierce in her own right. I admire that. Another one of my idols is the late, uh, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I think she was just absolutely phenomenal in her career as, you know, an advocate of women and women’s rights. And so those would probably be my two favorite women, I would have to say. But yeah, I mean, I follow all kinds of different actresses, models, educators, many, many different women.

Monique Ramsey (02:29):
So talking about International Women’s Day, part of their mission is empowering women’s choices in health. And you know, I think aesthetic medicine really is all about empowerment. Give me your thoughts on that. Like, have you seen how plastic surgery or just medical aesthetics in general empowers women?

Dr. Breister (02:52):
I have seen that, you know, as women, we are all usually, uh, you know, we wanna feel good about, I think that’s the number one driver to us women. We just wanna feel good in our own skin. So I see women, you know, on the daily coming in and doing things for themselves that makes them feel better about themselves. So that, that’s really the bottom line. I think that’s what gives us the most power is, is self-confidence. And I think once women take that step, they actually give themselves the permission to take care of themselves. They’re worth it. I think that in and of itself is very empowering.

Monique Ramsey (03:35):
That’s so true. More and more women, I think, are becoming plastic surgeons nationally, 20% of plastic surgeons are female. And that’s through the A S P S membership statistics, which is up from 12% in 2013. So in 10 years, that’s a pretty significant change and the trend is improving. But why do you think there’s so many fewer female plastic surgeons in general?

Dr. Breister (04:03):
Well, I think as a surgical subspecialty as a whole, it’s a pretty rigorous training that you have to go through. So I think that as women, you know, we oftentimes wanna have children or we oftentimes bear the, the heavy lifting in the home front. So I think that can drive some women away. They may just not be able or have the support to get through that kind of training. But that’s probably one of the biggest distractors I think, or, you know, hindrances to women becoming surgeons is probably that time factor. And you have to do it pretty early in life, and kind of close to the childbearing years. And that can definitely be a conflict for a lot of women.

Monique Ramsey (04:49):
So tell me, how did you manage that? Uh, because you have three children, am I right?

Dr. Breister (04:55):
Yes, yes.

Monique Ramsey (04:56):
So tell us, how did you manage that?

Dr. Breister (04:59):
So I went through my medical school and all of my training before I had any children. So the real commitments of spending, you know, 36 hours in a hospital, not having sleep, you know, working days upon. And luckily I didn’t have children yet. I was very lucky to have planned that at the end of my training. So I had become an on staff physician at the City of Hope, and the schedule at that point was a little more controllable. It wasn’t quite as much on-call. So I, I was lucky enough to time it, so I wanted to have a child right at that time when I started that job. And that’s, luckily I had, I had one. And then from there on I was also lucky enough to have, you know, support a really great nanny that could, you know, live in my home and really help care for that baby.

And without that it would’ve been impossible because that’s the main thing, you wanna feel very comfortable that your child is being loved and cared for. So I was lucky enough to have support to manage that. A lot of women don’t have that luxury and how they get through it, it, you know, they have a lot of family support and things like that. My family wasn’t with me at that time. They were in another city. But luckily I found really good care and that’s what enabled me to, to move forward and pursue my dreams of becoming a surgeon.

Monique Ramsey (06:25):
And, you know, as plastic surgeons, do you feel that women face any challenges that their male, male counterparts don’t?

Dr. Breister (06:33):
Well, I certainly don’t feel that I have. I mean, the biggest conflict is just like I already mentioned, is, you know, motherhood and being a surgeon, you know, I think males largely are somehow a little bit lessened by that burden. , They, they seem to have a luxury of going to work and focusing on the work where I think women somehow still have that in the back of their head that they’re still kind of in charge, if you will. I’m sure that’s not how everyone, every household works, but, right. So I think that, you know, largely that would be the biggest advantage I would think that a male has is just, you know, our societal norms have just always kind of focused that the man’s job is, you know, that’s their job. So they go do their job. Whereas the woman’s job is, is a couple of things. You know, it’s not only the job, but it’s also PTA meetings, the soccer teams, the school uniforms, the doctor’s appointments. Somehow that kind of usually gets a little bit, the woman has to deal with that. So that, that would be the only problem that I ever encountered, anyway.

