YouTube Live: Meet Dr. Elisabeth Potter

[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Dr. Elisabeth Potter, I am an Austin-based board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in natural breast reconstruction. I am so glad you’ve joined me today. We’re halfway through November, and as I reflect upon the last month and year, I’m so thankful to have been involved in so many patient journeys over the last year. When choosing the right plastic surgeon for a patient, especially during breast reconstruction. I think it’s so important for you to find a degree of comfort and trust and compatibility. And so today I just wanted to let you know a little bit more about myself so that if you’re coming to see me or looking for a plastic surgeon or you’re just interested in finding out about breast reconstruction, you can get to know me a little more outside of the office, know a little bit more about my background and what I’m about. Okay, so I’ll start with my personal background. I come from a family of hardworking health care providers. My mom is a nurse. My father is an internal medicine and allergy doctor and that practice was our family business. So, I grew up working in his office, cutting the grass outside and emptying the trash and answering phones and just being proud of being part of that.

[00:02:00] And from the time I was very young, I knew that I loved taking care of people and I was so proud of my mom and dad and that their work was taking care of people. And I recognized how hard they worked and that there was always a reason to what they were doing, even if they were away. They were taking care of patients and people that were important to others’ loved ones. So additionally, my grandmother, my mom’s mom, was a nurse anesthetist. So, she actually right after Pearl Harbor, she was a nurse and a call went out for single nurses or unmarried nurses to enlist. And she enlisted and served in the United States Army as an officer in World War Two. And I grew up knowing that my grandmother was such a strong and confident and smart and hardworking woman. She certainly inspired me and continues to inspire me daily. Her picture hangs on my wall at home. I see that in the morning when I’m walking out to go to work. So, she actually then worked at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. So I’m originally from Georgia. And Grady Memorial Hospital is a really important public hospital in downtown Atlanta. And my grandmother was a nurse anesthetist there that greatly influenced both my brother and I to go to medical school at Emory.

[00:03:53] And we worked at Grady Hospital during our training. So, there are many other health care professionals in my family other than the ones I’ve mentioned. I think the thing that binds us all together is just the desire to care for people and a really strong work ethic. So, it’s funny when I was growing up, my grandmother, Grandma Ruby, would let me play with her stethoscope and we always sat around the kitchen table at her house and she would tell what she called hospital stories. And we would ask her to tell hospital stories and she would tell us about patients she had cared for. And she called me Doctor Elisabeth. So, from the time I was little, if you had asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, I would have said a doctor. And I remember vividly saying that in first and second grade.

[00:04:44] So, I think that seed was planted early, not just in those words, but more so in the lives that the people around me lived.

[00:04:57] So, after deciding to become a doctor, it was a long story there. I went to Emory Medical School and trained at that same hospital where my grandmother had worked.

[00:05:10] And then I was so honored to be accepted into the integrated plastic surgery training program at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. Which is one of the most amazing training programs in plastic surgery, certainly in our country. After finishing that residency, I did a fellowship at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in reconstructive surgery and microsurgery and that led me to Austin. So, in 2014, I opened my own practice and ever since I’ve been here in Austin, I’ve performed about 900 DIEP flap surgeries using a woman’s own tissue to create a new breast. So, I would say something that characterizes our practice as the number of just really strong and dedicated women who work together to provide care for our patients, the pillars of our practice are excellence, education, empowerment and patient care. And I hope if you’ve been one of our patients, you recognize those qualities in us. We strive every day for each patient who walks in our door to feel welcomed and to experience those qualities. We try to be excellent in everything we do. We want to empower women, especially during such a difficult time, by giving them choices and putting power back into their own hands. We do that through a lot of education for patients so that they can make their own choices. And then we live that out in our patient care. And there’s so many members of our team who provide that patient care and each and every one of them is a crucial and vital part of the care that you experience when you come to our practice.

[00:07:29] So, one of the questions that I’ve often been asked is how was I sure that reconstructive surgery was my calling? And I think that’s a complicated question. But I’ll say that two of sort of the major things that led to that were really from the moment I first saw a mastectomy and breast reconstruction in medical school at Emory, I knew that that was something that held a special kind of magic for me. I was completely inspired. So I think the other part of that, as in a more personal way, I’ve seen how emotionally and psychologically and spiritually transforming, losing a body part can be. My grandfather lost both of his legs when I was a child, and he was an amazing man, a deputy sheriff, and owned a gas station, worked at a gas station, drove a school bus, lived a really full life. But I always thought that if I could have given him legs back, that I would have done that. And I think that that plays a lot into my role and my passion for reconstructive surgery.

[00:09:03] So, I just want to thank everybody for listening today. And we asked ahead of time, there were a few questions that were submitted. So, I’ll just go through those quickly in case they’re helpful. So, the first one was, was there ever a time throughout my schooling where someone doubted me and how did I handle that? So that’s a great question. And I’m sure that I could come up with, you know, a hundred of those. But the one that that came to mind really was that when I started residency in plastic surgery, as many people may feel, you know, cosmetic surgery was a really heavy, heavily emphasized part of the training. Just to back up a little bit, when I told my father I wanted to be a plastic surgeon, he actually said, “I don’t think so.” I was in medical school and I had to talk to him about why I wanted to do that and reconstruction. And once he understood that I was going to be performing reconstruction, then he was very supportive. But when I was at UT Southwestern, I came in the door saying, I want to do reconstructive surgery. And people would kind of say, “Sure, you do. Talk to me in your fourth year,” which basically meant, you know, “Talk to me towards the end of your residency and we’ll chat again.” And I remember very vividly going into a meeting with a plastic surgeon in my fourth year who was one of the teachers, basically, and saying, “It’s my fourth year and that’s what I’m going to do.” And I knew it all along. So the way I dealt with it was just keeping my vision ahead and knowing my own intentions and my own compass and continuing to work through towards the goal that I had and not letting others kind of set the goals for me.

[00:11:06] Ok, so I have a question. How many dogs do I have? I have six dogs. That’s funny. Yeah, six dogs. So, can I name them? Calamity Jane or Callie, Judy, Noel, Chloe, El Rey and Babka. So, lots of dogs. OK, let’s see more question here.

[00:11:30] What advice would I give to the family of a woman going through breast cancer? Well, that’s a great question. I think that I would say pause and listen and be supportive. I think that the role that family can play in supporting women facing breast cancer is so profound for good and bad. I think that if your family member is going through breast cancer, just listening and knowing that, you know, you might not have all the answers, but you guys are there together to work through things together. Specifically, with reconstruction, I think allowing your loved one some space to decide what’s best for themselves is – I think that’s great. I think a lot of women need some space to think about what they want for their bodies, whether or not to have breast reconstruction, whether or not to have a DIEP flap using natural breast reconstruction, whether to have an implant or whether to have an aesthetic flat closure. So, all of those options are great options and giving your loved one the space to think about that and talk about that with you in a really nonjudgmental and non-confrontational way is my best advice.

[00:12:59] So. All right. Well, I hope that this has given you the chance to get to know me a little bit. And that way, when we meet in the office, you’ll already know a little about me. I look forward to meeting you guys and hearing more about you, too.