When you close your eyes and try to spit out the first thing that comes to mind when you imagine plastic surgery, a mission to reconstruct confidence and build communities may not be the words that come out.
For years, society has looked at plastic surgery as a taboo topic—constantly sharing misinformation, biased opinions, and shaming those who decide to indulge in the procedure. This sentiment is especially shared within the black community, where women’s bodies are often policed with a history stemming hundred of years into the past and overexaggerated stereotypes.
Yet, with trailblazing, hardworking women like Aisha Baron taking the field by storm—the vision to build black women up through shared experiences and medical solutions, it is soon on its way into a positive outlook.
Dr. Aisha Baron is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon at her own practice, Breast Body Beauty in the metro Atlanta, but you may know her as the “BreastNBodyDoc” on Instagram, and one of the few African-American female plastic surgeons in the United States.
Not only has she lead by example in the office, but she has also given us a peek into her amazing personality, life, and profession when she joined the hit reality show “Atlanta Plastic” on Lifetime in 2015, shortly before she launched her own practice in 2016.
Here, Dr. Baron chats with BAUCE about her personal experiences that lead her into her passion of practicing within plastic surgery, the need for black women within the medical field, and how she manages to be the face of representation for so many aspiring black medical professionals across the globe.
As a black woman, and cancer survivor— I am sure you are aware of the current and lifelong treatment of black women within different medical systems. Often, these women feel as if the system was never crafted to tailor to their needs. Did this influence your choice to become a plastic and reconstructive surgeon?
Dr. Aisha Baron: I wouldn’t necessarily say it influenced my choice to become a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, but it has definitely fueled my desire to make sure that my patients are well represented within our field. I think the standards of beauty have changed and there’s been more acceptance toward preserving ethnicity and natural body shapes when it comes to plastic and reconstructive surgery. I can only think that is the result of the increased voice that minority surgeons have within our respective societies.
In 2016, ASPS Member Surgeon Amanda Gosman, MD, and colleagues of the University of California completed a study that showed that while more women are training to be plastic surgeons, there is still a gap within racial inclusion in the field. Currently, you serve as a representation for black women within your field by not only being the first African-American woman to be accepted in the Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency program at Baylor College of Medicine but also by mentoring college students pursuing medical professions. Were you guided by a mentor that looked like you at the start of your career? If so, how did it help your journey? If not, how has the absence contributed to your need to mentor today?
Dr. Aisha Baron: I didn’t have many mentors that looked like me when I was pursuing a plastic surgery residency in med school. And I had even fewer during my residency and as I started my career. I did have a couple of mentors while in my residency program that I can still reach out to bounce ideas off of.
Even though some may not have been my actual mentors, I think seeing other African-American plastic surgeons out there has really helped me see that my goals are attainable. I also have plenty of colleagues that really are just as helpful as mentors that have helped me in starting my own business and building my career. Not all of them specifically look like me, but they are genuine people who understand the obstacles I face as a minority woman in the surgical field.
Does being a face of representation for black women within the medical field a big burden to carry, especially since many black women in predominantly white spaces feel that when you set the example, there is little room to mess up?
Dr. Aisha Baron: It can sometimes be a burden to carry but it’s also a badge of honor to be a face of representation. Since I was little, my dad always told me that because I was a woman and I was black, I would have to work twice as hard. So I think I’ve always lived my life with the sentiment that I can’t mess up. Now, have I messed up? Of course, I have. I’ve noticed that when I did, the consequences were definitely direr and taken more seriously — so that’s why those mistakes are few and far between. It has helped to build a thick skin and make sure that I’m prepared for whatever I may encounter because I may not be given a pass as quickly as someone else.
You are a proud member of the Spelman College Alumnae Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Do Do you believe that your connection to these organizations make it vital to be of guidance for black female college students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities?
