We had the good fortune of connecting with Erica Bartlett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erica, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Plastic surgery has always excited me because it combines not only surgical skill but an artistic eye. There are many principles in surgery that never change, however, in plastic surgery those basic skills and principles are used as the foundation. Everything else comes from designing a procedure that fits the patient’s goals and expectations. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I enjoy the challenge of making a surgical result fit the patient. No person is the same, so it would make sense that no surgery should be the same. In that regard, plastic surgery allows me to use both sides of my brain. The left side, the analytical side is imperative because as a surgeon you must be very algorithmic and methodical in your analysis and evaluation. At the same time, the right side of the brain, or creative side, allows me to use an artistic eye to design a result that not only meets the patient’s expectation, but mine (and I have very high expectations). It makes my field very challenging but also at the same time very rewarding. Every day comes different people, with different goals and desired results, and the marriage of both art and science is in constant interplay. This is definitely a career that never gets boring!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Traditionally, the medical field, especially the surgical field, has been male dominated. I think that it is particularly challenging as a female to find your identity and develop a very unique set of skills in a field that was pioneered by men. Now, we see more and more females entering the medical field and being represented in all specialties. However, this does not necessarily mean that we feel like equals. Many children are brought up to believe that girls become nurses and boys become doctors. And that is just not the case. I am a board-certified plastic surgeon. The journey was long to get here. It was a humbling experience as well. I spent 4 years in college, 4 years in medical school and 7 years in residency. Was it long: yes. Was it hard: yes. Was I tired: yes. Did I cry: yes. Was it worth it: yes. I learned, as a female, how to navigate in a male dominated field and maintain my identity. It was not an overnight endeavor and it is still a work in progress. What I learned is to not take things you value for granted. For me, it came down to the three F’s: Family, friends and fertility. Once a month family dinners, frequent friend group chats and egg freezing to protect future child bearing potential. What I also learned, or I should really say “refined” is empathy. Most people go into medicine because they care about the wellbeing of others, but I think that emotion was amplified for me. I felt like many of my male colleagues could not relate to patients, many of whom were women. Whereas some of my counterparts would view a patient as a diagnosis or a procedure, I viewed them as a name, a person with an identity. I have always been very close and protective of my patients and I think that is what sets me apart now, in private practice. The majority of my practice is cosmetic surgery. I spend a considerable amount to time getting to know my patients, and them getting to know me before we embark on any surgical procedure together. It brings me so much joy to operate and perform plastic surgery. I have been granted the opportunity to change someone’s life, at a time when they are most vulnerable and address their insecurities. I believe to go through any surgery is a journey and I can honestly say I am on that journey with my patients, from beginning to the end. We laugh, we cry and most important, we empathize together. Because I am invested in them just as much as they are invested in me. My journey is just beginning but I do take time to reflect on the journey that got me here. From the good, the bad and the ugly it has made me who I am today. I am grateful for the training that I had, the lessons I have learned and to a fulfilling career as a female plastic surgeon.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I will set the scene, pretending that we do not have a global pandemic and we are all supposed to be social distancing. For a perfect weekend, the ideal Houston months, for me, are March, April and May, because it’s starting to warm up: not too hot and not too cold. Friday would be a low-key evening sitting on the patio around a fire pit with some full-bodied cabernet sauvignon, preferably from Napa Valley. Saturday we would start out at the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. We would need to wear bright colors, naturally, so the butterflies would land on us. This would be followed by a casual stroll through Hermann Park and a light picnic at the Centennial Gardens. Next, we would spend the rest of the afternoon doing a little shopping at Rice Village before we catch dinner at my favorite staple restaurant, Hungry’s. That evening, we would listen to some live Jazz music at Cezanne while we sip on some extra dirty martinis, vodka not gin. Sunday we would catch brunch at Toulouse, soaking up the ambiance outside with more live music. They have an amazing lobster bisque soup! This would then be followed by a massage at the Houstonian and a casual hot tub to unravel and get ready for the week. We would probably chat for a few hours before we got pruney and needed to depart. We would then make plans to get together again and schedule another perfect weekend trip! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout goes to my partner in business and my partner in wine, Dr. Scott Yarish. He welcomed me into his practice about a year and a half ago and I feel confident that neither of us have regretted that decision. I think we both came into each other’s life at the perfect time. He had a 30 year well established practice but was looking for someone to continue his legacy. I, on the other hand, was looking for mentorship and a home. We bonded over our love for plastic surgery and wine! He has taught me so much about life, business, balance and yes a little plastic surgery as well! I feel very comforted to be in a practice with so much support. It is more than just a business, it is a family. Having someone to share ideas with and seek counsel when answers are not so clear has been so instrumental for personal growth and development. Many lessons have come to fruition, after long surgery days, over glasses of red, which we call “work wine.” Especially in uncertain times, like these, it is important to have a strong infrastructure. I do not think anyone knows what tomorrow will bring, but I feel confident that we are going to come through this pandemic on top. This has solidified my feeling that I am where I should be at, in this practice, and that is mostly in part due to my partner, Scott Yarish. And for that, I am eternally grateful.