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Mother, Plastic Surgeon, Entrepreneur: Is There Anything Dr. Lara Devgan Can't-Do?

People

Having a successful career and a happy home life can prove to be a difficult goal for a lot of working mothers to achieve, but Yale-educated and Columbia-trained plastic surgeon Dr. Lara Devgan proves that through determination, hard work, and a lot of organization, working moms too can really have the best of both worlds.


But it wasn't always an easy road for this award-winning surgeon, as becoming a successful female surgeon in a male-dominated field (statistics say 90 percent of board-certified plastic surgeons are men) definitely came with its fair share of roadblocks and challenges.

“I think that anytime a woman is entering a field that is dominated by men, there is set up for needing to work twice as hard and be twice as good in order to be taken seriously," says Devgan. “And so, in a way, this teaches you good work ethic and the drive to succeed."

Through her own motivation and personal work ethic, Dr. Devgan definitely achieved her goal in becoming a successful surgeon, as she currently has been ranked the "#1 female cosmetic surgeon" in New York by RateMDs, and has been featured as a "Super Doctors Rising Star" plastic surgeon in The New York Times Magazine. She also is an attending plastic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, and Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Infirmary, where she teaches plastic surgery residents and fellows.

But in addition to her very successful (and not to mention very busy) career, Devgan also says her family is one of her biggest achievements in life, as she is currently a mother of five (with another baby on the way) living in the Upper East Side with her husband. However, she admits that balancing her time at home with her busy workload can be quite challenging at times. But, through planning and a lot of organization, she does her best to make sure she spends time on both her professional and home lives.

"Devgan has also tapped into her entrepreneurial side and has launched a new skincare line called Dr. Devgan Scientific Beauty, which has been sold at pop-up shops at Bergdorf Goodman and Blushington."

“In terms of balancing, I have a really supportive husband and we have a lot of help, but I also know my limits," she says. “For example, I am not someone who you are going to find cooking and cleaning around the house. And while there is a little part of me that likes the idea of baking cookies at home, to me, I feel that is just not something I am able to do at this time. However, I do think that my kids get something out of seeing me as someone who works hard and cares about other things outside of our living room."

"In addition to her very successful (and not to mention very busy) career, Devgan also says her family is one of her biggest achievements in life, as she is currently a mother of five."

Although work and family play a big part of Devgan's life, she also finds to time to indulge in her passion for beauty with a podcast called Beauty Bosses, which features industry leaders in fashion, wellness, art, and media. The podcast (which she finds time to record on Tuesday afternoons) is currently number five on the iTunes global top charts for beauty and fashion, and has featured guests such as interior designers, artists, writers, and actresses.

And of course, as beauty is her business, Devgan has also tapped into her entrepreneurial side and has launched a new skincare line called Dr. Devgan Scientific Beauty, which has been sold at pop-up shops at Bergdorf Goodman and Blushington. The new line, which she formulated (and tested on) herself, uses active ingredients that have been clinically validated in large-scale randomized control studies. Products inside the line include a lip plumpers, lash serums, and creams, which have already received a lot of buzz in the press and has proven to be quite popular among celebrity clientele. Devgan only hopes the line grows even more in the coming year, especially since she says each product in the line has demonstrated scientific efficacy.

But with so many successes already under her belt, it may seem impossible to become a multitasking triple-threat like Dr. Devgan. However, she says the best advice she can give working mothers is to not be afraid to get support (no woman, man, or family is an island!) whenever possible, and always appreciate the little things, even on those mundane or super challenging days. Most importantly, she stresses the importance of working mothers not beating themselves up about any limitations they may have in their lives, especially since most working parents won't always be apart of every single special moment of their child's life.

“Don't beat yourself up over the guilt of not being there for every little moment because your kids are getting something out of witnessing you having work ethic and being passionate and working towards a goal," she says.

And professionally, she advises that while there is always room for extremely talented people, there are certainly always going to be hurdles to overcome along the way. She should know, as she was an English major and exhibited artist before even going to medical school. However, she says, good things always take time, and while people may say you can't have it all, you really can, but maybe not altogether at once.

“One piece of advice I got when I was younger was that you can have it all, but not necessarily at the same time," she says. “There will be different times in your life when you'll focus on one thing more than another thing and that's OK. It's important to remember that it's a long game, not necessarily a short one."

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.