How a Painful Experience at 16 Years Old Led Dr. Camille Cash to a Career in Medicine

How a Painful Experience at 16 Years Old Led Dr. Camille Cash to a Career in Medicine

“I first became interested in medicine after watching my mother get hit by a car right in front of my face,” Camille Cash, MD, a board-certified, Texas-based plastic surgeon tells me during our interview, instantly making my jaw drop. “Luckily, she's alive and well, but at the time, I was 16 years old and I was completely distraught.” 

As doctors worked to help her mother, Dr. Cash sat alone in the hospital hallway, trying to find a distraction. She noticed a man in a treatment room near her mother’s, and her thoughts shifted to him. “His hand was bloody and mutilated,” she recalls. “I found myself calming down and focusing on what was happening with him.” Contrary to the gut-wrenching reaction others may have at the sight of trauma, Dr. Cash didn’t find the man’s hand gruesome or disgusting. In fact, she found his case to be rather intriguing. “That was my first inclination that I wanted to be a physician, which is funny because my grandfather is a physician and his brother is a physician. So I had that in my background, but it was never part of what I was thinking [for my career] growing up,” she explains.

Fast forward to today, the 40-something Dr. Cash is a Baylor College of Medicine graduate and head of her own private practice in Houston, Texas. That same sense of curiosity and passion for medicine that she experienced in the hospital all those years ago has only grown over the years. She discusses her patients and practice with me in the way a professional athlete might discuss their sport of choice — with contagious excitement and affection. Case in point: Over a half hour into our discussion, I realize I’ve gone completely off-script and we’ve talked well past our allotted time for the interview.

Don’t be surprised if you get swept up in Dr. Cash’s enthusiasm, too — here, in a candid interview, she shares everything from her day-to-day routine and the exact change that improved her chronic acne to the injectables she’s tried.

Spotlyte: What drew you to plastic surgery?

Dr. Camille Cash: When I went to medical school, I was immediately attracted to surgery, anatomy, and understanding how to fix things. I enjoyed this much more than the medicine side of things, which is more diagnosing illnesses, treatment plans, and things of that nature. I didn't want to spend a lot of time talking — I wanted to diagnose quickly, fix it, and move on. That's why surgery was always very attractive to me. 

Then, as I went through medical school and began looking at all the different subspecialties, I didn't feel a 100 percent connection with any of them. I was doing my internship in general surgery, and then I did my second rotation in plastic surgery in a private practice setting. I was immediately sold. It was the ability to operate, but also to be creative and do challenging cases. I instantly knew that's what I wanted to do — it just clicked.

Spotlyte: What is your day-to-day like at your practice? 

CC: My day-to-day can be very different. I'm in solo practice, and I've been in practice for 17 years. I like my day to be regimented. I have surgery days and I have office days. I'm usually in the operating room two to three days a week. Then, I'm in the office for one major killer of a day seeing patients. I may have another day where I'm just doing injectables or some administrative stuff. It always varies. 

Spotlyte: Tell me about your own skin and how you treat it.

CC: I have had acne my entire life, since about the age of 14. I still have it to this day. I always had a fascination with the skin and improving it just from a personal incentive. For me, it's all about skin and health because it’s so connected. I've learned through the years that it’s not just what you put on your skin, but what you put in your body that has a major effect on your skin. 

Spotlyte: Do you have a regimen that works well for your acne-prone complexion? 

CC: Controlling my acne starts with a simple cleanser, washing my face, and exfoliating it. But one of the biggest things that I found out about my skin and my acne, was how tied to food it was. Believe it or not, I've done [prescription retinoid] isotretinoin multiple times. I've had horrible cystic acne. And I was a healthy eater, I was physically fit, drank a lot of water.

[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]

It wasn't until I got older and I did a food elimination diet that I realized that my acne is triggered by gluten and wheat. I eliminated gluten and that made a tremendous impact. [But] it didn't get rid of it completely. It's very challenging to completely avoid gluten since it's in everything. I was in my forties by the time I figured this out. 

