By Rod Evans
If things had gone as planned, Donna Rich, M.D. might be administering rabies vaccinations rather than helping people improve their quality of life.
After graduating from high school, Dr. Rich, a native Houstonian, attended Texas A&M University and planned on a career in veterinary medicine before her career path changed.
“I was going to be a veterinarian and that’s why I went to A&M initially,” Rich said. “But things were re-directed. I earned my master’s degree at the veterinary school, but when I graduated, I went to work at Baylor (Baylor College of Medicine’s Institute for Molecular Genetics). I worked with a lot of children that had genetic abnormalities, including chromosome deletion syndromes, and I found myself more interested in working with people in clinical aspects instead of research. So I applied to medical school and that’s how it all started.”
After graduating from A&M with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science and earning her Master’s in Molecular Genetics, Dr. Rich applied to medical school at the University of Texas, Medical Branch at Galveston. Following five years of general surgery residency and two years of plastic surgery residency, Dr. Rich opened her practice, Bayview Plastic Surgery, in Webster in 2000. Since then she has become one of the region’s most respected plastic surgeons and one of only a handful of female plastic surgeons practicing in the Houston area.
“Once I was exposed to plastic surgery during my residency, I knew instantly that this is what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “In plastic surgery, you are always treating something different. You never do the same procedure because each surgery is customized for each patient and that makes it exciting.” “I think you need to have some sort of artistic background to be a plastic surgeon. Art is a big component of it and it’s not all about techniques. You need a good eye and approach it as an art form to get a good result,” she said.
While Dr. Rich enthusiastically launched her new career, building the practice required her to learn skills that most medical schools don’t teach.
“When you’re a resident, you never think of your practice as running a business, but it is definitely a business,” she said. “Most people don’t think of it like that, but the hardest thing to learn is that you have to run your practice like a business in order to be successful. You have to be a business person and a doctor at the same time and you have to learn it on your own because they don’t teach much of that in medical school or in residency.”
Dr. Rich says her career arc was made more difficult by her decision to open her own practice immediately after finishing her residency rather than joining the staff of an established practice as many newly minted doctors do before transitioning into running their own practice. But she says being a female surgeon in the male dominated world of plastic surgery proved to be a positive.
“Women make up only eight percent of the specialty and there aren’t many (female surgeons) in Houston either,” she says. “Plastic surgery is a highly competitive field and there are a lot of doctors to choose from, but being a female is one of my biggest selling points because 90 percent of our patients are female. Men are having more procedures done, but women still make up the overwhelming majority of plastic surgery patients.”
Breast augmentation and liposuction are the two most popular procedures she performs, and Dr. Rich says she has become renowned for her breast augmentation skills. But she says throughout the plastic surgery industry less invasive procedures that offer greatly reduced recovery times have become increasingly popular. The use of cosmetic fillers and injectables, such as Botox, has soared because patients want quick results with limited down time.
Bayview Plastic Surgery offers a full range of cosmetic procedures, including face lifts, chin lifts, breast augmentation, breast lifts and reductions, and breast implant revision, in which Dr.Rich corrects issues from past breast surgeries. The practice also performs a host of body sculpting procedures, such as liposuction, buttock lifts and “Mommy Make Overs” that include breast enhancement and tummy tuck and/or liposuction. Skin rejuvenation procedures include Botox, Juvederm and Intense Pulsed Light treatments that target skin conditions such as sun damage, birthmarks and other blemishes.
“Many patients opt for the less invasive procedures before they get ready to jump into a surgical procedure,” she said.
Because Bayview Plastic Surgery has its own surgical suite accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities, Dr. Rich says her patients are treated to a more personalized and relaxed atmosphere than they would most likely encounter in a large hospital setting.
“Our surgical center is private, safe and you can have all of your treatments there without having to go somewhere else,” she said. “Plus, our operating room, all-female staff has all worked together for years, so everything is relaxed, which makes it very soothing and helps people to not be as nervous about their procedure.”
Providing a calm, relaxed atmosphere for her patients has been a priority for Dr. Rich since she opened her practice. The 5,000-square foot facility located at 300 East Medical Center Blvd. that Bayview Plastic Surgery has occupied since 2007 features a home-like ambience and an all-female staff.
“Lots of women like the all-female staff because we can give a feminine perspective to everything we do,” Dr. Rich said. We offer compassionate care in a professional setting.
Dr. Rich, who lives in South Shore Harbour with her husband of 27 years and their three dogs, says Webster was the perfect place to open her practice and she has become entrenched in the community. When she’s not in the operating room, she spends much of her down time making jewelry, gardening and reading, but plastic surgery is always close to her heart.