When we think of plastic surgery, often what comes to mind are surgical masks, injectables, and latex gloves — rather than gardening gloves. But, for Vaishali Doolabh, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida, the latter is necessary when she’s off the clock.
When Dr. Doolabh isn’t seeing patients, she loves being outdoors — specifically, growing fruits and vegetables in her garden with her husband of 25 years. At the office, Dr. Doolabh works alongside estheticians and sculpting specialists. She shares that, over the years, the demand for aesthetic treatments has become so high that it shifted her original concentration of her practice from hand surgery to aesthetic procedures. The 51-year-old is certainly up for changes, not just within her career, but geographically, too.
For 19 years, Dr. Doolabh has enjoyed watching the Florida sunrise and sunset. But, before moving to the Sunshine State, she was born in India, and lived in New Orleans and Kansas.
Her career spans a map of the U.S. While residing in Texas, she earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Houston®. In Maryland, she attended medical school at Johns Hopkins®. In Missouri, she completed her residency at the Washington University® School of Medicine.
Although her passion for surgery started in The Lone Star State (initially with cardiac surgery), it evolved in Baltimore, where she decided to pursue plastic surgery. In our interview with Dr. Doolabh, she explains why she shifted career paths, the injectables she gets, and the treatments she loves (when she finds time between work and motherhood)!
Spotlyte: Your first love was cardiac surgery, very early on. How did that come about?
VD: When I was in college, I had two back-to-back opportunities to shadow surgeons and really function like a medical student. They had these formal programs setup, and they selected me.
My first summer I spent with a very famous cardiac surgeon, who has since passed. I was shadowing the chief of surgery at Ben Taub Hospital℠, which is one of the big trauma hospitals in Houston. I decided that I really liked the surgical experience. I actually went into medical school thinking I was going to be a cardiac surgeon, because I loved what I saw and what I learned.
Spotlyte: What inspired you to become a plastic surgeon?
VD: When I was in medical school, during a research project, I had an opportunity to do microsurgery with a plastic surgeon. He had his own lab looking at peripheral nerve injuries and how to repair and regenerate small gaps in the nerves. With that experience, I fell in love with plastics and microsurgery.
Spotlyte: What do you love about being a plastic surgeon?
VD: The word “creativity” is kind of overused, but you really have to think outside the box in your problem solving.
Spotlyte: How has your career evolved over the years?
VD: Interestingly enough, I came from this incredible background focused on these injuries that nobody else wanted to take. When I came out of my fellowship, I practiced hand surgery for two years, [but] the demand in the community steered me towards aesthetics.
I no longer do hand micro-work, and now I only do [aesthetic] work. Many services are nonsurgical. I do injectable wrinkle reducers and filler injections.
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.
Spotlyte: Besides injectables, what other minimally or non-invasive treatments are popular in your office?
VD: We have estheticians now that do facials, chemical peels, microneedling, microblading, and permanent makeup. I have a sculpting specialist that does non-surgical body contouring, and I have several laser specialists that are doing photofacials, hair removal, and skin texturing.
Spotlyte: What are your most popular surgical procedures?
VD: Surgically, I have a high demand for breast work; I think partly because of my gender. Breast augmentations, reductions, and implant exchange are the common breast things. I do a lot of face work as well. In terms of body contouring, tummy tucks and liposuction.
Spotlyte: What injectables do you personally get?
VD: I have tried filler in my cheeks. I get injectable wrinkle reducers in the glabella, my forehead, and crow's feet.
Spotlyte: What other treatments are you into?
VD: I will do facials, light peels, and things that are not going to take the pigment out of my skin. I have very pigmented skin, so [most] laser treatments and deep chemical peels are a no-go — both are not safe on my skin and color. I get microneedling, maybe once a quarter. The estheticians in the office are very generous, but it is hard for me to get on the table due to time constraints.
Spotlyte: On the subject of self-care, what’s your exercise method of choice?
VD: I have a personal trainer twice a week. I also participate in dance classes that have ties to the Indian styles of dance. There's a dance called Kathak. It is a style of dance that involves a lot of slow and graceful movements combined with a sense of rhythm footwork, and timing is very important because you are doing it to music. I am taking a break, but it was three times a week.
Spotlyte: What else do you like to do for fun?
VD: I enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell books, and I enjoy Dan Brown novels. I enjoy being outdoors, and it is very peaceful to have time in nature. The sunrise, sunset, and birds are very nice, restorative. Nature takes away the fatigue from the day. At our house, I garden with my husband. We have a small garden with tomatoes, jalapenos, okra, curry plants, and bell peppers. We have an orange tree, too. When I was younger, my parents did a lot of gardening around the house.
Spotlyte: Are there perks to being married to someone who isn’t in medicine?
VD: He is in business, which is a nice balance for us. I always come home, and I have something new to talk about. He knows a lot, but just little enough that it is still interesting to him to hear stories, controversies. We never talk about patient issues. It is too medical and private. He helps with my office’s management from a financial perspective. We have been married for 25 years and known each other for 34 years.
Spotlyte: You have two children. Do you think either will follow in your footsteps?
VD: I have a 22-year-old daughter, Elina, who is in her first year of law school. And a 20-year-old son, Amann, who is a sophomore in college. He's a finance major. I think he is following his father's footsteps.