Blog — Notes of a Plastic Surgeon

Welcome to my blog. I am a plastic surgeon in Seattle and have been in private practice since 1991. I've seen more than a few interesting faces and cases through my years spent in the exam room, the operating room and the emergency room. And I have an opinion on just about everything relating to plastic surgery (and a lot of unrelated stuff). If you like my blog, let me know. Thanks for reading! Lisa

Category: It’s All About Me.


Being a woman and a surgeon isn’t always easy but it sure beats the alternatives: Being a woman and not being a surgeon or being a surgeon and not being a woman.

January 16th, 2018 — 2:36pm

I participate in a few doctor only on line message boards and forums.  A topic that has been front and center the past few months has been the #METOO movement and some of the challenges women in medicine face.  I’d like to share a few of my own stories.  Fortunately none of them include Harvey Weinstein.

I finished medical school in 1983.  1/3 of my graduating class were women.  These days women comprise more than 50% of most medical school classes.  I did my general surgery residence at the University of Utah, not exactly a bastion of progressive ideas.  Surprisingly about 20% of the surgery residents were women.  I felt very little discrimination but maybe I was just to busy and exhausted to notice?  I did get a couple of evaluations that I thought were just hilarious and still do. They were both from the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Hospital.  One described me as “defensive, argumentative and with a chip on my shoulder”.  The other described me as “a sharp little gal”.  My boyfriend at the time just about split a gut laughing when he saw these. He was also a general surgery resident and never got such amusing reviews.

I had a few interesting experiences with male patients.  When I was doing an Intensive Care Unit rotation as a wet behind the ears intern at the University Hospital, I helped with a middle aged Mormon Elder who was crashing badly from acute pancreatitis.  (If you have never heard of this disease, count yourself lucky).  I was cleaning his penis in preparation to place a catheter so we could monitor his urinary output.  This man was very ill and a little delirious.  He looked at me and said “Doc, I’ll give you 10 minutes to stop that”.  It never crossed my mind to take offense at this.  It added a bit of levity (ha, ha) to a very serious situation.  I got to know this gentleman quite well during his ICU stay and he was a totally stand up guy.  On the gastroenterology rotation during my third year, I was doing a colonoscopy on an elderly man and he twisted his torso and neck to look me right in the eye and asked “What is a pretty little thing like you doing here?”  At the time, I thought that was actually a very good question!  This fellow grew up in a time where women rarely worked outside the home and certainly did not become surgeons.  Again, since I was the one with the scope, I felt no animosity towards him.

Dr. Henry Neal in 1990 with his girl residents, me, Sue Wermerling and Kimberley Goh. Can you tell that he secretly loves us?

My first year of my plastic surgery residency (after 6 years of general surgery) three of the four residents were women.  This was a fluke of the computer based residency matching system.  The chairman of plastic surgery, Dr. Henry Neale was a good old boy from the south.  He kept a bull whip in his desk drawer.  Really.  He was a great surgeon and ran a powerful department.  We operated our brains out and he had our back every day.  Dr. Neale was very, very politically incorrect.  He pondered if Sue, Kim and I would start cycling together and once stated he should put a Kotex machine in the resident’s office.  Well, the three of us just dished it right back at him and we did end up cycling together.

There was one occasion where I really felt harassed.  I was a 4th year general surgery resident on call at a private hospital in Ogden, Utah.  Late one night there was knock on my call room door.  I opened it to find an elderly staff surgeon with alcohol on his breath with a fifth of Southern Comfort (yuck!) in his hand.  He wanted to know if I wanted to party.  This scene was so ludicrous that I laugh out loud just thinking about it.  Most residents given the choice of sleep vs. party would pick sleep no matter whom was holding the bottle.  This man’s son was a medical student who had rotated on my service a few months previously.  I told the party hound horn dog that he had three seconds to leave or I would tell his son.  I think he was gone before I hit “two”.  I never assisted him on a case again which was no loss on my part because he was a lousy surgeon.  No, I did not file a complaint or make a fuss of this.  Again, he grew up in a different time.

I’ve had a few really weird patient encounters in private practice related to my gender.  Years ago when I was pregnant with my twin sons and could barely fit through a door, I had a mentally unstable older man with a skin cancer on his scalp the size of a poker chip.  This, gentle readers, is what we surgeons call a GREAT CASE.  The mentally unstable older man was quite the cad with many comments about my huge belly and the certain studhood of my husband.  He also had many bizarre ideas about selenium deficinecy and sexual function.  I was not sad to send him on his way once he had healed.  A few years later I had an elderly woman come in with another neglected and ginormous skin cancer who shrieked when she saw me and declared that “women are stupid and I won’t have one for my doctor”.  Oh well, that great case went to my partner who has a Y chromosome.  She was nasty to him too.

As I write this blog, I can’t really think of any weird encounters in recent years.  I think in the 26(!) years since I started practice that being a woman surgeon or woman astronaut or woman programmer or even race car driver has become sort of a no big deal which suits me just fine.  Recently my 17 year-old daughter took a field trip with her computer science class to the Microsoft campus just outside of Seattle.  She attends an all girl high school and they were given a tour by an all female coding team.  The advice given to these bright young students by these bright young and not-so-young techies was to work hard, advocate for yourself and don’t take things too personally.  I think that is good advice regardless of your gender or your workplace.