[Editor’s note: Individual experiences may vary.]

Spotlyte: Are there any specific products you use each day?

CC: I'm a big believer in antioxidants. I love SkinCeuticals® Phloretin CF® ($166). I like the SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel ($41), too. Again, I'm an acneic, oily person, so my regimen is going to be very different than that of my rosacea patients or my older [patients]. So, if you're oily, [use] Phloretin CF, and if you’re dryer or more mature, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic® ($166) is fantastic. 

Also, as a person of color, I've had a battle with sunscreens. Sometimes [they] just make you look ashen or chalky. So, I've really adopted mineral makeup as my sunscreen and foundation. Glo® Minerals is my preferred brand [for mineral makeup]. As I get older, I've also added eye creams, neck creams, and retinoids — things of that nature. I use the Neocutis® Micro Firm Neck & Décolleté Rejuvenating Complex ($135). I love that product, as well as their Lumière® Bio-Restorative Eye Cream ($97). 

Spotlyte: Do you do any injectables?

CC: I do get injectable wrinkle reducers in my forehead, my glabella (frown lines), and my crow's feet. 

Spotlyte: Do you get filler? 

CC: I have done filler. I had my [nasolabial] folds injected.

[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.]

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Spotlyte: Do you do any other in-office treatments? 

CC: I have done Fraxel® laser, which is lovely. I have done, in the past, microdermabrasion and HydraFacial®. Also, chemical peels and laser hair removal. I've done some skin tightening, and I've done some body contouring treatments, too.

Spotlyte: What do you think is the future of aesthetics? 

CC: The future of aesthetics is going to be a multi-tiered approach. It's going to be surgery in certain situations, but it's also going to be skincare. It's going to be laser technology, light therapies, and stem cell therapy. It's going to be wellness, hormonal treatments, supplements, and a combination of all of those platforms put into one to address wellness and aesthetics together.

Spotlyte: You mentioned supplements. Do you take any yourself?

CC: Not consistently, no. I would like to explore that more in detail, to find different ways to [treat] some vitamin deficiencies.

Spotlyte: What's your passion within your practice? 

CC: For me, it's about women empowering other women to not feel guilty about taking time and money to take care of themselves. We take care of our children and our husbands, and sometimes our needs are left out. I'm a big believer in taking the time to — if you want — do something surgically or non-surgically to enhance your beauty or your self confidence. Women definitely need to take time and resources for their self-care, self-enhancement, and self-beautification. We work so hard!

Spotlyte: What kind of procedures do women mostly come to you for when they want to “treat” themselves? 

CC: I do a lot of mommy makeovers, meaning women that have had children and want to address [changes in] their breasts and their tummy. I love my kids, but my body changed rapidly after I had children. The [mommy makeover] is a [popular] part of my practice. Another part of my practice is nonsurgical facial aesthetics with injectables. 

Spotlyte: What's the most rewarding part of your job? 

CC: The most rewarding part is when patients come back and tell me that [they are happy with their results]. I love it! I've had patients that I’ve talked to about smoking and weight loss, and they've come back five years later and said, "I stopped smoking the day you told me to," or "I've lost weight and I've only enhanced my health since our conversation." When patients come back, sometimes months or years later, and they say, "Let me just tell you how much this changed my life," that is huge. 

Spotlyte: What is one thing you would tell someone who was considering plastic surgery for the first time?

CC: It's normal to be nervous. First of all, pick a provider that you feel comfortable with. Do your research, figure out who you feel connected to and who understands you. Also, look at their before-and-after photographs to make sure that they have the technical skills to give you what you want. I tell patients to remember that I go to surgery two-to-three times a week and they don't. It's new and foreign to them. It is normal to be nervous.

But, I really feel strongly that you should have a provider that listens to you, that understands what your individual needs and concerns are, and that has the technical skills and credentials to deliver that. 

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