Monique Ramsey (07:40):
So thinking about sort of medicine in general, do you think women in medicine tend to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts?

Dr. Breister (07:51):
Yeah, I mean I have luckily never really experienced a lot of issues with me being a female. I, I mean, as far as respect, I, I think that, luckily in my generation, I mean, yeah, there are some, you know, old boys club kind of things. But I think some of that stuff is, you know, I’ve never taken all any of that too personally. So, and I think that the patients value, everything I bring to the table is in medicine, which I feel is sometimes a little extra than some males. And I’m not, I don’t mean to generalize every, every male, but as a woman, a mother, I’m pretty empathic. I like to listen. I like to really understand what the woman is wanting. And I think that as women we’re kind of geared towards that. So I feel like patients respect and treat me just the same as any male, like I said, because usually the ones that I’m seeing too are choosing a female. So they know somehow they, they feel a little more comfortable. They feel a little more maybe supported, heard, empathized with or just more comfortable, you know, sometimes we’re just a little shy or embarrassed. We don’t really wanna show our body or our flaws to a man just cause it can be a little awkward. So, so luckily I think on both fronts I’ve been very respected and supported, which I, I think is great.

Monique Ramsey (09:19):
And hopefully, you know, over time, I think that sort of idea of the old boys club, you know, hopefully , we’re making progress. I feel like we are.

Dr. Breister (09:27):
It’s fading. It’s fading. Yep.

Monique Ramsey (09:29):
Yeah. And I think to me as a woman who’s been a mom and you know, we all have our own body insecurities. Certainly I’ll flash any doctor to help me with my problem, but, you know, am I gonna feel as comfortable? I think being with a woman, you tend to feel more comfortable cuz you get it, you’ve had kids, you understand. And so I think that part of it is, for the patient, can make you more relatable. So I think there’s a perception, and it happened with my OBGYN and she’s a, a woman, but she’s very direct, very assertive , you know, wasn’t sort of the warm and fuzzy. And do you think there’s a double standard if a man is that way, nobody questions it, that he’s just direct and assertive and he’s a man and he’s not warm and fuzzy. And somehow is there an expectation that because you’re a woman, you’re gonna be more empathetic or you’re going to be more, I don’t know, warm and fuzzy than a man or, and are you ever unfairly criticized for that?

Dr. Breister (10:39):
Well, I certainly understand where you’re going with that. And I think that there is a, you know, an unfair bias that if a woman is a little more assertive or a little more direct, that, that, that can give her an unfavorable label or a, you know, a stigma in a way, which I do think is unfair. But, you know, I think just as humanity, you know, we all need to, we all need to understand women or men, we’re all gonna have different facets. So, you know, I wish that, that that could fade away, you know, and that, that women wouldn’t get the bad names calling if, if they decide to be a little more, uh, firm or a little more assertive. So, uh, it’s my hope that even as women, we all take everyone as an individual, whether it’s a man or a woman, you’re gonna find very empathic men.

You’re gonna find more direct men. Same thing with women, you know, there’s gonna be all kinds. And I think if we’re just all a little bit more accepting and open-minded that yeah, hey, there’s a lot of different personalities and it, it just, cuz it’s a woman, it may not, it may not have been what I’m looking for, you know, so that’s, that’s the beauty of being able to seek out a couple different opinions. There’s gonna be people that resonate with you and sometimes it’s not a woman, you know? So, so I think that’s, it’s, it’s nice that we all have that choice now. You know, luckily there’s more, there’s more choices, there’s more, “Okay, can I find a woman and internist? Or maybe I’m a little comfortable with OBGYN”, you know. So luckily, hopefully the, you know, the scales will get more 50/50 in all the, the surgical fields and that way people can decide who’s a best fit.

Monique Ramsey (12:17):
Yeah, yeah, that’s true. It’s really funny because my first ob gyn that I had after college, you know, when not in the college medical system at USC. And so then I was looking back in the day through the phone book and I see this name and the first name was Robin. And I’m like, oh, perfect. A woman in Newport Beach, . So I go through this long onboarding questionnaire with the lady on the phone, we’re on the phone for like 20 minutes, we go through the whole thing. And I said, oh, I’m really looking forward to meeting her. And she goes, oh, it’s not her. It’s a him.