Thanks for reading and follow me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder, girl surgeon.  And there will be an upcoming blog about delayed childbearing which is something I don’t recommend but sure worked for me.

General Health, Government and Politics, It's All About Me., Plastic Surgery, Surgical Eductaion

Manual labor

June 8th, 2016 — 3:08pm

I recently returned from a 12 day stay in Vaison La Romaine, France where my husband taught his yearly Travel, Food and Wine Writing class.  Blog winery workerThis class combines some excellent sight seeing, lots and lots of eating and, of course, some winery tours.  On one of the tours, I skipped the usual sniffing, sipping and spitting routine and just wandered around the winery a little bit.  That is when I came across this photo on the wall which just delighted me.  You see, I have this thing about manual labor maybe because beneath all the fancy surgeon stuff, I am, like all surgeons, a manual laborer.  And I, like all surgeon, prefer it that way.  I cannot imagine spending most of my work week sitting at a desk.

I just love this image of this young winery worker hosing herself down after a long day of turning grape juice into wine.  Don’t think for one minute that I need to hose down after a long bloody case because the procedures I do are really very controlled, quite tidy and, thanks to the electric scalpel, not very bloody.  But there are days when I have labored all day, on my feet, in a warm O.R. under bright lights and I feel like need a good hosing down.  I just take a shower instead.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

 

It's All About Me., My Plastic Surgery Philosophy, Now That's Cool

My Dad

May 11th, 2015 — 9:52am

A tribute to my father on the 20th anniversary of his death.

Scans,   (20140304095238874) 20150511091033024

Twenty years ago today I got the call from the Hospice nurse that my father had died.  He has been ill for a couple of years with leukemia and the news came as no surprise but it still hit me hard.  I spent the next several years feeling like a large chunk of me had been amputated.

It’s mostly true that time is a great healer and I only tear up occasionally when I talk about him – which is almost every day.  My children were all born after he was gone but they talk about him like they knew him because I have made sure that he is part of their life.

I became a surgeon partly because of my father.  He was a mechanical engineer who loved more than anything to problem solve and to fix stuff, whether it was a toaster, a cat door or the transmission on my 1972 Vega (really).  And he passed that love of fixing stuff down to all of his children, including me.

In medical school, I was resistant to the idea of going into surgery because of the very long and difficult residency.  I knew that my life would be on hold for many years if I chose the surgical life.  His advice was to give it a try because if I didn’t, I would always be asking myself “what if…”.   I took his advice and here I am 24 years into my practice of plastic surgery.  I survived the training (barely), claimed a normal personal life (a little late), and love coming to work every single day and fixing stuff.

Thanks Dad.  You are probably welding a crack in the Pearly Gates with St. Peter.

Thanks for reading.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

It's All About Me.

Merry Christmas!

December 24th, 2014 — 12:27pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon wishes everyone a Very Merry Christmas.

Seattle Plastic Surgeon wishes Merry ChirstmasThe Christmas season is always super busy in my practice.  It seems crazy to have surgery around the holidays but it is the choice of many, many patients.  They already have time off of work or school for recovery.

In my 23 years of practice, I have only taken time off around Christmas twice; once to take care of my newborn daughter and once to have surgery myself.

So Merry Christmas to everyone.  I’ll be working every day except for Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years!  It’s a good thing that I love my work!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for some upcoming New Year’s Resolutions.

Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

It's All About Me.

Mother’s Day is almost here.

May 7th, 2014 — 3:59pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon and mother of three teenagers (!) has a gift suggestion for Mother’s Day.  She hopes her husband and children read this blog.

This robe is as soft as a kitten.

This robe is as soft as a kitten.

I recently  had to spend the better part of a day at SeaTac, Seattle’s airport, while waiting for my delayed flight to San Franscisco to attend the annual meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.   Fortunately, SeaTac has a really nice terminal with lots of shops and restaurants to while away the hours and whittle away your wallet while waiting.  I happened upon this wonderful robe at a gift shop called Fireworks Gallery.  It is as light and soft and cuddly as a kitten.  I almost expected it to start purring.  This robe is at the top of my list for this Mother’s Day.

If you are interested in this robe for a wonderful mom in your life, Seattle has several Firework Galleries and it’s also available online from the manufacturer’s website :  http://tourance.com/   And if the mother on your list already has a nice collections of robes, Tourance also carries a Wild Hyena Faux Fur Throw with Chocolate Rosebuds.  Sounds fun, huh?

Happy Mother’s day to all.   I’m looking forward to breakfast in bed this Sunday.  Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

 

It's All About Me., Mommy Makeover, Stuff I love, Wardrobe Observations

Spring cleaning – why not get a head start?

March 17th, 2014 — 10:28am

Seattle Plastic Surgeon shares a clothes closet de-cluttering algorithm.

