How Three Different Doctors Wear One Mix-and-Match Capsule Wardrobe
For these healthcare professionals, clothing matters more than you might think.
If you’re not in the healthcare industry, you may have the same misconception that I did: that doctors either wear scrubs or long white coats that cover up their outfits, rendering personal style irrelevant. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In this interview with M.M.’s founder and CEO, Sarah LaFleur, the three doctors she spoke with made it clear that clothing is a key part not only of the way they feel, but also of the impact they’re able to make for their patients.
For Dr. Lakshmin, a psychiatrist specializing in women’s health and the founder of Gemma, whose new book, Real Self-Care: Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included, came out earlier this year, clothing is one way of sharing who she is. “It’s really shown up for me during the book launch, because I’ve been in the public eye a lot more than I ever was before,” she explains. “The clothing that I pick has to align with my values. Wearing something colorful and unexpected symbolizes that the stuff I talk about is a little bit provocative. It’s a little bit risky. And what I wear is part of that package. Clothing is a big piece of how we show up as leaders, especially as women. For better or worse, it really does matter.”
Dr. Henry, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin & Aesthetic Surgery, started thinking about the power of costume at a young age, thanks in part to guidance from her great-aunt. “She loved a good lipstick,” says Dr. Henry. “Even if she was just going to the mailbox, she’d put on lipstick.” Today, running her own practice, Dr. Henry thinks of her wardrobe as part of the patient experience. “We’re aesthetic, and my patients love it,” she says. “They want to see the shoes and the dress—it’s part of the conversation.”
Dr. Choi is a reproductive endocrinologist and the Chief Medical Officer at Progyny. She’s also the doctor who helped Sarah have three adorable babies—so for months, Sarah had a front-row seat to Dr. Choi’s impeccable style. “You have excellent taste in fashion,” Sarah told Dr. Choi during their conversation. “Every morning, when I would come in for my checkup, you would always walk in looking so gorgeous.” This was no accident on Dr. Choi’s part: “I feel that it’s really important to look stylish—for my own well-being, but also because it gives me a professional front,” she explains. “I want to look confident and trustworthy. I also want my outfits to be functional and fuss-free, so I can focus on taking care of patients and working with my team members.”
This capsule was inspired by doctors, but the pieces in it transcend industry. These styles are for any woman who wants to feel confident, look professional, and move through her day with ease. Below, see the outfits and read Sarah’s conversations with these three healthcare heroes.
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M.M.LaFleur was founded on the belief that when women succeed, the world is a better place. What does success look like to you?
For me, there are two pieces of this. One is my impact. That looks like a little brown girl who sees me on Instagram or reads my book, and thinks, “Wow, I can do that too. I can be a doctor in a different way. I can be a creative. I don’t have to fit the stereotypical Asian mold.” That’s really important for me.
Personally, success looks like having the flexibility to choose who I work with and what projects I take on, making sure that everything I build is aligned with my values. It takes a long time to build a career where you have that flexibility, and I hope that 10 years from now, I’ll be able to look back and feel like all those puzzle pieces came together with what we are building for women’s mental health at Gemma.
If you from 10 years ago could see where you are today, what would she say?
This is a deeply meaningful question for me, because 10 years ago was when I left medicine and was actually super depressed. Turning 30 in my parents’ house, in my childhood bedroom, I was pretty sure that I had royally screwed up my whole life.
I had been in this wellness group, which later turned out to be a cult (that’s a whole other story, which people can read about in my book). But I turned 30 after I had left that group, and I was facing this huge, mountainous task of coming back to medicine, explaining myself, and admitting that I’d failed. It took so much courage, and a lot of therapy. I had to swallow my ego.
Seeing myself now, I’m so proud. I’m proud that I stuck with it, that I didn’t give up, and that I was brave enough to face failure and say, “I came back.” I think it’s proof that change happens and growth happens. If you’re willing to face the hard stuff, eventually, you will come out on the other side.
M.M.LaFleur was founded on the belief that when women succeed, the world is a better place. I think the definition of success is so varied and personal. What does success mean to you?
It may sound a little cheesy, but it is really just loving what I do and liking how I do it. I started my practice two years ago because I love my work, but if you can’t do it the way that you want to, in a way that aligns with your values and your beliefs, you stop enjoying what you’ve worked so hard to create. So success, to me, is loving what I do and having the flexibility to do it in a way that feeds me and the people I serve.
If the you from 10 years ago could see the Dr. Henry of today, what would she say?
I always wanted to start my own practice. I always envisioned this career, and I think part of how you get there is really believing in yourself. So she would say, “You did it,” but she always kind of believed that you could.
I’ve also always had this vision that I would do things outside of medicine, too. I’m really driven to do work around the rights of women and young girls, and I have a lot of projects that are about inspiring young women, especially in terms of their self-esteem. Coming from such a visual field, it’s really important to me to lift up girls who may struggle to realize how beautiful they are. I’m doing all those things, and I’m really happy.
M.M.LaFleur was founded on the belief that when women succeed, the world is a better place. Success can take so many shapes and forms. What does it look like to you?
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and the definition has really evolved for me, particularly in the past few years. Growing up as a minority woman and the daughter of two immigrant parents, whom I wanted to show respect to and honor, I had this idealized checklist of success. That meant going to the “right” college and the “right” professional school. I was joking with Pascale, our makeup artist today, that the choices were either doctor, lawyer, or—if you really wanted it—engineer. That was it. But I realized, after listening to my mom and dad talking about their work, that being a physician was incredibly meaningful. You’re giving back to your community, and it’s very fulfilling.
Hitting the medical-school career track was one box checked, as was becoming an OB-GYN, because I love supporting women in their health journeys. And luckily, along the way, I found a great partner in life, Dave, and we’ve managed to raise two lovely, lovely human beings. But I got to a point where, as much as I appreciated what I had life-wise, I was like, “There’s something else. What am I missing?”
I realized that, over the past few years, my definition of success has shifted. I realized that success is not about checking off items, putting diplomas on the wall, or getting recognition externally. It’s about really connecting with everyone in my life who means something to me—my friends, relatives, peers, and patients. To me, success means building and contributing to a community—a network of like-minded, intelligent, forward-thinking, strong, admirable, and generous women. It’s very isolating if you think, “I can do this all on my own. I’m going to be head honcho here.”
I’ve also realized that it doesn’t have to be a dichotomy, where you have to work, work, work and get to the top, and then you can relax. It’s about blending the two together and trying to incorporate some play—whether that’s doing some karaoke at the nurse’s station, taking a work call between kickboxing classes, if I have to.
The most important thing that shifted for me surrounding the definition of success is getting to a point in my life where I actually feel at ease with myself and who and what I am. I’m not looking for external affirmation; I’m just grateful for the journey that I am on—as opposed to feeling like I’m in transit, and once I get to the endpoint, I’ll be fine. That’s really helped open me up to life.
If the you from 10 years ago could see yourself today, what would she say?
Jokingly, she would say “Wow, 53 is the new 40.”
I think she would say I’ve gotten much further than I would have expected. She would say, “You have more ahead. Stay open-hearted, open-minded, and curious. That’s the way to have a full life.”