Meet Gina Farinholt, Bariatric Surgeon
I chose this career path when I was 13. My dad is an OB/GYN and he loved his job and came home happy. When I saw him at his office he was happy. And I wanted to be like that. At 13 I didn’t have a really good idea of what being a doctor would look like so I focused a lot on the math and sciences. And when I got to college I did some volunteer work at the hospital, in the Children’s Hospital at UCLA. That kind of cemented my feeling that medicine is an awesome field.
In order to become a doctor I got good grades in high school, I sought out AP classes, I took an SAT preparation course to make sure that my scores were as good as they could be. When I chose my college I chose it because it was a good college, I went UCLA. But also I didn’t choose just based on academics. UCLA is a fun college. I wanted to make sure I was going to be somewhere where I was going to be happy because I don’t think that you will be successful at anything that you try to do if you are unhappy. So it had academics and it had a lot of the social things that I thought would make me happy. And it did. And then when I chose – in college I guess I should first say – in college, I maintained good grades. Really good grades. And I made sure that I entered the research realm – I did some research in neuroscience which was my major which was interesting and kind of introduced me to the more academic side of medicine. I worked at a free clinic for homeless patients. And then when I chose medical school I chose, again, not just the best medical school that I could get into but the medical school that was good academically and had good research credentials but was also in a location that I thought would be fun. So I went to UC San Diego for medical school. And in medical school, again, I maintained good scores. You didn’t really have grades but you had scores. And I continued on my research pursuits so that I could apply to residency. If you want to be a physician I think it’s important that you have a hand in this.
Good grades are important but I wouldn’t say that it’s nonnegotiable. I think that you always have an opportunity to undo a mistake that you’ve made in the past. Let’s say in college you didn’t know what you wanted to do and then at the end of college you decided you wanted to be a doctor but your grades weren’t exactly what you’d hoped they would be. There are programs called postdoc laureate programs where you can go back, take the sciences and get good grades now that you know you want to be a doctor. And that actually counts for a lot. So there are a lot of people who are physicians who decided later that maybe didn’t have the best grades in high school and didn’t have the best grades in college. But then once they committed themselves to that idea, had good grades.
I think the best piece of advice that I could give someone who wanted to be a doctor was that once you decide that you want to be a doctor, commit yourself to it. Don’t be halfway into it. Don’t say I might want to be a doctor. Because if you think you might want to be a doctor, you won’t be a doctor. You have to be committed.
My specialty is surgery. My subspecialty is laparoscopic surgery or minimally-invasive surgery and bariatric surgery which is weight-loss surgery. I committed to surgery when I was in medical school. At first actually thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. But my surgery rotation jumped out and grabbed me out of nowhere. It was fun. I was happy. I think I really decided on surgery because I was happiest on surgery. And then when I realized that I committed to it by shifting my research focus and making sure that my scores on my surgery rotation were good. And then when I chose minimally-invasive and bariatric surgery I committed to that by getting to know the right people. And the most fun thing about my day is in the operating room. I mean, surgeons have to get up early, really early, like five or six in the morning every day. That is not fun. I’m a night person. But once you get into the operating room and you get things going and you have your small group of people around you, people who you know and you work with every day and you are all working toward a common goal and you are joking and you are having fun. And at the same time, you’re helping your patient. I mean it’s just kind of the best of all worlds. Medical people are people people. You don’t go into medicine if you don’t like people. You don’t. We are around people all the time.