At The Kimble Center for Intimate Cosmetic Surgery, we believe every day is a day to celebrate women. As we reflect on the 2022 theme for Women’s History Month, “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” we’d like to share a moment of gratitude for women of all cultures who have provided both healing and hope throughout history and in our lives, including The Kimble Center’s own resident healer, Dr. Alexis May Kimble.
Can you tell us about your cultural upbringing and how that helped shape the woman you are today?
My family came from a country that endured colonization by leading world powers – the millennium of Chinese Imperialism, followed by the French invasion. My father’s family was among the last ruling Vietnamese dynasties before it was replaced by a new form of government. The constant state of flux, change, uncertainty came to define not only the fabric of culture for the many generations before me, but also my life from the very start.
I grew up in a seemingly traditional household, being the third of four children to immigrant parents. Culturally, this meant that my birth order relegated me to a position in my own family that was minimizing, invisible really. Being born of female gender was also minimizing in the world I was surrounded by. My maternal grandmother, a matriarch, repeatedly declared that “1,000 girls aren’t worth one boy.” I never truly grasped her meaning, but it left me wondering, questioning, and ultimately silent for most of my childhood. In many respects, it seemed natural and necessary for me to forge my identity and find my voice against the only offering of an identity defined by negation after negation.
What inspired you to enter into a career in medicine?
My path to medicine was very unexpected and untraditional. I spent most of my childhood and adolescence working to be invisible. The most natural way to do so was to be of service. When I was old enough to choose, I spent most of my breaks and time after school working for charities like the local battered women’s shelters and crisis centers for survivors of domestic violence and assault. However it was one summer in college, where I spent time in Tijuana as a potential contemplative for the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order that led me to pursue a vocation in medicine.
I helped the sisters feed and nurse the wounds of those who lacked, were without and housed in the charity’s quarters. I quickly learned the disparity among genders, race, class, and borders was expansive, but that health seemed a dignity all deserve. I set my mind to be a woman who advocates for other women to improve another’s life even if only at a most fundamental level. It has always been my belief that these women in these shelters who transiently were a part of my life helped inform who I have become by bolstering me with the courage I needed to believe in myself despite my own fears. Urogynecology, a subspecialty of women’s general health, attracted me because it focuses on optimizing life, health and wellness by improvement of pelvic floor conditions that can have a profound and diminishing impact on an individual’s quality of life. It’s about thriving, not mere surviving.
Who has been the most influential woman in your life?
It would be challenging to attribute the biggest influence to just one woman in my life. However, I do distinctly remember reading the autobiography of Helen Keller in the 4th grade. I couldn’t imagine how challenging being blind and or deaf could be – How does one do and be when there is no guidance? How could she navigate the everyday, never mind actually experience the world? In my nine-year old mind, I found everyday life to be challenging, even with my sight and hearing intact. Yet, here was this woman who found an ability to do so much in her lifetime as an activist and author, despite her “disabilities.” Her gift of transforming life’s challenges into beacons of hope and inspiration, had a profound impact in expanding my belief in myself.
How has it been being a woman in a predominantly male field?
The most challenging aspect of being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field and subspecialty is to figure out how to be recognized for my talent and gain the authority I needed when my approach to communication, presentation and leadership was not defined by being the loudest and most expansive in the room. I’ve had to learn to communicate and express myself in a way that is authoritative, but felt honest and authentic to me as an individual.
What was one of the largest obstacles you have had to overcome in order to thrive in your career?
One of the largest barriers I faced was finding balance between being a mother to newborns, toddlers and school aged children during rigorous medical training. There are very binding financial, time and resource constraints when it comes to childcare in the midst of medical school and rigorous post graduate medical education. On top of this, I was challenged with letting go of the fear of judgement of myself and the judgement of others who disagreed with my decision to pursue medicine because of the risks I was taking in regards to time, my family, and financial costs of pursuing the career I did. Ultimately, I learned to move through the fear in pursuit of the career and life I desired. In terms of childcare, I had many systems in place to ensure I never called in sick or called in because of a hiccup in child care (nannies not showing up, snow days, newborns with fevers, etc.). This involved having a plan A, B, and C, no matter where we moved for training or work. It wasn’t easy, but we made it work for our family.
What has been one of your proudest career achievements?
Among my proudest career achievements was my first presentation at a scientific meeting on my breakthrough work on OAB to my peers. I was so proud for the work to be recognized among my peers and for me to share it and contribute to what we know about this chronic and disabling condition. I was particularly honored at that moment because my eldest son and daughter were also able to attend my presentation for the first time and understand what it meant and what I was working towards during all those hours spent away from them.
What advice would you give to a young woman entering a male dominated field?
I would say embrace your femininity and the aspects of yourself that characterize your feminine self. It could, in fact, be the very thing to inform a fresh perspective, insight, and approach that may advance and/or expand questions that remain unanswered in the field.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
For me, it means celebrating women who have led a life dedicated to paving the way for all women to live truer, freer and more purposeful lives of our choosing.