Dr. Breister (12:51):
It’s a her.

Monique Ramsey (12:52):
Oh. And I’m like, oh, oh, oh, okay. And then, but I had already spent so much time, I’m like, okay, fine. Mm-hmm. , he was the nicest, sweetest man. I felt so comfortable and especially, you know, it’s a very intimate appointment. Yeah. And he was the best. So it was sort of like that preconception. And then my next OBGYN,

Dr. Breister (13:11):
Yeah. It doesn’t always hold up.

Monique Ramsey (13:12):
Yeah. And then when I moved to San Diego, I did see a woman and she was very direct and assertive and not warm and fuzzy. And it was fine for me cuz I worked with female surgeons and I’m like, okay, it’s fine. She’s a great doctor. Yeah. But my best friend had gone to her and was like, I, you know, she’s just not very nice. And I’m like, well, she’s nice, but she’s just not,

Dr. Breister (13:32):
Well, yeah.

Monique Ramsey (13:32):
She’s not that,

Dr. Breister (13:33):
It just doesn’t resonate. Yeah,

Monique Ramsey (13:34):
Right, right, exactly.

Dr. Breister (13:36):
So touchy-feely, we all, y’all look for things different, like I said, certain things resonate. So that’s why it’s always good to see a couple of people because you just never know what, what, what, how you’re gonna get that gut feeling that, okay, this is the right person for me, which I truly believe is a good thing to listen to.

Monique Ramsey (13:54):
Now, in your patient base, do you have men and women?

Dr. Breister (13:58):
I do have men and women. I would say the majority is women, but there are more and more men that are seeking, um, improvements in their body or their physique. And I think it’s becoming a little more acceptable. And the stigma around that is, is starting to fade, which is great. So, um, yeah, I’m very, I’m very welcoming to men and I have a lot of males in my practice.

Monique Ramsey (14:22):
Now, in your training or in your time before you were in maybe private practice, did you have any stories of times where being a woman was either better or worse, let me say than like, did you ever encounter any issues or obstacles that you had to overcome?

Dr. Breister (14:43):
Well, I mean, in training, you know, people often mistake you for a nurse or which, you know, or they don’t really know that you’re the doctor. So there, there’s a lot of that, oh, I’m, uh, you know, I’m Dr. Oh, you’re the doctor. Oh, I thought you were the nurse. I thought you were the, you know, this or that. So there’s a lot of that, but it’s never really been a problem. I mean, people, I think people inherently are good. They just, they, you know, it’s just, it’s breaking through those societal stereotypes that we are all used to. But luckily I didn’t really encounter too much other issues with that.

Monique Ramsey (15:17):
That’s good. That’s good. So now we just wanna, as far as getting to know you, you know, let’s talk about your path and how did you end up in plastic surgery, and did you know that you always wanted to do aesthetic medicine?

Dr. Breister (15:32):
Um, well I, as a younger girl, I, I always was drawn to science and I definitely had a curiosity of about medicine. So it became pretty clear to me early, you know, probably middle school that I, I really wanted to become a doctor. I liked the feeling of being in a hospital. I liked to know what was happening with people who were sick. You know, sometimes that scares people away. That somehow drew me in. I don’t know why or how, but so luckily, yeah, I was always drawn to medicine and I probably initially thought I would do dermatology, which I find pretty fascinating. However, once I was in medical school and you do rotations in the various disciplines, once in the operating room, it was just like where I needed to be. It just felt like home to me. So it became quickly apparent that I wanted to be a surgeon.

So in that there’s a little bit of, you know, you rotate through a lot of different surgical disciplines and they all have their pluses and minuses. And I discovered plastic surgery, which was just really refreshing because number one, the patients for the most part are very healthy. And it’s not quite as stressful as a trauma surgeon or an orthopedic surgeon who have a lot, people have a lot of medical issues and those can be kind of stressful. So I found that the, the practice of plastic surgery was a lot of really happy patients who were doing things to improve themselves and had very good outcomes. So I was definitely drawn to aesthetics. I have a really aesthetic eye so I could see things that, you know, what would help the patients. I felt like that was a, a talent. And then I also loved the variety that that aesthetic surgery has. So that drew me in.