Dr. Aisha Baron: My connections help to foster a spirit of inclusivity and encouragement as it relates to women who may want to pursue a career in the medical field. I enjoy being a voice of guidance or sounding board and seeing how things have changed since I’ve moved on from those spaces. I think having matriculated through those spaces has definitely bestowed a sense of responsibility on me to give back my time, my experience and any type of help that I can to make the path to a career in medicine easier for a young woman coming up.
Not only are you immersed within the medical field, reality television, and mentorship—you are also very involved within community breast cancer organizations and support groups. Did your participation in these groups, as well as your creative versatility help craft the vision of Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day? If so, in what ways?
Dr. Aisha Baron: BRA Day is a national initiative that was started by the American Society of Plastic Surgery, so I certainly can’t take credit for that. But what I can say is that I’ve paired it with my passion for breast reconstruction and have helped to increase awareness of the disparities that exist in different communities.
So, you joined the reality TV show, “The Plastic Life,” in 2015. Do you feel like, through this platform, you were not only able to transform misconceptions about plastic surgery to the public eye, but also to provide an example of humanity, motherhood, and relativity through the life of a plastic surgeon that most aren’t able to see?
Dr. Aisha Baron: Absolutely. I think “Atlanta Plastic” really helped to familiarize the general public with the field of plastic surgery. I think it showed people that it’s not just for the rich and famous, but that everyday people undergo plastic surgery every day. I think they also liked seeing our different personalities and that all plastic surgeons aren’t arrogant or self-centered. I believe I came across as very relatable and human when it came to explaining the different procedures and motivations of my patients.
After looking at how you list and define the services you have to offer, one of my favorite things about it has to be that you put yourself within the potential client’s shoes by relating it to your life. Do you feel like a deeper than the surface connection with clients is important?
Dr. Aisha Baron: I think connecting with your patients in any way, whether it’s a superficial or deep connection, is really important. It’s important to find something special within them that you can either relate to or use as an education point or factor to build a relationship with them. I often say that the surgeon-patient relationship is very intimate because I will see parts of you that no one will ever see, and I don’t take that lightly. Connecting with my patients doesn’t mean that I have to disclose an enormous amount of personal information about myself. It’s about allowing myself to be seen as a person and not just this doctor that is trying to build a career. I think my patients are able to see the kind of woman I am and why certain things are important to me just from our general conversations.
While it is admirable that you do desire to connect with your patients, what do you do to make sure that those connections don’t mentally drain you each day?
Dr. Aisha Baron: I definitely enforce boundaries. I don’t divulge too much personal information. I make the patient respect the amount of information that I give out about myself or my employees, and I put limits on my time. I am super accessible to my patients for urgent and emergent medical needs, however, I make it known when something could have been handled in a different way or if it could have waited until the next day. And I think because my patients know that I have children, a family and other priorities outside of my office, they respect my time and don’t take advantage of my accessibility.
In the light of the current feminist movement shifting into a stronger force than ever before, do you think it is important, as women, to be more accepting toward plastic surgery to make others feel comfortable with committing to procedures?
Dr. Aisha Baron: I think the feminist movement is about respecting a woman’s decision at any time. And I think if you’re going to call yourself a feminist, you should be open and accepting of a woman’s decision to do what she wants with her body — whether it’s a woman’s right to choose, a right to dye her hair, to get her nails done or to have plastic surgery. People should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies without being shamed.
What is the legacy that you want to leave within your field, for others that come after you to be inspired and motivated by?
Dr. Aisha Baron: I think the legacy that I’d like to leave is that African-American women plastic surgeons are just as dedicated, talented, and smart business professionals as our male counterparts, and we have all of those same skill sets. I like to let young plastic surgeons know that they can have it all. It may not all be at the same time, but they too can be mothers, they can be wives, they can be surgeons. They can still have those lofty career goals and accomplish them while having other personal aspirations as well. It’s really about having work-life integration as opposed to balance when it comes to really satisfy the desires of your heart and your career.
Want to keep up with Dr. Aisha Baron? You can follow her on her Instagram!