Q: How did you fall in love with medicine?
A: My purpose in life is making other people feel good and helping them step into their light. I love nothing more than watching other people shine around me, and knowing that I helped them shine in some way.
Q: Can you tell us about yourself?
A: I’m Vanessa, founder of The Things We Do, a clinical beauty bar. We have two locations, one in Chino Hills and one in downtown LA, and we're working on our third location on Abbot Kinney that will be opening later this year.
Q: Can you describe your relationship with medicine in one word.?
A: Beautiful. My relationship with medicine has empowered me to connect with my patients in a creative way that I didn't think was possible.
Q: Why did you want to become a nurse?
A: So, surprise, I never wanted to be a nurse, I'm a first-generation Filipino American, and my parents basically forced me to become a nurse. And at school, I just so happened to be very good at the sciences. I ended up finding my pathway into beauty, which was originally what I wanted to do since I was a kid, and because medicine has so many facets and sectors and pathways, I was still able to still make my way into beauty within medicine.
Q: How did you fall in love with medicine?
A: I mean, at first, I didn't want to be in medicine, right? It was the slow journey of making this work. But medicine has helped me truly connect with people. My purpose in life is making other people feel good and helping them step into their light. I love nothing more than watching other people shine around me, and knowing that I helped them shine in some way.
Q: How do you balance your career with life?
A: Naturally, I think a lot of people in medicine take on too much because we feel like we have to. And there's a specific type of pride that comes with that. So at first, working every day a week was really invigorating. I felt like I could do this nonstop. But then I reached burnout, and there was a certain point where I felt like I needed to fit in my personal time and treat myself. So now, after doing this for the past dozen years, I’ve found that I really love taking breaks. Before, I could never come to terms with having nothing to do all day, which is for a lot of people in medicine. We don't like saying or admitting having nothing to do, because medicine is such a go-go-go culture. But now, I work two to three days and do creative things on the side. Now, I find balance by relaxing with the family and hanging out with my kids.
Q: How did you navigate healthcare as a woman? Have you experienced any barriers?
A: Yeah, it was really interesting when I was planning for the business and working on the finances. I would go to the bank with my husband and would explain that this is my business, I’m applying for this loan, I’m looking for that financing. Every time, the conversation would be directed at my husband. And I’m sitting there, like, hello, I’m the lady with the money and plan! It was really interesting navigating those conversations about money, because within our field, so many nurses are women, and I usually don't have those kinds of interactions.
I have this belief that whenever a door is closed, you just break it down right in front of you and make your own way. Starting a business was a challenge for me, but it was also really motivating. Whenever I was told No, I told myself Yes. And that type of energy for women might feel unnatural, because society has taught us to be a certain way, so it felt very unnatural for me at first. But I knew I had to fight for myself.
My parents came here from the Philippines and I know how hard it was for them to leave everything behind and build a new life here in the US. And so I knew I had the responsibility, not just for my parents but my lineage and my ancestry, to live out my dreams and make my own way.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman in healthcare?
A: In my field, the biggest challenge is the expectation to look a certain way or be a certain person in order to thrive, which shouldn’t be the case. It’s a very exciting space now because if you think there's a ceiling, or if you think something should look a certain way, you can crash through all of that and make whatever story you want your reality. So a lot of times I feel like it's ourselves thinking a certain way. But that's all going out the door right now.
Q: What do you want young women to know about working in healthcare?
A: I want them to know that there are so many different pathways. I've worked in geriatrics, I've worked in home health, I was a health building inspector, as an RN, I worked in neurosurgery with stem cells, I worked in the ER and now in beauty where I thrive. And there are just so many things that you can do. You can make it whatever you want. You can reinvent yourself every other year if you want to until you find that comfort in a space. There’s just so much out there.