I have set aside  this coming weekend to de-clutter my clothing closet.  Since I did not spring clean last year or the year before,  this is going to be rather challenging.  Fortunately, I came across this algorithm which will help me with the process.   I will try to be strong.  Wish me luck or better yet, why don’t you de-clutter your clothes closet and we can compare notes!

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

This is from O: The Oprah Magazine, De-Clutter Your Life, March, 2014.

This is from O: The Oprah Magazine, De-Clutter Your Life, March, 2014.

 

It's All About Me., Wardrobe Observations

Merry Christmas!

December 23rd, 2013 — 3:29pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon wishes everyone a Very Merry Christmas.

Seattle Plastic Surgeon wishes Merry ChirstmasThe Christmas season is always super busy in my practice.  It seems crazy to have surgery around the holidays but it is the choice of many, many patients.  They already have time off of work or school for recovery.

In my 22 years of practice, I have only taken time off around Christmas twice; once to take care of my newborn daughter and once to have surgery myself.

So Merry Christmas to everyone.  I’ll be in the operating room every day except for Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years!  It’s a good thing that I love my work!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for some upcoming New Year’s Resolutions.

Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

It's All About Me.

Oh my aching back.

October 5th, 2012 — 2:50pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon on the perils of sewing day and night for several weeks.

I’ve had a several busy in surgery which means I’ve been hunching over the operating table and putting in stitch after stitch after stitch.  Then I’ve been going home and hunching over my sewing machine hour after hour after hour.  And my back is killing me.

I’ve been working like a maniac on my daughter’s Irish Step Dancing Solo Dress.  It’s her very first Solo Dress and in state of temporary insanity, I decided to design and make it myself. 

I’ve been sewing since grade school and there was a time when I made most of my clothing.  But this dress is the most challenging project I have ever taken on.  Solo Dresses are designed to make a dancer stand out on stage.  They need to be fitted to flatter the dancer but also move a certain way with the various jumps and leaps and twirls that make up Irish Step Dancing.     And they need to sparkle and shine. 

My daughter’s dress has a midnight teal velvet bodice and a drop waist with a three layer ruffled white satin skirt with a matching cape.  Did I mention about a billion metalic seed beads and rhinestones.  Oh, and there is the lining and the underlining.  And I think I need counseling after struggling with horrors of the “invisible”  zipper. 

Mu daughter and I are traveling to Portland, Oregon tomorrow for her first competition in her new Solo Dress.  I know exactly where I will be until the wee hours tonight.  I’ll be hunched over this dress, putting on the final touches of this magnificent garment which I expect my daughter to outgrow within 3 or 4 months.   Then……I get to start making the next one!

Thanks for reading and wish my daughter (and her dress) lots of luck.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Irish Step Dancing, It's All About Me.

July 1st is a important day for young doctors.

June 29th, 2012 — 1:33pm

Seattle Plastic Surgery explains the importance of July 1st.

If you end up in the hospital this upcoming Sunday, you may notice that some of the doctors look young, really young.  That’s because this Sunday is July 1st and that is the first day of internship for all the doctors who finished medical school in June. 

I’ll never forget my first day of internship.  I was 27 years old but looked about 15.  I was assigned to the “Blue Team” at the University Hospital in Salt Lake City.  My chief resident (that’s a resident in their last year of training) was Dr. Karen Cartwright (now a pediatric surgeon in Arizona)  and the second year resident was Dr. Richard Barton (now a surgical critical care specialist in Utah).  We also had a couple of third year medical students on the team.  We were supervised by 4 attending surgeons. 

Despite all the great training in medical school at the University of Washington with a lot of “hands on” experience, I was terrified that first day of really being a doctor.  I remember introducing myself the “Blue Team” patients and having many of them tell me that I could not possibly be old enough to be a doctor (or at least their doctor).  I remember Karen Cartwright being so kind and helpful and Dr. Richard Barton showing me ropes of “scut work”  which includes things like drawing blood, starting IVs, changing dressings, taking out stitches, etc.   And I remember that first night on call when I  ordered some Mylanta for a patient with an upset stomach.  I was so afraid that the patient would have a violent adverse reaction to this over-the-counter medication. Both the patient and I survived my first night of call.

So – if you are in the hospital on July 1st and a child in a white coat and stethascope introduces him or herself as your doctor, be assured that they have been training for years for this day and please don’t tell them how young they look.  It will just make them nervous.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

General Health, It's All About Me.

My New Year’s Resolution

January 1st, 2012 — 9:37pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon acknowledges that there is a bit of room for improvement.

This year I am going to keep it simple.  Not easy, but simple.

Our family does a fair amount of camping.   Those of you who also enjoy and/or endure the chaos of camping are familiar with the camping ethos of : LEAVE THE CAMPSITE BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT.

So there it is:  I, Lisa, will leave the campsite, car interior, desk top (what a mess that always is), kitchen sink, closet, dog’s food and water bowls,  junk drawer, bread box,  garden shed, and whatever innanimate objects are subject to the forces of entropy, atrophy, apathy, inertia, and so forth, in a better condition than in which I found them.

Wish me luck, HAPPY NEW YEAR and thanks for reading.   Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

It's All About Me., Uncategorized

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