Monique Ramsey (17:31):
Now tell me, do you have a favorite procedure that you do?

Dr. Breister (17:37):
Well, I have to say I really love all the procedures I do. I really, I enjoy the intricacy of a facelift or an eyelid lift. It’s very precise, very meticulous, but I also really love the types of surgeries where I’m taking off a lot of skin in, say like a weight loss patient. They have, you know, pounds of extra skin to remove and those are equally fun, exciting cases. So I really love it all, and that’s, I can’t really say, you know, I love one more than the other. It’s more like apples and oranges. They all are different in their own unique way. So I really just love surgery in general. It’s very empowering, if you will, . It’s very fun to, you know, walk into an operating room and when you walk out a couple hours later they’ve been transformed and that’s, it feels good.

Monique Ramsey (18:33):
I bet, I bet that’s you’re making such an incredibly positive difference in someone’s life that’s gonna stay with them forever.

Dr. Breister (18:42):
Exactly. Exactly.

Monique Ramsey (18:44):
Now do you have, you know, when you get up in the morning, do you have like a certain inspiration or like what inspires you as you go to work?

Dr. Breister (18:54):
I think the, the biggest inspiration is the patients after their surgeries who are so grateful and happy and they basically come in with an extra pep in their step. It’s a really great inspirational feeling to be able to make a difference in someone’s life like that. And it doesn’t, it doesn’t necessarily, you know, the woman can have had a procedure that no one really can see or know about, but the fact that they now sit more comfortably in their own skin creates a confidence that is really, it’s really nice to see. So that, that would probably be my biggest inspiration.

Monique Ramsey (19:40):
Now, do you have anything that you wanna share about what you like to do when you’re not at work?

Dr. Breister (19:46):
Well, I love being outdoors. I love, uh, you know, born and raised in California. I love, I love being out in the sun. So I love to run or go for a bike ride or ski. Um, pretty physical. So I love to do things that, you know, just are athletic. Those are my my favorite things to do, and preferably outside if the weather’s good. So that’s kind of me in a nutshell.

Monique Ramsey (20:10):
. Well, it’s a good thing you live in San Diego and you, and you were born and raised in San Diego.

Dr. Breister (20:15):
I was, yeah. Yep.

Monique Ramsey (20:16):
That’s wonderful.

Dr. Breister (20:17):
Feels like home.

Monique Ramsey (20:18):
I love that. I love that. Yeah. There’s a few of us now and it, it’s, it’s actually been really fun throughout the podcast to, as I interview people and meet them, I’m like, oh, you were born at Scripps? I was born at Scripps and everybody’s, um, you know, we’ve have quite a few San Diego natives on the team, which is really fun.

Dr. Breister (20:35):

Monique Ramsey (20:36):

Dr. Breister (20:37):
It’s a nice place to

Monique Ramsey (20:38):
Be from. Yeah, it’s a nice place. Do you have any other things sort of to share about Women’s Month, the International Women’s Month?

Dr. Breister (20:47):
I think it’s nice that we are taking a moment to kind of appreciate women. I think that, you know, women sometimes don’t get quite as much appreciation as, as needed. So I think anything that we can do to, to help boost each other up, I think is great. And I, I love to see women supporting women. I think that’s very powerful when we can all stick together.

Monique Ramsey (21:09):
Yeah. Yeah. I do too. I love that. Well, thanks for coming on the podcast today and we’ll hopefully be able to break into your schedule again soon. I know you’re really, really busy. Yeah. But I do wanna do a meet the doctor episode where we can dive more into some of the things we touched on today.

Dr. Breister (21:26):
Great. Well thank you so much.

Speaker 1 (21:34):
Take a screenshot of this podcast episode with your phone and show it at your consultation or appointment or mention the promo code PODCAST to receive $25 off any service or product of $50 or more at La Jolla Cosmetic. La Jolla Cosmetic is located just off the I-5 San Diego Freeway in the XiMed Building on the Scripps Memorial Hospital campus. To learn more, go to ljcsc.com or follow the team on Instagram @ljcsc. The La Jolla Cosmetic Podcast is a production of The Axis.