Hello SOTGC community,
Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Kaydee Bork who is the fabulous physician assistant (PA) for Dr. Gilbert Lee in San Diego, CA.
Kaydee is a surgical physician assistant at Changes Plastic Surgery in La Jolla, CA. She has performed more than 1000 procedures in her career, from lifts to liposuction and everything in between. Prior to her plastic surgery career, Kaydee has worked as a PA in Cardiac Surgery at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco; New York Hospital-Cornell in New York City; and Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.
Kaydee earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology at the University of California Santa Barbara and a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Sciences with a physician assistant certificate from State University of New York-Stony Brook. In addition to her role as a physician assistant, Kaydee owns and manages two SportClips Haircuts in southern California with her husband.
Kaydee lives with her husband and two children in Carlsbad, CA. She enjoys spending time with her family, staying in shape by doing Crossfit, and enjoying a glass of wine with her friends.
What got you into medicine, and how did you pick physician’s assistant as a vocation?
When I was little I wanted to be a doctor, I’m not sure why or how I got interested in that profession, but I always wanted to. I was a biology major in college and planned on going into medical school afterwards. During that time, I started volunteering for hospitals and the doctors talked me out of it. At that time, medicine was starting to change and the doctors gave me the “real life” look at the amount of training, time, and cost it takes to become a physician versus the reimbursements that were shrinking. They also got me thinking about how much time I wanted to be able to spend with the family I wanted to have, and suggested I also look into becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or a PA. I picked PA school in the end because of the training you get. A little history on how the PA profession began: After the Vietnam War, there were a lot of really experienced medics, due to their time on the battlefields and caring for people with little resources, and not enough doctors in underserved parts of the country. So they took these medics, gave them another two years of training in a medical setting, and created the PA role. The very first program was at DUKE and had four students. Now there are 181 accredited schools and the profession grows each year.
What do you find most fulfilling about being a PA?
The fact that I’m able to make decisions on my own and be in challenging situations but always have access to back up, via the doctor, who oversees these decisions. I get the experience of being really involved with patient care … but with a team there for support.
Have you had a mentor along the way, and, if so, what lessons did they teach you?
I’ve had different mentors in different parts of my career, and all of them have helped me immensely. During my first job I was working in a medical clinic where I got a lot of operating room (OR) experience. That was where I found the mentor who has had the biggest impact on my career. She helped me with everything from: surgical technique, how to be independent and brave even when the surgeon is right there with you, making wise choices, and, most importantly, how to identify a REALLY sick patient when we are on the floor (this means outside of surgery). This is a REALLY important characteristic for PAs who work with patients on the floor. Your ability to look at a patient, quickly identify if they’re truly in trouble, and acting immediately will make you stand out as a highly skilled and valuable part of the team. She also taught me how to have good, positive relationships with surgeons, which isn’t always the easiest due to the high stress environment that we (in surgery) are in. To this day she and I are still good friends.
What motivates you?
Right now, my kids really motivate me. I want to set an example for both my son and daughter about what a woman/mom/wife should be like. I want both my son and my daughter to understand that you can be an involved mom, have a great career, and be a strong woman who is financially independent and that it’s a good thing. I want to raise an independent woman in my daughter, and raise a man who appreciates and respects this in my son.
How do you maintain work-life balance between being a PA, helping run a business, and being a very involved mother, i.e., what are your tips on “having it all?”
A good sense of humor! You have to be able to relax and not take everything too seriously. My husband really helps me do this and is great at mellowing me out. It’s hard, I’m not going to lie, it’s really hard!!! There are so many demands that increase as you become more successful and as your children and family grow. The family and kids come first and I’m lucky enough to have a boss (Dr. Lee) who is really understanding. My husband and I run a business together, and he helps a lot with managing the businesses, so having a great teammate and partner/husband is crucial. I will say that I honestly don’t have a “quick-fix answer” but I will strongly suggest always making time for yourself. No matter how hectic or how much is needed to be done, you need to remember that you have to take care of your emotional needs as well as theirs.
What tips do you give women who want to get into medicine and are exploring all possibilities?
Make sure you explore all your options and really think about what you want in the future. It’s a hard question to think about when you’re in your 20s but you HAVE to look at what you want in life, and plan ahead. Having a family and being a doctor is absolutely doable, but it will be harder when you want a flourishing career and a family early on. If you want more flexibility in your career then REALLY think about which direction you want to take. What’s great about being a PA is you can switch specialties to accommodate your current lifestyle. I started in cardiac surgery and switched to plastics as my family grew and I wanted to spend more time with them.
What are three things did you did early on that helped in advancing your career?
- After college I took a year off and worked in a clinic before I went to PA school. This gave me a REALLY good view of what PAs do, and when I was done with that year I truly knew I wanted to be a PA and not a doctor.
- When I got out of PA school I had a couple job opportunities available. Even though I had never loved the OR, one of the jobs was for cardiac surgery, and because I loved the job and team so much, I decided to take it. I’ve never regretted this decision and obviously, I grew to love the OR.
- Through that first job, I got the opportunity to care for REALLY sick patients. If you can get this kind of experience it will help you immensely with your career as a PA. Not as a student because that’s mostly observing, but actually having a job where you are the point person in intense situations and have to make the executive decisions.
What is your mantra?
Always do my best and try and improve every day!